A little traveling, wildlife, and beaches

A rocky shoreline in southwestern Costa Rica near Ballena National Marine Park.

I just got back from a little traveling with Paul away from Monteverde to the southwestern part of Costa Rica to check out some places I haven’t seen yet.  A lot of people travel to that part of the country to visit Manuel Antonio National Park.  It’s a popular destination for good reasons: the beaches are beautiful, you’re likely to see some wildlife, and there are some good touristy shopping to be had.  I’ve been there on trips with students to make sure we get at least one day on a beach (the rest of the time we visit places inland), but I wanted to check out some places farther south and picked out Ballena National Marine Park as a destination.  The picture above is of a beach along the shore of the National Park, which is really set up within the Pacific Ocean to protect marine habitats for fish, whales, turtles and other organisms.  The shoreline along the ocean is protected as well.

Over the week, we saw some amazing things.  You never really know what you’re going to run into, and you might think that you’d be tripping over animals, birds, and insects everywhere you turn.  That’s the expectation that I had the first time I visited the tropics and it’s usually what others think is going to happen too.  The reality is that you often have to be patient and get out and hike to see things … and you usually do.

We were lucky to get an amazing view of a three-toed sloth — at eye level from a birdwatching tower:

Close up sighting of a three-toed sloth on the birdwatching platform at Hacienda Baru.

Since it’s the dry season, there’s not as much activity as other times of year.  A lot of the trees lose their leaves and the insects are less active, so the insect-eating creatures are less active as well.  We managed to see some insects, including this praying mantis at night:

One of the good things about looking for things in the dry season is that you can see things in the treetops a lot easier.  We we able to see over 80 species of birds and got a great look at most of them.  Unfortunately, it’s not easy to get pictures of them (I need to get a better camera).

We didn’t see many frogs, but this green poison dart frog was dramatic …

Green poison dart frog on the property of Cusinga Lodge.

Then, of course, are the monkeys.  In the southwestern part of Costa Rica you could see as many as four different species.  We saw the two most common … the slow-moving howler monkey and the white-fronted capuchin.  Always incredible to watch these creatures moving through the canopy.

White-fronted capuchin at Hacienda Baru.

Now that the week is over, it’s back to work for me.  Just under two weeks to go and there’s plenty to do!

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