By Joe Sebastiani, Seasonal Program Team Leader (Second blog in a series about the Delaware Nature Society trip to Costa Rica – 2011)
Think back to when you were a child, at a time when everything you experienced was new. Each turn in life contained new surprises, new learning experiences, and complete excitement. Think to Christmas morning or a special birthday as a child, tearing open gifts with enthusiasm, one thrill after the next. This is a little what a good travel experience is like, and it is probably why so many people do it. It is certainly what a nature excursion to the tropics is like, especially if you live in the temperate north. Each bird, flower, insect, and amphibian that crosses your path is probably something you’ve never seen before. The possible experiences seem endless when you are surrounded by so much life.
What you don’t know won’t kill you…or will it! Stepping through the Tirimbina Rainforest Center in the Sarapiqui region of Costa Rica, our guide pointed out something that probably no one had ever heard of before. Can you find it in the photo below?
Do you see anything interesting in this photograph? Photo by Marilyn Henry
Hiding in the wet leaf litter among the leaves was a Hog-nosed Pit Viper. This snake is not very deadly, in fact, it is estimated that about 50 people per year are bitten by them in Costa Rica, but no fatalities are known, however deaths have been reported in other tropical countries. At any rate, I don’t want to step on one, and it is a little uncomfortable to know that there is no way I would have seen this snake if it wasn’t pointed out to me.
Here is another look at the tiny venomous Hog-nosed Pit Viper. It might have only been a foot long. Photo by Joe Sebastiani.
Other exciting surprises met us in the Sarapiqui region of Costa Rica, which is in the northern Caribbean side of the country. We stayed at the La Quinta Country Inn, which is set along a boulder-strewn creek near the raging Saraqipui River in a part of Costa Rica that produces lots of Pineapples. At La Quinta, there are about 10 acres of garden and forest to explore, and even here, lots of fun surprises thrilled us.
At night, we explored La Quinta with a flashlight. This Smooth-skinned Toad was a nice find. Photo by Joe Sebastiani
By day, we were treated to various activities in this region. We visited a pineapple plantation, went white-water rafting, enjoyed a cacao (chocolate making) program, a bat mist-netting program with a biologist, and looked for birds and wildlife everywhere we went.
I have to admit that I wasn't too excited to go to the pineapple plantation. However, some of the greatest moments of hilarity ocurred on our tour there, mostly due to our guide, who should be in stand-up comedy. This farm turned out to be Costa Rica's largest organic pineapple farm. Next time you are in the grocery store, if you see organic pineapple from Dole, it is may be from this farm. Photo by Joe Sebastiani
Even at pineapple farms you can see wildlife, and maybe get a little wild.
A fruit (maybe pineapple) feeder at the farm attracted a group of male and female Passerini's Tanagers. Quite a sight! Photo by Marilyn Henry.
Everything starts to look good while sipping a pineapple cocktail!
One of our lucky participants sipping a pineapple cocktail. Never discount farm tours on a nature trip. Farms are nature too! Photo by Joe Sebastiani
We heard that our rafting trip down the Sarapiqui River was going to be a flatwater experience. We were told to take our cameras, binoculars, etc. When we arrived at the river, it looked like the Brandywine Creek after a few days of hard rain. We overheard the rafting leader talking to Jose our trip guide. Over and over again in Spanish, the rafting leader kept saying “rapido…rapido“. I didn’t need five years of Spanish to understand what he meant. The river was not flatwater, there were rapids!
Our group was flexible for sure. Cameras were safely stowed in the van and life-vests and helmets were donned. Into the (class I) rapids we went!!
After the rafting trip, many wet people in the group said that we should have done the class III section of this river. Maybe next time. We were flexible for sure, and now…confident! This group was a lot of fun! Although birds were the main star of the show, we saw so much more in Costa Rica. On the rafting trip, we took a break to look for frogs. Our guides knew just where to find a Green-and-black Poison Dart Frog.
Handling poison dart frogs isn't something I would recommend, which is why no one in my group held it. We let our Costa Rican whitewater rafting guide pick this one up! Soon after he passed out from the pain and swelling, and we had to float him down the river to the nearest hospital! (Just kidding...he washed his hands and all was well). Photo by Ken Henry.
Finally, before we left La Quinta Country Inn, we were serenaded by Howler Monkeys in the trees. Howler Monkeys were seen in most places on our trip, but most of the time, you just hear them deep in the forest. This one came out in the open. Their sounds are crazy, and if you want to hear one, try this link.
This Mantled Howler Monkey picked fruit lazily in the tree as we were departing La Quinta. Photo by Joe Sebastiani
Stay tuned for the next part of our amazing trip…Arenal Volcano!