Category Archives: Reptiles

A Night in the Jungle

At 3 PM we met with our guide Pedro outside the guidehouse and we set out for adventure: A Night in the Jungle at Hacienda Baru.

We walked quite slow as we had to escalate quite a lot and due to the 35 C in the afternoon temperatures… we kind of didn’t have the energy to run up the paths. Of course we also walked quite slow because we were searching for animals, amphibians, reptiles and insects.

All while we were surrounded by the deafening sound of millions of cicadas. Did you know that some Cicada song can reach 120 db in loudness, being among the loudest of all insect-produced sounds? This is especially notable as their song is technically loud enough to cause permanent hearing loss in humans.

The first thing we found was millions of nymph shells. The Cicada lives underground for most of their life as a nymph and when its time comes it crawls overground and hatches out of the nymph body and becomes an adult.

In any ways this trip was a full jackpot. We saw so many animals, insects, bugs, frogs, birds and things I don’t even know what was. Our guide was really really good.

Our hike up to basecamp took us about 2.5 hours through the beautiful jungle.

During this hike we learned a lot about the local forest. Did you f.ex know that the Pochote Tree has developed thorns on their trunks to protect themselves from climbing leaf eaters that want to eat their leaves?

Learn more abou this in Jack Ewings story:
Who says you cant teach an old Sloth New tricks?

At basecamp we rested for about an hours time and Pedro gave us strawberry juice to cool down with. At 5:30 / 6 pm the Cicadas went to sleep and we could finally hear other sounds again.

As night fell we were told to search with our flashlights towards the trees or bushes to see if we could find animals (eyes reflecting) and in the first three I searched I saw eyes. Pedro set up his telescope and we got to see a beautiful boa snake. It had a yellow/beige belly with a few spots. In the dark it was difficult to classify it though.

At 6:30 pm we started with the Night Hike. We left all of our stuff in the kitchen except the flashlights and the camera and then we set off into one of the trails close to the camp. Magnus had luck and walked straight into a Golden Orb Spider nest. It was quite high up and Pedro didn’t reach up to it. I could probably have reached it at some spots, but not at others not.

Not far from Base Camp we entered a little creek and started walking up a river and oh boy did we see lots of animals here !!!

We saw 4 snakes withing just a tiny amount of time whereof; 2 Common Cat-Eyed Snakes, 1 Coral snake and the last one was brown, slender and I have no idea what species it was any more. The guide told me what it was, but I have forgotten and I cant find it in my leaflet.

The Cat-Eyed Snake is very mildly venomous, but the Coral-Snake has one of the most potent venoms in the world.

We also got to see a Poison Dart Frog !!! YAY ! About time if you ask me.

This is a Red and Green Dart Frog (Granular Poison Dart Frog). They don’t become over 2 cm long and live in humid habitats.

We also saw scorpions, Tarantulas, Other huge spiders, and lots of other frogs like this tiny, but beautiful Red-eyed Stream frog.

Once we got back to camp, Pedro started making us all dinner. Most of it was  ready already and it was just the dinner that had to be cooked over the BBQ.

Dinner tasted delicious and although it was just 9:30 pm we all went to bed straight after dinner. I was sooo tired.

We woke up when the forest started waking up. We were deep in the forest and it was so nice to wake up to birds singing, crickets chirping and for breakfast even 2 beautiful Chestnut Mandibled Toucans came to look at us.

Normally I shower twice a day while down here due to sweat and high temperatures, but Base Camp we only had an open air shower with 2,5 walls. When I entered to check out the conditions there was even a Scorpion inside the shower.

I just decided there and then that I didn’t smell bad enough to shower with scorpions …

On our 3 hour hike back to Hacienda Baru the highlight of our hike was an encounter with the beautiful Green and Black Poison Dart Frog.

We arrived at Hacienda Baru at 10 am and we had had a wonderful experience. It was my first time camping in the jungle and although we all had proper beds to sleep in we still had all the sounds and the sightings that we don’t get to see where all the tourists are :D

First thing I did when I got back though was to take a shower and rest by the pool. That felt soooo good !!!

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Mangrove Boat Tour

After the Manuel Antonio National Park visit we went back to the hostel to relax a bit. We met our flatmates (Jenni and Thomas) and they had also booked themselves for the Mangrove Tour so we hung out with them on the porch until we were picked up for the tour.

The river was half an hour away in car and we were taken to a nice dock where we boarded a riverboat. We had 2 guides. One driving the boat and one of the Vista Serena Hostel employees was our other guide.

