Due to the strike in Costa Rica, we ended up waiting about an hour and a half for the bus to take us to the Gandoca-Manzanillo Wildlife and Marine Refuge, but, as life in Central America is so much more relaxed than in North America, our guide was waiting patiently for us. You wouldn’t think that beginning a hike at 8:30 am instead of 7:30 am would make much difference, but, believe me, you are wrong. The humidity in the area is intense and the whole time Robert and I were in Limón, our clothes never truly dried. Having a shower to cool off didn’t help as I was sweaty as soon as I towelled off. It is the rainy season in September in Puerto Viejo and although we did not experience much rain at all, the humidity was extreme. There are advantages of living in a cool climate!
We began our hike through the refuge by crossing a bridge and immediately observing two sloths. I asked Raymond, our guide, if sloths stayed in the same trees as he seemed to know where they would be. Apparently, sloths stick to a small area and can be easily located. If one isn’t here, take a look around in trees close by and you will very likely locate him/her.
I had two wishes to fulfill on this trip, one was to see a sloth and the other was to see an eyelash viper. Check number one off my list. Along the way, we were hooted at by howler monkeys hanging in the trees. They have it right, they literally drape themselves over branches and hang there during the day when the heat is unbearable. We also came upon another red-eyed tree frog. They come out at night and are pretty spectacular looking, but in the daytime, they hide their bright red eyes with a third eyelid and tuck their blue legs and orange feet into their sides.
I had considered a guided night hike but my nerves were so bad from anxiety I knew that wouldn’t work for me. It was bad enough I was freaking out over cockroaches in the house and giant grasshoppers landing on me. Most bugs don’t bother me, never have, but I have learned that PTSD can make a person unusually jumpy. I am startled over the slightest thing. Just walk up behind me and you will see what I mean. I will startle you from being so easily and unnecessarily startled!
Continuing on our hike, it was fairly boggy in some spots, though nothing like our hike through the Kekoldi Indigenous Reserve. There were toucans everywhere. Unfortunately, my normal reaction time is somewhat slower than my startle reaction time and I failed to get any decent photos.
Raymond led us on a bit of a detour to see some bullet ants. He knew of a nest and poked a stick down the entrance and came up with a few. And I thought I had already seen giant ants. These guys were seriously scary. They have a stinger that, if you are unlucky enough to be stung by, makes you feel like you have been shot, hence the name “bullet” ants. I was pretty anxious watching them move up and down the stick. I sure didn’t want to witness Raymond being stung by one.
Then, on our way back from the said detour, what should we come upon but a baby eyelash viper. Check number two wish off the list. Oh my gosh, I was ecstatic! You may be wondering why someone who goes slightly berserk when a giant grasshopper lands on her would be excited to see a venomous snake. I’m not sure, either, but I know the snake isn’t going to fly off the tree onto me. Snakes don’t generally harm people unless they are surprised by them. They will either slither away or just stay where they are. If you disturb a snake, well, that’s a different story. And I’m not sure about constrictors, I know they have been known to constrict and kill humans, but I’m not sure why. This, however, was a teeny tiny eyelash viper. The neotropical bird snake we saw gliding through the grass was about five feet long whereas this little fella/lady was at most a foot long. The venom of an eyelash viper can be fatal, but this is not common. Generally, you would just get really sick, as in vomiting, diarrhoea, prostration, or sometimes loss of consciousness.
We stopped halfway along the hike at Raymond’s friend’s house, where Raymond collected fresh coconuts for each of us. He cut the tops off with his machete so we could enjoy fresh coconut water. I had no idea coconuts held so much water. Then we ate the flesh. I couldn’t manage to eat all of mine so the wee doggie who came out to greet us finished mine off.
I’m not sure how the local people care for their domestic dogs and cats, but it was my observation that these animals have to forage for their food. When we visited Herman’s home on the Kekoldi Reserve I managed to slip some veggies to the cat under the table and she ate them up with relish. The sweet little mutt at this house seemed to enjoy the coconut. We had a couple of cats visit the rental we were staying in. One of them was incredibly friendly and decided to move in. I’m still not sure if they were the neighbour’s cats or strays. They were very hungry.
We ended our hike on the beach at Punta Mona where Raymond and Rebeca, a local lady who joined us, scooped up sea grapes for us to eat. There wasn’t much to them but they sure were delicious. Robert and I enjoyed a swim in the bay before we headed back by boat to Manzanillo.
For nature lovers, Costa Rica truly is the place to be. It is saturated with wildlife and dense vegetation. There is no getting away from it. Apart from the level of humidity, which I found unpleasant and exhausting, it is heaven on earth. If you do plan on visiting Costa Rica, make sure you have adequate insect repellent and a good pair of binoculars. Though I put on bug spray every day, I still ended up with quite a few mosquito bites along with some kind of blistering type bite and other bites which may have been from sand flies. Binoculars are a must as much of the wildlife is high up in the jungle canopy, specifically the sloths, monkeys and birds.
I went to Costa Rica with the hope of seeing lots of wildlife and I was not disappointed. From the howler monkeys and toucans in the trees above our rental, so close yet hard to spot without hearing their calls, to the sloth we spotted just down the road from us and the kinkajou that was snorting outside my bedroom window in the wee hours of the morning before something else came along and scared it away, every day was an adventure. The variety of insects was astounding. We had a monster stick insect drop from the rafters one evening and a bottlebrush beetle drop in another evening. When we tried to identify it by the bottlebrush appendage on its head we discovered that it is indeed called a bottlebrush beetle.
And after a tough day hiking, there was always this………