adventure bbor62 conservation Costa Rica ecotourism herpetology honeymoon nature outdoor life pura vita sustainability
RICH COAST8:02:00 AM
By far the richest experience of my lifetime came one week ago on my honeymoon in Costa Rica. This trip was more magical than any trip I have taken, my days filled with childlike wonder.
I am a 6 year old, and this is my Disney World.
I am a 6 year old, and this is my Disney World.
While in Costa Rica, I am reminded of how close I am to nature and also, unfortunately, that I am not close enough in my everyday life. Costa Rica has an infections state of mind that leaves one questioning ties to material possessions and the things we work towards every day in our big rat race. The people here are happier with less than those I know who have much more. It's the right way to live life. Care about others, be kind, and care about the world around you.
Day 1 started at 6 am, waking up in airplane seats after four hours of sleep on a redeye flight, immediately followed by a 3 hour drive to our hotel. I really loved driving across the country and through the green mountains, despite struggling to stay awake. Nonetheless, we wasted no time upon arrival, especially once we heard about the private path through the jungle to a private beach near where we were staying. Not more than 15 minutes into our hike, we found a colony of Howler Monkeys whooping and hollering in the trees surrounding the beach.
Mind was already blown.
Each morning and evening our giant window faced 180º of undeveloped jungle, and we never knew if who would come visit us first: Sloths, Toucans, Monkeys, Iguanas, Night Geckos or strange insects.
When traveling, I generally make it a point to try and find some lesser-traveled paths. Manuel Antonio National Park skews a bit touristy for Costa Rica, and so we weren't itching to go into the park despite its beauty. Fortunately I had been looking for good herpetology tours before leaving town and had stumbled upon Rainmaker Park.
This place is no secret, yet far enough away to have all to ourselves on both visits.
Our drive. Unpaved roads with chickens, dogs, and peacocks roaming freely.
If I could describe to you exactly what I wanted to get out of my visit to Costa Rica, our day at Rainmaker would have fit the description.
Luis was our guide and was a truly rad dude. I know my herpetology in the US, but I am out of my element in Costa Rica. Thankfully this guy taught us a ton as he hiked into the mountains with us, leading us to a natural spring and uncovering all of the hidden amphibian gems.
I'm even more thankful that he loves herpetology as much or more than me and has enough patience to let me geek out and cause the hike to drag on for far longer than it should have.
Eyelash Viper was on my list of things I hoped to someday see in the wild.
This was the first poison dart frog that we spotted on the trek. Always hoped I would get a chance to find one of these in the wild. Lucky for us, we found all three species of poisonous frog in Rainmaker Park. Note: Poisonous frogs and toads are only harmful if their poison is ingested, which is why we were about to hold these little guys as long as we washed our hands afterward.
This armored guy is the most poisonous fella in the rainforest. And he is everywhere. Filled to the brim with cyanide.
Anoles of all species were around every bend, fanning their necks at us and jumping every which way.
About 3/4 of the way through our trek, Luis brought us to some small waterfalls that fed several swim holes.
Each swim hole was full of bright blue shrimp, tiny toads, and teaming with Basilisks, (Jesus Lizards). Seeing them actually running across the surface of the water turned me into an instant 9 year old.
These toadlets were everywhere, ranging in size from a thumb tack to a quarter.
I didn't want to leave this place. This could have been the only thing we did on this trip and I would have still be satisfied. Fortunately for us, in true Pura Vida style, Luis told us we can spend as much time there as we want and are welcome to head back on our own.
So after the hike ended and the park was closed, we trekked back in and had it all to our lonesome.
When we finally HAD to leave, I spoke with Luis about coming back the last night that we are in town and doing a night exploration. That is covered below if you manage make it through this entire post.
During our stay in Manuel Antonio ,we were blown away by the beauty and what it had to offer, but were anxious to escape the heavy tourism. On several occasions we drove into the mountains searching for places to explore.
On one of our turistas escaping turistas exploits, we wound up landing at Nauyaca Falls. About an hour drive followed by a 2.5 hour grueling hot sweaty hike.
The 2.5 hours was well worth the effort when the trees parted to reveal what you see below.
I accidentally woke this colony of sleeping bats, which was pretty great to see.