During the trip we learned about the 4 different species of Mangrove trees and about animals living in the Mangrove Trees. We also learned that Mangrove Roots is one of the strongest root systems in the world and no matter how much it will bend it will not break if you step on it. If you are stuck in the Mangroves and dont have a boat. Walk on the Mangrove roots. :D

We saw lots of beautiful animals today as well. A few White-faced Capuchin monkeys even boarded our boat.

Jenni with a Capuchin walking all over her.

We also saw Jesus Christ Lizards:

And some really cool and spaced out crabs:

We also saw several Red tailed Squirrel, many different species of Birds (Little green back heron, Blue Heron, Little Blue Heron, Crested Caracara, Great white Egret, Gray Necked woodrail, Limpkin, Roseate Spoonbill, White Ibris, Ringed Kingfisher), lots of Termite nests (which are not meat, just protein And also gluten free). A grasshopper landed on the boat, but left again quite soon.

After the tour we were taken back to the hostel and there we relaxed a bit before going out for dinner with Magnus’ parents.

About Mangroves in Costa Rica:
There are 4 types of Mangrove Trees in Costa Rica:

Red Mangrove
Red mangroves are easily distinguishable through their unique prop roots system and viviparous seeds. The prop roots of a red mangrove suspend it over the water, thereby giving it extra support and protection. They also help the tree to combat hypoxia by allowing it a direct intake of oxygen through its root structure.

White Mangrove
The bark is gray-brown or reddish, and rough and fissured. Pneumatophores and/or prop roots may be present, depending on environmental conditions. The leaves are opposite, elliptical, 12–18 centimetres and 2.5–5 cm broad, rounded at both ends, entire, smooth, leathery in texture, slightly fleshy, without visible veins, and yellow-green in color. The white, bell-shaped flowers are mostly bisexual and about 5 mm long. The fruit is a reddish-brown drupe, about 12–20 mm long, with longitudinal ridges. The single seed is sometimes viviparous.

Black Mangrove
The black mangrove grows just above the high tide in coastal lagoons and brackish water estuaries. It is less tolerant of highly saline conditions that certain other species that occur in mangrove ecosystems. It can reach 10–15 m in height. The seeds germinate in midsummer, but may be seen all year on the trees. The seeds can remain viable for over a year, once released.

The leafs extract salt and during dry season you can scrape the salt off their leaves.

Pineapple Mangrove
The Pineapple Mangrove mainly looks like the leaves of the pineapple when you squeeze them together.

Manuel Antonio National Park

This morning we slept in. The drive last night was quite exhausting and we were both quite tired, but we were up before 8 and enjoyed a lovely breakfast at the hostel.

We set off for the National Park and we were there before 9:30 and started hiking through the jungle. We met several guided groups looking at animals down the paths and they were kind enough to show us what they were looking at as well.

And at the end of the path, almost coming out of the jungle to the beach – we ran into Magnus’ parents… We knew they were in central america and that they are travelling around, but we had no idea that they were in Costa Rica and less in Manuel Antonio and less even in the same path we were walking on at the same time. Wow! Of course we planned to meet up later tonight before we split up again.

Right nearby to where we met them we found a Howler Monkey sitting in a tree and right next to it a moma Sloth and her baby! They were soooo cute!

Down at the beach we saw a Crab-eating Racoon family trying to steal stuff from peoples bags and running off with the stuff :D

The beach was absolutely beautiful and white beautiful clear ocean. The water temperatures were perfect. Just hot enough to want to stay there forever, but cool enough to cool you off.

The Racoons came and went and there were lots of them. People were yelling at them for trying to break into their bags, but thankfully the famous monkeys were not there because they are known to steal peoples cameras from your hands!
Another perfect reason why you should not give wild animals food.

On our way back from the beach we saw a Fer-de-Lance snake. It was quite well hidden, but a guide with a group had found it and we stopped to watch it with them. Photo is not very clear, but there is a snake there.

Quite exiting. We saw a lot more animals today and among them were the:
Howler Monkey, Green Iguana, Black Iguana, Golden Orb Spider (Nephila clavipes), Tree Frog, Keel Billed Toucans and several Hummingbirds.

It has been an awesome day for watching animals!

Dinner at the Tree House Restaurant & The Ranario

After the long hike in Monteverde Cloudforest we rested a bit before we went for dinner at the Tree House Restaurant in Santa Elena. We had an early dinner so that we could be at the frog pond at 6:55 pm for a guided tour.

The Tree House Restaurant & Cafe is a restaurant buildt around a tree! We ordered Papaya and Mango drinks:

And food was a whole lot better than at the Amigos Restaurant from yesterday.

