Where the wild things are

Scarlet Macaw at Limonal

Scarlet Macaw at Limonal

If our trip to Nicaragua was all about meeting people with interesting back stories, Costa Rica is about wildlife. Not surprising really, given the country has the highest percentage of biodiversity of any country. Yet we continue to be astounded by the variety, size and colour of the local animals we come across each day.

This morning over breakfast, for example, we were treated to the sight of a group of variegated squirrels going about their breakfast 10 metres above us in a coconut palm. Tap-tap-tap they went until they broke into their morning’s ration of fruit, causing the juice to pour down beside us.

I also spent the morning cleaning up the previous night’s body count of cockroaches, all sandal-squashed in accordance with Dee’s orders. I’m precluded from discussing them further, but suffice to say they were of a fine size.

Rosa with insect at Casa Altamar

Rosa with insect at Casa Altamar

With visitors over from Ireland, we rented a beautiful house of glass one hour up a remote dirt track from the coast road. Whether it was the design of the house or the daunting trip the track in our minibus, we spent a lot of time in the house with only the inhabitants of the surrounding forest for company. Each evening, the din from the jungle would rise to a crescendo, and an astonishing array of creatures would hurl themselves onto the patio and windows of the house – crickets as long as your hand, frogs of a luminous green hue, armies of moths of all sizes, all manner of spindly, hard-backed insects and ants in their multitudes. But, thankfully, no mosquitoes, perhaps because we were at an altitude of 500 metres.

Parts of Costa Rica are over-run by tourists, but they seem to have done a
good job in holding on to their assets in the natural environment. Changing
buses on the way to the beach town of Samara the other day, we were able to
pass the time admiring a family of rainbow-hued scarlet macaws. Monkeys are
a big draw everywhere, especially howler monkeys and their unearthly wails,
but they should carry warning signs; down on the beach at Manuel Antonio
national park, a troop of cheeky capuchin monkeys made off with one of
Rosa’s sandals. Once bitten, twice shy; on the same beach, we sent packing
a gang of marauding raccoons who fancied their chances with our lunch.

So far, so good; we haven’t had any mishaps with the animals we’ve met
along the way (Rosa’s sandal might disagree). No scorpion sightings, and
while Rosa claims to have seen snakes, that was in the zoo in Managua. The
orange-kneed tarantula we saw in the national park was pretty terrifying,
or at least the female was; she eats all her males, and grows to a hundred
times their size.

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