EXPLORE THE NEIGHBORHOOD
This guy greeted us on multiple evenings. (Three Toed Sloth)
And this one did the same multiple mornings. (Two Toed Sloth)
More friends we made on the balcony of our hotel. These geckos were up all night partying and a few even snuck into our room.
Looks like the one with the short tail is a bit of pervert.
This guy was getting dive bombed after trying to steal baby birds.
RAINMAKER BY NIGHT
This was one of if not the coolest things that I have ever done. I am still riding on the high brought on by my childlike adventures exploring the dark Jungle and channeling one of my heroes, Jeff Corwin.
This experience felt just like it did when my parents took my brother and I to Garden of the Gods, at age 6. Here I am at age 35, so excited that I can hardly keep it together.
We got to the park to meet Luis around 5pm. The meeting spot was already coming to life with the strangest frog sounds I had ever heard. They were already climbing the walls and quite literally crawling out of the wood works.
By 6pm we headed into the jungle and it was already pitch dark.
One of our first finds was something I had been hoping to see. I had no idea we would be seeing 5 different species of them either. Luis knows his frogs and he knows where to find them. This tiny delecat transparante Glass Frog didn't even look real.
Look at this guy and his Hypnotoad eyes.
Best frog call of the entire night came from this guy. If I ever get round to editing video I will share the bizarre sounds that sounds like they are coming from a grown man. I will also post species names when I get caught up and can reference my book.
Helmeted Iguana. These guys only come out at night and I was worried I wouldn't get to see one while we were in town. They were plentiful that night and they do indeed look like a muppet.
Second species of Glass Frog found for the evening.
Somehow Monica spotted this guy under a pile of leaves. Such a big healthy South American Bull Frog just chillin on the mountain side.
I won the award for snake spotting that evening. I wasn't sure what I found until Luis informed me that it was a Cat Eyed Snake. Was hoping it was a baby Fer De Lance, but happy none the less that I could hold it.
Taleless Scorpion is Monica's nightmare fuel, but is also completely harmless.
Speaking of Monica and scorpions, we found this guy trying to climb into her bag. Monica stopped to adjust her camera and set her bag down. She said "Guys, there is a scary bug on my bag," not looking close enough to realize what her passenger actually was.
Glad we got him before he hitched a ride through customs. lil guy
Giant wolf spider, just like the ones I used to find under my dog bowls in Illinois.
This was a much much bigger scorpion that we found and he ran from us. He finally hid under a leaf and decided to play dead.
More of Monica's nightmare fuel, a giant Walking Stick.
This is another snake that was on my wish list. So incredibly happy that I spotted him and also incredibly amused by the look of a Broad Headed Snake. Monica describes them as the Beetle Juice Snake.
I really picked the right girl to spend the rest of my life with.
This is one of many bats that were dive bombing our head lamps. Lamps bring bugs and bugs bring bats. Good thing we like bats.
Huge Rain Frog.
Baby Cat Eyed Snake
These spiders spin very geometric shaped webs that they use as nets to throw over their prey.
I had no idea what I'd found until Luis informed me that this is a Snail Eater Snake.
Giant Jungle Roach
Sleeping Jesus Lizard not only walks on water, but also looks like a cross.
Here is was our 4th species of Glass Frog for that evening. 2 species evaded my camera before I could mainain focus. As did a kinkajou that scared the tar out of Monica and I, as well as an agouti.
Finally, we are ending our hike and it's close to 11pm. But before it came to an end, and as if Luis had planned it, we are introduce us to the true ambassador or Costa Rica. Everyone's favorite frog and perhaps more famous than the sloth, is the Red-Eye Tree Frog.
Look at this guy! So sticky and so awesome.
And that was the end our life changing trip. 5 hours later we began our 18 hour commute back to Los Angeles. We are back, but I do believe we left a part of ourselves in Costa Rica that we will just have to reclaim on our next trip.
Fortunately for me I married a woman with the same fondness for nature, wildlife, adventure, and artistry that I have. We'll have many more trips and rich life experiences like this in our future.
I look forward to someday taking our children to places like this, and growing their appreciation and love for wildlife and conservation in the same way that our parents did for us.