El Ranario (or the Frog Pond) is a nice place to visit if you like amphibians. If you like reptiles the Serpentarium is also great, but this time we did not have time for that. We had a guide show us all the frogs and tell us about the frogs. They had a lot of nice frogs, but obviously it is not as cool to see them in glass houses compared to on a leaf or on the ground in the wild. However still quite cool.

Night Hike in the Jungle at Santa Maria Refugio de vida Silvestre

We were pickced up from Pension Santa Elena in Monteverde by Bernald, our guide, for the Night Hike. We were 10 people all together and we were then taken to Santa Maria Refugio de vida Silvestre where we all recieved a flash light and instructions. If we feel anything climbing our legs – warn guide immediately because it could be a scorpion or snake. Yikes. Hehehe.

We set off and the first thing we saw was a giant Tarantula (and yes it was big).

and then we found a Two-Toed Sloth. They are a bit bigger than the Three-Toed Sloth and they move a bit faster. This one wasn’t moving at all though.

The Two-Toed Sloth is a bit brownish in the color compared to the Three-Toed Sloth that is more grayish in color.

We were also lucky enough to see our first snake today. This one lives high up in the branches so that it can keep warm from the sun. This one is a Green Vine Snake.

Thankfully, not all crawling on the ground are scorpions and this a grasshopper.

5 years ago I bought Jack Ewings book Monkeys are made of Chocolate. In that book the story: There is a Fungus Among us was. This is a very informative story about the Leaf-cutter ants (Atta cephalotes is the most common Leaf-Cutter Ant).

Did you know they walk up to 2kms away from their home to collect new leaves and up trees as high as a 10 story building?
Did you know that only the queen is fertile and that the colony dies with her? She lives for about 20 years though.
Did you know that the leaf-cutter ants don’t eat the leafs, but that they grow a fungus on it?

All the members of the colony contribute directly or indirectly to the cultivation of the fungus. The most obvious of the seven distinct castes of Atta cephalotes are the leaf carriers marching through the forest with their green parasol-like cargo. When they arrive at the colony and deposit their leaf crescents, another caste takes over — the cleaners. Each leaf fragment is meticulously scraped and licked until clean. Later it is cut into smaller pieces, chewed, mixed with saliva and formed into a soft wad. The ants then place some fungus starter material, called mycelia on the medium and place it beside other newly planted fungus in a suitable chamber.
From that point another caste, the fungus caretakers, step in and take over the process. These ants are responsible for keeping the fungus clean and free from impurities and infection. They do this partially by physically removing any foreign life form that tries to grow on either the medium or the bread-like fungus.

A bacterium that lives in a patch on the ant’s skin produces an antibiotic that controls the mold. Beyond that, they have learned how to handle technologies more skillfully than the bumbling civilization above their heads. They can grow a monoculture and they have also learned how to deploy an antibiotic without the target pest’s becoming resistant to it.”

Another thing about leaf-cutter ants. Their homes are HUGE:

And this one is just a small part of it !

Read Jack Ewings “There is a Fungus Among us

We saw lots of other animals as well during this hike like the Woolly opossum, the Northern Raccoon, the White-nosed Coati, A few Red Tailed Squirrels, Bats, 2 Frogs (of a species I don’t remember), several species of fireflies and firebeetles.

It was a lovely trip and I had a great time!

After the Hike we went for dinner at Amigos Restaurant. The bar was full with Gringos as the Superbowl was on. However they had good food and once Superbowl was over all the Gringos left. We had an early night.

Tortuguero National Park Day 3

sunny.gifNot one single complaint nor about the temperatures nor about the weather. It is just gorgeous ! Still humid but no problem when travelling here and there in boats on canals !

Natures orchestra
Today I was woken up by the most amazing symphony of the nature. Howler monkeys howling and Capuchins screaming, Crickets doing their thing, Birds with all kinds of strange colours welcoming the morning with their song. It was marvelous. I have never heard such a fantastic orchestra right outside my door before.

Frog hunting
I woke up at 5 and it was still dark.
I was a little disoriented due to the early hour, but as soon as it got a little lighter I went out to go for a frog search just like yesterday morning. Mona (the hotel lady) borrowed me a torch and off I went. I was searching for the famous Strawberry poison-dart frog to see if I could get any good pictures. I saw about 4-5 of them hopping around on the grass until the whiteface monkeys got close.

White face monkeys or Capuchin monkeys, as their scientific name, are actually very agressive. The alpha male showed me clearly that he did not like me taking pictures of the members of his family and went up on 2 feet and showed me his teeth with a threathening grin. I distanced myself from the group at this time but it was a bit hard since they were everywhere; in the trees, on the ceiling and on the roofs of the houses. The hotels cat did not like the fact that the monkeys entered HER area so she started running after them and chasing them away. That was an awesome sight. Haha. You should have seen that !
I did get a lot of great shots of the monkeys and I had a wonderful time out in the early morning hour.

