Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Costa Rica, Part I

A branch with life chipping away underneath, high above the Pacific in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica. Photo: JH.
I spent my first week of 2008 in the Republic of Costa Rica. One of my oldest friends from New York got married in San Jose, and I was honored to serve as a groomsman. No, it was not a destination wedding; he married a native Costa Rican, otherwise known as a Tica (the male version being a Tico). The wedding was a beautiful and respectful mix of two cultures and was a great way to kick off the new year. After three days of the wedding festivities my family and I decided to take in the countryside of Costa Rica having heard many wonderful things about it.

We first traveled south to Manuel Antonio, the country's second most visited conservation area. The drive turned out to be a challenging one as roads are in very poor shape (according the the country's Vice President, the condition of the roads and high crime rate are Costa Rica's two biggest issues). Also contributing to the long drive were a bevy of one-way bridges, random acts of roadwork that closed off one lane (or both), not to mention a pit stop along crocodile bridge.

We arrived just in time to drop off our bags at the charming La Mansion Hotel and catch a mangrove tour to Damas Island. The island has mangrove swamps filled with crocodiles (although we only saw the eyes of one) and hundreds of species of wildlife, including white-face monkeys, caymans, boas, many migrant and resident birds, and in our case, a rare glimpse of the silky anteater.

I'll be reporting more on this little Costa Rican adventure over the next couple of days which will include a tour of Manuel Antonio National Park and a day trip to Arenal, one of the world's 10 most active volcanos. So stay tuned ...

— JH
Cows, crocodiles, exotic birds, and the local scenery on our drive from San Jose to Manuel Antonio.
After a four-hour ride of one-way bridges, haphazard street repairs, and of course, beautiful countryside views, we arrived at our charming little hotel, La Mansion, perched atop a steep hill.
After no more than two minutes of rest, we begin our Mangrove tour and soak in the view which includes a Great Egret, a man and his best friend, and a famly of three, all fishing for dinner, in this case, Red Snapper.
A Rainbow Boa. A Tiger-Face Crab.
We spot a family of White-Face Monkeys who are just as curious of us as we are of them. They inch closer and closer until they make the jump from the leaves of the Coconut Palm to the roof of our boat. We soon discover their motive; a tasty snack of African Palm Fruit that our guide tempted them with.
A female Black Iguana.
We scare off an Egret and come across a Tican family fishing for dinner as our mangrove tour comes to a close.
Stay tuned, more Costa Rica pics and commentary coming tomorrow ...

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