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Costa Rica

Photo album and movie
Birds photo album
 


Google Earth tour of the trip!

Click to open it then Click tools > play tour

 

Population:
4 million (UK = 75 million)

Size: 50,000 sq km
(scotland = 78,000)

Famous for: volcanos and wildlife.

Temp on coast:
9am - 30'C.
1pm - 35'C

Local food: mascerated chicken and rice mix. £3.00

Flight cost: £535

 

Stranded at New York airport, queueing forever to get another flight

Day 1 - Lost parents disaster

It was supposed to be simple. Meet my parents at New York airport, then fly together to Costa Rica. We had flown seperately from Gatwick but had been delayed so missed the plane in New York we were supposed to meet them on, and with mobiles not working we couldn't get a message to them to tell them where we were supposed to be staying in Costa Rica. Imagine my parents delight when the flight took off with two empty seats next to them and they realised they had no idea of any further plans. So they flew off to Costa Rica alone, arriving late at night with no idea what had happened to us, no idea where they were staying and no idea how to speak Spanish.

Day 2 - Abandon all plans and try and find parents

It was one of those situations where there was no plan B*. So we made one up. Plan B was not a good plan but it would have to do. It was better than the even more hopeless plans C and D. We ended up getting as far as Plan F...and you can imagine how desperate that was as plan B was awful to start with and each subsequent plan was only 10% as good as the previous one. None of the plans worked and we eventually found them by the worlds greatest stroke of luck. Full story here if you have lots of time.

*Actually there was a plan B - "If we dont see you at the airport, we'll see you on the plane". It was possibly the worst plan B in the history of Plan B's.

The international greeting symbol of Costa Rica. Or maybe just a wierd key ring...

Hover for photo enhancement
Hover on pic

Days 3 & 4 - Arenal volcano

The second most active volcano in the world (after Kilawea in Hawaii). However when covered in cloud, volcanos are as exciting as, well, mountains covered in cloud. Luckily using modern technology and photo enhancement we could see what was happening in the clouds. (Hover mouse on picture)

Blue-grey tanager

In the absence of lava flows, we spotted wildlife instead.

Twitchers click here for the full bird photo page.

Hummingbird
There's an equal share of nice roads, potholed roads and dirt tracks in Costa Rica

We spent the day driving round Arenal lake. The roads here range from badly potholed main roads to awful dirt tracks. Cute coatis scrounge food at the roadside.

Coatis
Green leaf frog

We ended up at a wildlife farm where they had the world's coolest green leaf frog and Michelle wrestled an anaconda.

I find out afterwards that they are fatal to the touch...
  Michelle, just before wrestling the anaconda

Me and my dad fighting over a snake

Day 5 - Drive to Playa Grande

5 hour drive from the mountains to the coast where we will hopefully be seeing turtles coming ashore to lay eggs. Rather alarmingly, the jeep threatened to break down. The last thing you want to hear in the remote mountains of Costa Rica is a misfiring engine. Maybe hearing a rattlesnake in your trouser leg would be worse? Or hearing a polar bear eat your friend? That really would be the last thing you'd want to hear. But anyway you get the point...

Mr Fisherman trying to drag a fish out by a hook in it's face

Poor thing was dying we think

Day 6 - Leatherback turtles nesting

It was supposed to be a quiet day while we rested ready for a late night on the beach waiting for leatherback turtles to come out of the sea to lay eggs. But in Costa Rica a quick boat trip into town means seeing crocodiles from about 2 feet away. We think he was ill, which was bad news for him, but good for us as it stopped him eating us as we got very close.

 

I think is was a ghost ship. Or maybe a pelican... The sunset was again magnificent. Made even more special by pelicans and boats sailing along the horizon at exactly the right time for a good photo.

Like Icarus, his wax sails melted as he got too close to the sun.

One of the reasons we came to Costa Rica was to see nesting turtles. These big girls weigh upto 700kg (same as my car!). The one we saw was mid size at around 350kg. She laid a clutch of 65 eggs, of which only 32 will make it to the sea, and probably none will make it back to the beach to nest again. Only 1 in 1000 make it back. And if current fishing practices carry on killing them by accident, and their nesting beaches keep being taken over by humans then they are doomed. Apparently if they lose this last beach in Costa Rica, leatherback turtles will die out in the Pacific Ocean. It makes you want to stop eating fish and stop any further development of tourist resorts near their beaches. There are too many humans in the world.

