Sunday, May 20, 2012

Costa Rica - Day 1 & 2

Our wildlife encounters started really early on this trip. They started before we even boarded our plane.  As the sliding glass doors opened to the airport terminal, we spotted a juvenile gopher snake that seemed to be headed into the terminal as well. It was less than two feet long but looked quite healthy. Before we had a chance to rescue it, some other snake friendly person escorted it outside.  With that behind us, the rest of the trip was as painless as traveling can be.  I am actually able to sleep a bit on these red-eye flights now which makes the next day much better.

Upon arrival in San Jose, we easily found our driver for Xandari.  We were soon driving through the streets of San Jose only vaguely following the traffic laws which is typical for Central America.  Xandari is located on a hill with a great view of the valley.  They have extensive grounds and we were looking forward to spotting some new critters.  Our upgraded villa (thank you very much Xandari) was spectacular.

Xandari Villa

After unpacking, we hit the grounds to see what we could find and had pretty good luck.

Blue-Crowned Motmot (We saw 4 total on the grounds)
Blue-crowned Mot Mot

 Rufous-naped Wren

Inca Dove

Xandari has multiple waterfalls on their grounds:
Xandari Waterfall

After a very nice dinner, we hit the trails again hoping to find some herps.  Besides a Marine Toad we didn't have much luck on the walk until we started back.  I turned a corner in the trail only to come face to face (well, face to foot really) with a Nine-banded Armadillo.  In my excitement, my "Armadillo" exclamation was a bit too loud and the Armadillo turned on a dime and galloped up the path away from us.  I had no idea they could run so darn fast.  We were a bit disappointed that we didn't get a good look at the Armadillo so we searched the area up the hill pretty thoroughly but couldn't find it.   

 We were greeted by this nice sized tarantula outside our villa though:


As we were getting ready for bed, I heard a rustling outside the villa.  We turned on our flashlights and peered through the all glass front wall of the villa.  There, not 5 feet away, was the Armadillo nosing through the leaf litter.  This time we got some great looks but no pictures unfortunately.

After an early breakfast, I took a quick stroll around the grounds but didn't find any critters of note.  So, I took some pictures of the flora that is plentiful throughout the Xandari gardens.



Plant Abstract

Not longer after, we were whizzing through the streets of San Jose again towards the airport.  A few pedestrian close calls and red light running later, we were in the airport waiting for our Sansa flight to Puerto Jimenez.  As we were waiting, I saw a familiar face.  Philip, the naturalist at Bosque del Cabo was returning from vacation and heading to the lodge as well.  How great is your life when you take vacations to "get away" from paradise only to return to "work" at one of the best wildlife destinations in the tropics?  Our flight to PJ was smooth and scenic as expected. 

As usual, the drive from PJ to Bosque del Cabo (BdC) was scenic but most certainly NOT smooth.  On the drive in, we met a great couple from Toronto and chatted it up pretty good.  They were in Costa Rica for sun and surf and ended up getting plenty of both.  During the drive we got some good looks at Crested Caracara, Scarlet Macaws, Northern Jacana and White Ibis.  We also had a brief stop to check out a Three-toed Sloth that was in a tree above the road. Unfortunately, it was not much more than a brown and green ball of fur so there are no good pictures to share.  Just before arriving at BdC a White-faced Coati crossed the road slowly in front of us.  Soon after that, we spotted a huge green iguana along the road.  The truck obviously startled it since it quickly scampered down the road away from us.  It moved pretty darn quick for a 3 foot lizard.

We arrived at BdC in a downpour.  But, that didn't stop us from enjoying our welcome drinks in the restaurant or from taking in the great sights of BdC.  The rain also didn't prevent us from our first wildlife encounter.  Right next to the restaurant, I found a good sized Tropical Bird Eating Snake.  We followed the snake as it wandered towards the bar, up beside the pool, and then proceeded to get in the pool and swim super quickly across to the other side.  The difference in speed between it's slow careful slithering on land and the way it shot through the water was amazing to watch.  I barely had a chance to take some action shots.

Neo-tropical Bird Eating Snake in Downpour

Neo-tropical Bird Eating Snake Enjoying the Pool

We also took this opportunity to take some video to capture the moment.

The rain did let up soon after the snake encounter.  But, before heading out for our first hike, we searched our wonderful cabina (Pizote) for some animals.  All we could find was a Leaf Mimicking Mantis and a tiny gecko but both were welcome guests since they would handle any bugs that got in.  It's nice to have  natural "house keeping" services.  We only had an hour or so before lunch so we decided to do a quick loop through the tropical garden. 



After lunch we walked down the main road and back since this is a great way to see mammals.  We were rewarded with a troop of Mantled Howler Monkeys really close to the road.

Mantled Howler Monkeys

Juvenile Mantled Howler Monkey

Mantled Howler Monkeys

We even found a White-faced Capuchin hanging around:
White Faced Capuchin

Boy, it was good to be back in the rainforest.  Besides all the incredible wildlife to watch, there is nothing like the sounds of the jungle.

It rained after dinner, so any hopes of a night walk were soon lost.  But, we did see a Masked Smilisca (a frog) and some toads around the restaurant and the rain gave us a chance to turn in a bit early and get a good night's sleep.

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