Our base in the Tortugero National Park is the Manatus Lodge. Access is via boat transfer only – and let’s hope they keep it that way! There are plans to build a road, but there is a real danger of that ruining the peaceful paradise that this beautiful.place currently provides.
What do you hear when you wake up in a rainforest? Well, we heard howler monkies – there is a troop of them living high in the trees around the lodge. The early morning alarm was useful as we had another early start this morning. The best way to visit the rain forest by day is by boat. In the hands of Lewis, our expert guide, we were able to spot so many creatures that would otherwise have remained invisible, safely camouflaged in their natural environment. You really have to know what you are looking for here. There is just so much to see here, the boat trip became rather like a gargantuan scale game of I Spy. We moved slowly along the water, passing banks lined with the buttress roots of the giant trees towering above. They fanned out like giant organs supporting the massive trunks above them, lining onto the wet banks for dear life. If you peered in (which you could safely do right from the boat), you could see giant golden spiders hiding inside. There aren’t many mornings if you are asked “what did you see this morning?” when you can truthfully answer: a tiger heron, a snake bird, a Jesus Christ lizard (so called because they can walk on water), a green tailed heron, a Cayman crocodile, iguanas and a three toed sloth. As if that wasn’t enough, the afternoon here yielded: a spotted sandpiper, a keel billed toucan, green macaws, spider monkeys, turkey vultures and huge iguanas. All just part of a typical happy day’s sightseeing here in Costa Rica.
Most of the excursions at Manatus are optional, but (for $30 pp), you can choose a pair of rubber boots, don your flashlight and head off into the depths of the rainforest at twilight with an expert guide. Given that 95% of the creatures that inhabit the sea level rainforest of Tortugero are nocturnal, this is a bit of a “must do” here.
At 5.30, by the light of the silvery moon, we followed Lewis into the jungle, obeying strict instructions not to touch ANYTHING and not to veer from the path. Our group of eight all sprayed hair and clothes liberally with bug spray to fend of the mosquitos before we set off on our two hour expedition. Tiny red “poison” frogs (they give off toxins from the formic acid they consume in the ants they live on) were our first sighting. They are very tiny – no bigger than your little finger nail. You could easily tread on one by mistake. Your eyes soon get accustomed to searching for beauty in this eery, crepuscular world. You find it in the most unexpected places. For me, it wasn’t the coloured frogs, the gaudy red eyed tree frog (national symbol of Costa Rica) or the bats that held my interest longest. It was the gossamer thin, translucent wings of the dragon fly perched on our guide’s arm; the motionless owl butterfly and, most of all, the long lines of marching leaf-eater soldier ants. They traced paths all through the forest, leaving large sections completely clear around their huge nests. The females do all the work – the males have very short lives. If I ever have a second chance of life, remind me never to come back as a leaf-eater ant.
Young male howler monkies leave the troop early and go off on their own in search of another troop where they can seek to replace the alpha male in charge. It sounds cruel, because they usually fight and kill the old male. Apparently though, they only do this when the old monkey is near the end of his life anyway at which point, they tend to fall into a sort of depression where they lose interest in the world around them and eat very little. Euthanasia howler monkey style then may actually be a peculiar form of kindness?
Pineapple and banana breakfast smoothie – a totally tropical taste
Fresh fish ceviche (spicy – with a definite Mexican feel)
Watching the three toed sloth and her baby.. Sloths have four stomachs, are great swimmers and are solitary (they leave their mates) . It takes 11 months for a baby sloth to mature and after 9 months, it will be abandoned by it’s mother. Sloths spend their whole day eating or sleeping and yes – they really do move so slowly that they are covered in green algae.