 Stolen photo - we couldnt take pictures

I was a surf god

Day 7 - Surfing

Everyone who has briefly tried it knows that surfing is actually impossible, and is pure camera trickery with smoke and mirrors. Or so I thought...

 

Pelicans were everywhere

It turns out that if the conditons are right and you have an expert helping you then it's relatively easy. All I need to do now is take my teacher and the good conditions with me and I can surf anywhere...

Sunsets were spectacular on most evenings.

Day 8, 9 & 10 - Manuel Antonio

A 5 hr drive took us down the coast to a patch of preserved forest called Manuel Antonio. Obviously you have to drive fast to get there so I got a speeding ticket - 55mph in a 40 zone. With this being a fairly primitive country we ended up having to bribe the policeman with £20 to not give us a ticket (£40).

 

Rumbled by the police


Mr Howler Monkey. (He was definitely male)

We hired a guide with a giant telescope to take us round the national park and help us find the wildlife. The howler monkeys were very ellusive, despite being audible from miles away.

There were also giants sloths who just slept all the time, agoutis (giant rats the size of small dogs) and raccoons.

2-toed sloth high up in a tree
 

Agouti (very big rat)

  Racoon

The beach inside the national park was terrific. You could lie in the surf and have all your skin removed by being tumbled up the beach by amazingly powerful waves.

The beach in Manuel Antonio national park


Amazingly powerful waves Or you could watch cappuchin monkeys make aggressive gang raids on peoples bags looking for their staple diet of sandwiches and choclate chip cookies. These are the same little evil buggers that bit me in Ecuador.

Cappuchin monkey, fat from to many biscuits


As our apartment was in the forest too so we had wildlife on our doorstep. The local domestic cat dragged a snake out of the bushes which was at least 1 metre long but never any thicker than a pen. It gave the cat a nip on the nose which made it let go temporarily. We rescued the poor snake before the cat could do any damage. Cats are evil and should be banned. Except Pickle of course...

 

Our appartment in the forest


4 foot long and only pencil thick

There was a troop of cute-as-is-possible squirrel monkeys that would play in the trees just off our balcony.

Real wildlife just there. It was amazing.

Squirrel monkeys by the balcony

Day 11, 12 & 13 - Ballena national park

We came here to see humpback whales and dolphins who are supposed to hang around here on street corners. However they seem to have found somewhere else to hang out. Or they've all been eaten by killer whales. Or shot by Japanese. Probably.

We spent the day instead snorkelling and checking the caves for whales.

Sea cave


Toucan

The hotel here is again in the mountain forest and has toucans which appear most evenings.

And killer caterpillars roam around.

The 'million legs' caterpillar
Corcovado National park

On the second day we took a trip to Corcovada National Park which was quoted in National Geographic as "the most biologically diverse ecosystem in the world". However this does not mean there is lots to see...

 

A big tree...

Scarlet macaw

The scarlet macaws were the most beautiful birds we found.

Like the squirrel monkeys, there's not many of them left so they wouldn't let us bring any of them them home with us.

Almost extinct due to poaching  and deforestation

We ended up swimming in a waterfall pool which felt like glacier water in comparison to the hot water of the sea. It's always a bit unnerving swimming with crocodiles on the bank, but I reckoned I could have won the wrestle with the 5 ft long one on the bank. When I was right in the middle of the pool, feeling foolishly confident, I realised that behind every small croc is a big protective mother. If I'd had a small stick I could have put it in the mummy-crocs mouth to prop it open so it couldn't bite me. I've seen it done on cartoons. But I didn't have a stick. So I decided to leg it. Quickly.

Before we saw the crocodile


Croc waiting to eat me

Swimming with crocodiles...
Hover on pic




Extreme sloth rescue

Day 14 - Extreme sloth rescue

Massive highlight. On the drive back to the airport the mountain road was blocked by cars trying to avoid a sloth who was wanting to cross the road at sloth-speed. My dad rescued it and carried it to the other side of the road. We stayed with her to check she was OK and realised she had a baby hanging around her waist. Simply beautiful.

 

Mrs Sloth and baby

 

So, all in all, as long as you don't lose your parents in a crazy city on the other side of the world, Costa Rica is a great place. However it is being rapidly invaded by Americans and they struggle to control poaching of the animals which now only survive in relatively small numbers. They also need to tarmac the roads and fill in the potholes in the ones that are tarmaced!