Poison dart frogs, orb spiders, morpho butterflies, agoutis, green iguanas, toucans and howler monkeys, that has been my experience in the first week of my stay in bellísima Costa Rica. And all of these animals have been spotted either in the garden of the house I am staying at or beside the road as I walk to and fro in this Caribbean paradise.
I knew about the biodiversity before I arrived, but you really have to see it to believe it. Walking along the road to Puerto Viejo to purchase groceries I discovered various fruits, some I recognized, some I have never seen before. Everywhere you look there are plants common in most of our homes in North America, only these are in their natural habitat and about twenty or thirty times larger.
At night, the constant chorus of frogs, geckos and insects sing me to sleep. Morning breaks with the rooster next door, along with a cacophony of birdsong and the occasional howler monkey. A few days ago, while hearing a gawdawful squawking in a tree outside, I looked up to see some sort of black bird. I was busy complaining to him when he moved and exposed his great curved colourful beak. My first toucan sighting! Then, on our way back from the store, we were accosted by the hoots of some howler monkeys high above us that my brother was able to point out to me. They are so diminutive in comparison to the sounds they expel. Of course, neither time did I have my camera with me, but I expect I will have another opportunity.
We took a tour of the Jaguar Rescue Centre near Chiquita Beach, which was an education. I was pleased to learn that most of the animals are released back into the wild. Just a few are too injured or disabled to be returned. I am planning on visiting their other centre, located in the jungle, where they release the animals. It was interesting to learn how they locate the mothers of baby sloths turned in at the sanctuary. They record the call of the baby and return to the location where he/she was discovered and play it until, slowly but surely, the mother responds, unless she can’t, in which case the baby sloth will stay at the sanctuary until he/she is old enough to make his/her way alone. If you are ever in the area, I recommend supporting this organization by paying the sanctuary a visit. If you are really enthusiastic you can stay for a month as a volunteer.
The local people are very friendly, ready with a greeting as you pass by in the street. The beaches we have walked along are untainted by commerce or tourism, though we are here in the low season. It is stiflingly hot with high humidity. I must be losing a bit of weight walking around in a permanent sauna.
The ants present a whole new world. There are big ones and little ones and some in-between. They are quite amazing to watch as they trek through the forest floor carrying massive weights on their backs.
My brother, Robert, is here with me from Scotland. I’m glad we have relatively the same energy level. Our only transportation is our feet, so we are racking up the miles. Robert is used to walking great distances but I’m no slouch, even if I do have a vehicle back in Canada. We went snorkelling on a small reef. There wasn’t a great deal to see, but it was still fun. There is another spot we will be investigating at some point.
The mosquitos here are very, very quiet. They like to sneak up on you, and do so frequently, without uttering a sound. No nasty high pitched buzzing, no warning at all. If you are visiting Costa Rica, be prepared. You will most definitely need some form of insect repellent.
Groceries are very expensive. We are eating well, though, with fresh produce at every meal. Robert is taking very good care of me. He has been putting together most meals. Remembering my childhood, my brother loved catering our special meals when our parents were out celebrating the New Year or some other holiday. He would always put together something special from whatever was available. He is doing the same thing here. It’s really nice, but I need to step up.
I now understand why Costa Rica’s slogan in “Pura Vida”. Everywhere you look there is an abundance of life. It is a joy to behold. Even the captive animals have a relatively great life. The hen next door wanders through our yard with her brood skittering after her. The dogs in the area run free, even on the beach, where they frolic in the waves with others. Wandering along the beach in town there are swings hanging from branches over the sea. I’m just a big kid, I still take great pleasure in swinging on swings. I do it back in Canada with Keaton on my lap. Here, having the Carribean Sea beneath my feet, it is that much more enjoyable.
We visited the local market this morning and picked up some fruit and an organic pineapple chocolate spread! Mmmmmm, sorry Nutella, this is so much tastier, made local and organic.
We have a resident poison dart frog in our outdoor bathroom. He is about the size of my thumbnail and hops away every time I attempt to approach him. The frogs here are fascinating. Some are poisonous but all are remarkable. We encountered a red-eyed tree frog at the rescue centre. He was in the process of camouflaging himself, folding his orange feet underneath himself and hiding his blue sides. A few minutes later he had closed his red eyes with a third eyelid that gives the appearance of alien eyes, if there are such things. We also had a black and green poison arrow frog pay us a visit in our bathroom, but he obviously didn’t like us and moved on.
Tomorrow we are hiking to some waterfalls, where we will be able to swim, and paying a visit to a Bribri family in the Kekoldi Indigenous Reserve for a traditional lunch. I’m pretty excited about hiking through the jungle. Who knows what we may encounter on that journey!