Thursday, January 10, 2008

Day two in Costa Rica

Driving through the countryside of Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica. Photo: JH.
Costa Rica, Part II (click here for Costa Rica, Part I). We were awakened at 6AM to the reverberating call of a howler monkey, an effective wake-up call. After a breakfast of rice and beans (and hot sauce), we were picked up at 7:30 AM sharp by naturalist guides Paul Gonsalves and Orlando Corrales of Manuel Antonio Expeditions for our scheduled tour of Manuel Antonio National Park. Both Paul and Orlando were Ticos (Native Costa Ricans) and their English was impeccable. Orlando only started learning the language six months ago!

A termite mound in Manuel Antonio National Park.
Manuel Antonio National Park is the country's smallest national park, although the diversity of wildlife is unequaled. Manuel Antonio contains a charming combination of rain forest, beaches and coral reefs. The beaches are supposedly the most beautiful in the country, lined with lush forest. The day was overcast, meaning not too hot, which made for a good day for potentially spotting an array of the teeming wildlife in the Park.

Turns out we got lucky and either caught a glimpse of or had substantial face-time with a family of white-face monkeys, a howler monkey, a two- and three-toed sloth (who were sleeping way up in the trees, so I couldn't photograph), a jesus christ lizard (yes, the ones that walk on water), a black iguana sunbathing, brown pelicans, a Central American agouti, herons, crab-eating raccoons, a glass frog, halloween crabs, butterflies, beetles, and much more.

There were also termite mounds on the trunks of hundreds of trees. Orlando mentioned that termites were high in protein and a very good snack if ever stranded in the forest. I was the most curious of the group, so he handed me one to try. It sort of tasted and smelled like a raw almond, but more fragrant than I expected. The tour was a real eye-opener for me as a New Yorker and made me long for our own man-made version of Manual Antonio National Park, Central Park.

— JH
Entering Manuel Antonio National Park.
Clockwise from top left: A Central American agouti; Stinking toe tree; An uprooted tree along the beach; A message written in the sand; A hermit crab.
An overcast scene along Playa Espadilla Sur.
A Strangler Fig. A White Guava tree.
Clockwise from top left: One of many species of butterflies in the park; A colony of wasps swarm a leaf; A white-face monkey in deep thought; A Jesus Christ Lizard.
Clockwise from top left: Walking along Playa Espadilla Sur; More white-faced monkeys in search of food. People are prohibited from feeding the monkeys but do so anyway; A Yellow-crowned Night Heron.
Clockwise from top left: Crab-eating raccoons; The main passage through Manuel Antonio National Park; A massive bamboo colony planted by man as bamboo is not native to Costa Rica but to Asia; A glass frog.
A Black Iguana warming up.
Clockwise from top left: A beetle showing its true colors; Bitterwood fruit is said to be an effective antacid if Pepto isn't in reach; We stop for a pineapple and water break; A hummingbird's nest gently hangs.
A pristinely white mushroom in the mix.
Clockwise from top left: A dragonfly resting its wings; Exiting the park, we come across a resident mowing his lawn and a smooth-billed Ani, a tropical relative of the Cuckoo family; Our Naturalist Guide Orlando Corrales and fellow guide and manager Paul Gonsalves of Manuel Antonio Expeditions. An impeccable two-some whom without none of this would have been possible.
The lush green forest of Manuel Antonio Park.
Back at La Mansion Inn and its environs, we bump into its owner Harry Bodaan who we learn is a bit of a local hero; volunteering his time and donating to many local causes, including the Humane Society, the Boy & Girl Scouts of Manuel Antonio, and F.O.P Quepos for local law enforcement staff. Harry also serves as unpaid assistant to the Mayor and City Council of Quepos and Manuel Antonio for the Sister Cities International Program. SCI raises funds to help families pay for the school books (a cost which the students incur) and the uniforms they are required to wear. Since school is not a government-regulated obligation, the kids who don't get up and go to school, simply don't get an education. We were lucky to meet Harry and Manuel Antonio is lucky to have him on their side. If you're interested in learning more about the programs Harry is involved with, feel free to email him at

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