A Special Place In Costa Rica

By Bonnie & Bill Neely

Costa Rica is one of our favorite places ever. If you love nature this is the place to visit. A temperate climate year-round is awaiting visitors from everywhere, and the small country has very friendly and welcoming people. The local population strives to have clean streets, excellent food, many restaurants with delicious fresh fish and vegetables, fantastic fruit smoothies, helpful and polite service and many people speak English. With East Coast on the Caribbean Ocean and West Coast on the Pacific Ocean, you are never far from supreme deep-sea fishing and excellent crews with lovely boats are available in many places. We especially recommend Guima Monge (lys01cr@yahoo.com) in Port Arenas for exciting and mostly successful fishing trips. Enjoy under his guidance whale watching and a trip to Monkey Island.

On pathways through the beautiful lush jungles you need an ecologically attuned guide to show you which plants are poisonous to the touch.  Also these guides teach you which venomous snakes may be camouflaged, like the ferrous, which hides in brown leaves on the ground and the small banana snake curled to look like a knot on a tree trunk.

Nature guides in the beautiful Manuel Antonio National Park on the west coast have large magnifying glasses and can point out animals and birds, knowing just where their natural position is nearly every day. I teased our guide of perhaps having Disney animatronics so that he never failed to find the sloth and monkeys, butterflies and birds just where he predicted long before we got there.  A private Pura Vida Gardens is a lovely place to walk on paved walkways in open spaces peacefully through hundreds of native plants, trees, flowers and watch for myriads of colorful birds.

On walking or horseback tours explore the beautiful environment all around you. At Arenal Volcano National Park at night you can see trickles of molten lava, and occasionally a definite, beautiful eruption.  Howling monkeys in the trees nearby are fun to hear and watch.

In the Monteverde Cloud Forest the Salvatura Adventure Park was one of our favorite places and watching the Hummingbird Garden. Many, many feeders attract scores of these wondrous little birds with their wings flapping 70 times a second as they sip the nectar. Walking on the beautiful suspension bridge above the enormous jungle trees is another special thing to do.

La Selva Research Station is a fascinating place to study the wondrous colorful indigenous species of animals, reptiles, amphibians, butterflies, and so much more.

One of our favorite experiences was the Monkey Mangrove Experience with Chino Tours.  We boarded a comfortable, open, long boat which seated about 12 people and our guide paddled us on the narrow little river through lush jungle vegetation.  Huge trees composed the forest beside the river, and enormous mangrove roots appeared to have long legs in the water on each edge. Little Jesus Christ Lizards, so named because they are so fast they literally walk on water, were scampering or sunning along these roots in many places. Birds and butterflies were abundant also.

We were all intent on finding the group of capuchin monkeys that lives in the dense jungle.  When they were not readily available our guide began to screech loudly calling them in what we were sure was a real monkey’s howl.  Within a few minutes we saw one mother with a baby on her back staring at us calmly from a branch nearby.  He continued paddling and calling and suddenly the branches began moving rapidly as little capuchins scampered from tree to tree, like squirrels, coming to the familiar call. 

Although these monkeys are wild, they know that when he calls they might receive a bit of banana and these adorable little creatures usually come in large numbers. We estimated that we saw about 30 chittering among themselves above the river’s edge.  He stopped the boat and told me to sit facing him with my back to the river and trees and sit still. I didn’t know what to expect but suddenly a monkey jumped on my shoulder and began playing with my hair. I was thrilled, startled, and apprehensive all together. Then he placed a smear of banana on my hand and told me to hold it up but not to look at the monkey. We learned that we should never look a wild animal in the eyes.  The little fellow took the tiny bit from my hand, placed it into his mouth, and jumped to the tree nearby.  What a thrill!!! I didn’t even have time to imagine mites or disease or a bite from the precious creature. As each tourist took a turn, the monkeys came one at a time for the treat. The guide, who sees these monkeys daily, had names for each one. When we asked how he distinguishes them he said, “Look at their faces. Each is unique and each one has different expressions!”  Sure enough, they did.  It was a really great thrill to experience such adorable creatures in the wild yet so friendly. They captured the hearts of each of us and were a great highlight of our trip to Costa Rica.


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