Thursday, April 05, 2012

A trip to the rainforest

We decided to do a rainforest tour on our last day in Costa Rica, with the hope of seeing some interesting wildlife but also the extreme likelihood of seeing lots of cool trees (which are less likely to run away when they see you).

We woke at the unholy hour of 6am for pickup and driven around for a couple of hours collecting equally sleepy looking people from hotels much posher than ours - you know, the kind with fountains outside and valets and fancy luggage trolleys (We decided that somebody should do a tour where they just take you past all the hotels you can't afford, and maybe laugh at you a bit too)

Thankfully, we were allowed to stop off for an expensive but very nice breakfast of rice, beans and egg (yeah, that again) with the added excitement of a tasty grilled banana and acceptable coffee.

Anhinga The first part of the tour was a boat trip on the Sarapiqui river, where we saw quite a lot of birds (including cute little swallow-like things that circled the boat constantly), lots of iguanas, a Jesus Christ lizard (which walks on water, although we didn't see it do that), a couple of alligators, some howler monkeys and several local families going for a Sunday dip. Oh, and a squirrel.

One of the more curious creatures we encountered was the Anhinga - it was described to us as a type of duck but it's not really - there is no such thing as "like water off an Anhinga's back" because, despite being a water bird, it's not waterproof and after a dive it has to spend hours drying its wings in the sun before it can fly again. This makes for quite a photogenic display (at first we thought it was posing) but sounds like asking to be dinner - there must be very few things that want to eat it.

Extremely convincing stick insect
Next we were taken to the Selva Verde lodge for a walk around the trails, where we spotted some turtles, several tiny frogs, some orb weaver spiders and some ants carrying little red berries. By far the coolest thing we found here was a very convincing stick insect attached to a fence. I didn't notice him at all and it was only when he moved that Dgym realised it wasn't a stick.

After lunch we visited the Braulio Carillo rainforest, a vast natural park to the north east of San Jose, where it was pleasantly cool in comparison to the sticky humidity on the trail walk. There was another short guided walk where we saw tapir footprints (we weren't so optimistic as to hope to see the real thing, but it was cool to see where they'd been) and a butterfly garden, where a pretty yellow butterfly took a fancy to me and decided to take up residence on my trouser leg.

Rainforest Tram Finally we got to ride through the rainforest canopy on the aerial tram, an open air gondola running at two different levels through the reserve. We saw very little wildlife, only one bird, but it was pretty spectacular riding through the dense foliage and getting a close up view of such an incredible ecosystem. Our guide was very knowledgeable and had a lot to tell us about the different species of tree and the wildlife that can sometimes be spotted among them. We'd been particularly keen to see a sloth and, although we didn't see one on the ride, we learned that they host their own little ecosystem - there's not a lot of sloth under all that fur, which is covered in green algae which helps the sloth camouflage itself and also feeds the hundreds of beetles that live on the sloth - the beetles also help keep the sloth clean. After learning that, I'm not so sure I want to hug one any more.

After we'd got off the tram and were preparing to leave, our guide called us over as he'd just spotted a sloth asleep at the top of a tree! It was quite high up and, even with my zoom lens, you couldn't make out which bit was which, but it made our day complete!


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