Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Costa Rica part 2: Playas y Animales

Cruising down from the temperate mountains of Monteverde, we soon reached the hot and humid coastal lowlands. Costa Rica has a choice of two routes southward: travel slowly through the cold central mountains or quickly speed down the steamy Pacific Coast on a rather modern highway. We chose the latter of two in order to make good time in reaching a couple key parks, Manual Antonio and Corcovado.

Shortly along the route is the popular crocodile viewing bridge over the Rio Tarcoles. As you drive along the highway, you simply park before the bridge, walk out on it, and look down to watch dozens upon dozens of enormous crocodiles hang out below the bridge. Every few minutes the occasional tourist would throw meat scraps down allowing everyone to witness a real life survival of the fittest as the crocs battled and hissed at each other. Incredibly, last year a drunk man jumped into the water and was instantly ripped apart by six crocs in front of a bridge full of onlookers. We didn't get a show quite like that, but simply watching them fight for the scraps is enough to make one feel a notch or two lower on the food chain.

The next couple days were spent bush camping along some nice beaches on our way down to Manuel Antonio National Park. The breezy air at night and morning wake-you-up swims in the ocean were just fringe benefits to staying on random beaches, whose first purpose was to help balance out a daily budget that has been hurting the bank account since we've been in Costa Rica! The lingering sand and salt stickiness that covers everything in the car is a small price to pay!

Don't get between her and squash!
One of the cuter street puppies we've had hang around with us.

The small Manual Antonio park is best known for its abundance of monkeys, sloths, and postcard-like beaches. With that said, it is by far the the most visited park in the country, so much so that it closes one day a week to give the animals some breathing room. Upon walking towards the park entrance, we were immediately asked by multiple guides for us to hire them for animal spotting in the park. Not a bad idea, but unfortunately for them large groups of tourists were already entering the park ahead of us, with guides. Like true bums, we saw our opportunity to save money by merely being attentive to where the groups were oohing and ahhing, giving us cues as to where we might get some good "viewing scraps" along the trail! And what do ya know, just a few minutes into the park we see one of the guides pointing into the trees near us and we were all watching a young fluffy sloth climb around above the trail! For having the name sloth, it was actually pretty nimble in its ability to maneuver amongst the vines and branches. The excitement of finally seeing one didn't stop there, we spotted another half dozen or so of the Ewok looking furballs the along the trails, and our meathod for spotting animals turned out cheap and effective! Eventually we deviated from the main trail and within a few minutes found ourselves on trails and beaches that hardly anyone was on. It was hard to believe that we were just around hundreds of other tourists, who all apparently stick to the main trail and then chill out on the beautiful beach... Lucky for us! Good time for cornball pictures in front of stunning lookout points and some unassisted animal spotting of our own. We managed to see all four types of Costa Rica's monkeys, including the small endangered Squirrel Monkey.

There is a baby sloth in her lap
Basilisk Lizard, the modern day dinosaur.

Walking the park searching for animals in the heat was becoming exhausting, so we would walk around some, jump in the water, walk around some more, and repeat. One of the interesting human & animal dynamics that is now occuring in the park is the invasion of Raccoons and White-faced Capuchin monkeys along the beaches that tourists frequent. Like two gangs, they vie for competition in rummaging through backpacks or knocking over trash cans. No scrap of food is safe from the relentless assault of these animals. It's rather sad to see monkeys chugging juice boxes and snacking on cookies, but we couldn't help but laugh at their funny tactics and watch as they tried to sneak up on unsuspecting beach dwellers!

Raccoon being swatted at by an annoyed tourist.
Bottoms up! A successful theft of someones juice box.
Side affect of extended heat: delirium induced selfies
One day was enough time to walk the entire park and swim in their various beaches. It was time to rumble on towards the Osa Peninsula in the southwest corner of the country. This outlying peninsula is home to the crown jewel of all of Central American parks, Corcovado National Park. Much of the land here is still forested, unspoiled by widespread farmlands or deforestation for cattle which plagues the mainlands. We arrived in the rough around the edges frontier town of Puerto Jimenez in search of camping. Of course the only place suitable for safe camping lies in the marshy, mosquito infested sector of town that even sports five wild crocodile inhabitants in the lagoon on its premise. Ah Central America, how we love you. The land owner, Adonis, is exceptionally friendly, and since we chose to camp on his property (likely the only folks crazy enough to do so in a long time) he excitedly tells us he is going to feed the crocs later and we are welcome to come watch. Until then, we had a hot afternoon to get through, and when it comes to heat relief the Costa Ricans seem to have only one cure... ice cold Imperial cerveza. After numbing the body with a few of these, it was back to Adonis for this so called croc feeding, unsure of what to expect. We followed him and his juicy bag of chicken scraps down to the waters edge across the small field from our campsite, and he promptly began shaking a metal rod with a tamborine sounding device attached while yelling the crocodiles' names. Okay, this is strange we thought. But within a couple minutes, three of the crocs slinked up into the muddy bank where Adonis stood and seemingly waited for the food. He took turns placing meat scraps on their heads or even hand feeding them, totally unfraid of being becoming an insta-meal himself. After feeding, he told the crocs to go back in the water, and they obeyed immediately. They were essentially like pet dogs to Adonis, and he loves them the way we love our own pets. It was a good show indeed, and we spent the night relieved that our reptilian neighbors were full, yet never forgetting who could easily come wandering into our camp at any minute!!
Side affect of extended heat: delirium induced selfies
Adonis and his favorite croc, JoJo
Check out the croc peering on from the water, does he want Chris or the turtle?!?

The next day Chris spent browsing every tourist/eco adventure office in town looking for a guide to the nearby Corcovado park, while Mallary readied herself for a few days with a poolside Cabina. Stay tuned... (N 8°32.340 W 83°18.095).




  1. Glad you guys are still having a blast. Pretty cool that you got to see a random croc feeding.

  2. Nice updates. I saw two, but only one on FB? It sounds awesome as always. Now you just have one large continent to go! Good pics and video too.

    1. Thanks for always reading and keeping us in check with FB!

  3. It's great that you were able to see so much wildlife. Chris, it looked like you were going to feed that turtle to the croc! Carol & Lou

    1. The wildlife was pretty unreal. The crocs were much more interested in us then the turtle, maybe because we dont have any bony armor thats hard to digest.