At 7am we (Paula, Jeanne (France) and I) had breakfast at Evergreen Lodge consisting of Pancakes, fruits and egg. Wonderful. I went to pack my luggage since we were checking out at 8am, to travel the canals again and then head back to San Jose, and got ready just in time for the boat to arrive. As we were waiting we called for Tosty – the domesticated Caiman at Monkeys Lodge. As the boat arrived we said our goodbyes to Mona.

tn_tortuguero1.gifOur driver, Justo from Nicaragua, and our guide Gilber, also popularly called Chito, had already picked up Thomas from Germany and we were set to go.

We stuffed our luggage in the back of the boat and set off to the Penetencia river where we watched animal life at its best. We passed Volcan Tortuguero, that is the only volcano in the caribbean side of CR but it has been dead for very many years and after about 30 minutes we drove in to Cano Palma, a smaller river in the canals. There we stopped to fish but we did not have our great luck and we had to return empty handed. Though we had a cool experience with the whiteface monkeys. We met two competing tribes. Each one on their side of the river that were pretty anxious to fight. hehe. Though the monkeys are smart enough to understand that it is not a good idea to jump into the water to swim over to the other side and actually start the fight – since monkey meat is one of the favourite dishes of the Caiman ! So they kept to each their side and screamed and yelled at each other from there.

As the smaller tour finished, we had to return up the creek and start heading down the Reventazon river to get to the meeting point where we were supposed to have lunch. We stopped at Tortuguero town to buy souvenirs and have a bathroom break before we started the more than One hour long trip back to the restuarant where we were gonna meet up with the day trippers and have lunch.

The south end of the park
We said goodbye to our guides at the restaurant and welcomed our new guide. The guides that had followed us these 3 days were going back into the jungle with the new groups that was going to stay over.
We had a wonderful chicken lunch before we set off for the last part of the official program before going back. A visit to the south end of the national park. Our new guide, Ethel, first took us up and down the canals to search for crocodiles. Which we found 5 of, oh no.. that is wrong. We actually found 7 including the 2 5 month old babies. One of the crocs was approximately around 3 meters long. EEEEK.

On the snake hunt
 Then we made a stop to go for a walk in the dryer forest close to the beach side. When Ethel asked if anyone wanted to watch snakes Thomas and I volunteered.

We started walking very slowly watching the tree branches and suddenly we had lost the rest of the group of 9. Not exactly.
We actually had one of them with us, Italian Massimo.
The poor thing had snake phobia and when he heard that we were going on a snake hunt and realized that his girlfriend had left the path ahead of us, and was nowhere to be seen, he found that it would be safer to stay inbetween me and the guide (that were searching the path on each side of the road).

The guide was equally bad as I was and we told him that there are not only snakes on the path or attacking from the branches. They also have one, the parrot snake, that attacks from above. He did not dare to go fwd nor bwd without us and Thomas searched in the front. Me and Ethel on each our side and we were both dissapointed when we did not find any snakes at the end of the path. Ethel told us that she would normally find up to 5-6 snakes in one day on the same path and we decided to go back the same way.

And suddenly Mr. Phobia attacks Ethel embrazing her hard and screaming purple purple and we made no sence and saw nothing so we could but laugh. Finally he told us he did see a snake and it was the wonderful OROPEL or in English: Eyelash pitViper. We took pictures and as we were running late we hurried back to the boat and got ready to go home. The boat drove with full speed to get to Cano Blanco in time.

Animals I have spotted during the day
Howler Monkeys, Caimans, lizards including the Jesus Christ Lizard, iguanas, Herons, turtles, basilisks, toucans, a yellow Eyelash pit viper and lots and lots of fish.

We reached Cano Blanco at 3:15 pm and had a minor bathroom break there before we borded the bus on our way back to San Jose. We also had a minor break in Guapiles to get some snack and toilet and I must admit I was incredibly tired and fell asleep. We reached San Jose as expected around 7pm. I am going to stay at Franciscos place tonight but he was still not home from Quepos so Thomas and I went for dinner. We went to Cafe Mundo and had delicious dinner before splitting up and going to each ours.

As I took the taxi home I called Fran and luckily he had reached the house if not I would have had to stop by his girlfriends house, Hazel, and had her open up for me. Fran and I chatted a little bit before I went to bed. I was dead tired. I just know I was sleeping before 10pm.