Reforestation Day with Titi Conservation Alliance

DSC04700Meet Jorge and Mireya.  These two lovely people are property owners in a nearby town called Naranjito.  And last week, Titi Conservation Alliance along with over 50 school children and many teachers and volunteers went to their property to plant trees in areas that had become bare.  By doing so, we are able to create a biological corridor for the local wildlife that uses trees to traverse the countryside.  Remember, it’s rare to see a monkey on the ground therefore it’s so important that trees act as connecting bridges in order for them to have a more expansive region to call Home.

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By planting more trees, we’re helping to preserve a future for the Mono Titi (Squirrel Monkey) as it’s necessary for them to meet up with other groups, outside of their area, to breed.  Without trees, they are stuck in one specific area.

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At the beginning of the day, Jorge saw me admiring his incredible view and started to talk with me about the history of the land.  At one time, it was all owned by his parents but when his dad passed, the brothers (there are 4 total) divided up the land into quarters.  There are a total of 20 hectares (almost 50 acres) of land in total.  And much of it was still in its natural state however some areas had no trees on it and that’s why we were there.  To help them reforest the area and return this land to its natural beauty, providing for the wildlife who live in the area.

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When the kids and other volunteers began to plant the trees, Jorge took me on a walk alongside a stream on his property to look for morphos (the beautiful blue butterfly).

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We saw one but as always, it never stopped, so we just enjoyed the moment as it fluttered by us.  He did find an owl butterfly however that let me get within a few inches of it to take its photo.  Such a beauty.  Inside, it has a very pale blue/gray color but it never let its wings down while it was resting.

Owl Butterfly in Costa Rica

As we walked along the stream, he mentioned to me that he often has to clean it out from the trash that people from other areas dump…plastic bags and plastic bottles, mostly.

At the end of the event, I found a shady spot to rest on a log but shortly after sitting, Jorge asked me if I’d like to go to his house to wash off my boots (they were covered in mud) and talk with him and Marja.  We walked over to his main house and immediately he showed me a green iguana that was hanging out on his awning.  Marja invited me to sit and brought me a few crackers and a refreshingly cold glass of Iced Tea.  They told me they often see the beautiful Lapas (scarlet macaws) which don’t exist where I live in Quepos/Manuel Antonio (even though it’s only a short distance away) and many monkeys traversing in the trees every day.  When it was time to leave, they told me in Spanish, that I am invited there anytime, using the well-known expression of “mi casa es su casa”.

Green Iguana in Costa Rica

What a delight to meet this couple who cares for the environment and understands how precious a gift it is.  I’m so fortunate to have met them and that Titi Conservation Alliance is working with them to reforest their land in order to protect it for generations to come.

Pura vida…Chrissy

Life in Manuel Antonio’s Jungle

Capuchin white faced monkey and babyA few people have asked me…have you visited the Park yet?  The Park being Manuel Antonio National Park, Costa Rica’s gem on the Central Pacific Coast.  No, haven’t gone yet.  I’ve been 3 times in the past but haven’t visited since moving here.  There are a few reasons why…

  1. There’s a $15 roundtrip taxi ride to the Park
  2. There’s a $10 entrance fee
  3. It’s next to pointless to go without a guide as it’s difficult to find wildlife on your own and the guides somehow know where everything exists in the jungle.  And they have really cool scopes that I can put one of my camera lens on and take super clear photos of really faraway animals or tiny insects and amphibians.

And probably the most important reason…why should I spend $25 to go to the Park when all I have to do is hang out at my house and the natural world comes to visit me?  Almost daily, I’m visited by monkeys – mostly capuchin (white faced monkeys) and squirrel monkeys and there are always new and interesting birds flying around the trees.

On a recent Skype business call I was sitting outside on my terrace as my housekeeper was cleaning inside.  In less than 30 minutes…there was a gladiator frog sleeping on the wall next to me, two toucans flying through the trees, a black squirrel (yes black) running around the branches, a white horse hanging out in the open space next to my house and several capuchins on the tree about 6 feet away from me.

Costa Rica Toucan

A few days ago, there was a gigantic moth hanging out on my screen door all day and of course, there are geckos and lizards running all around my house, inside and out.  One day last week, I found muddy hand prints on my clean sheets that were drying outside.  They came from the squirrel monkeys who were playing on the railing!  I also now understand why none of my seeds grow!

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Caught in the act!

And just yesterday, the property owner came knocking on my door to tell me the best news yet…she said “Perezoso!”  Next to squirrel monkeys, sloths are probably my favorite wild animal here in the Costa Rica rainforest.

Costa Rica sloth

Yes, I live in the jungle.   I’ll probably be going to the Park in a few weeks with friends but for now, I’m enjoying the jungle life in my backyard.

Enjoy the slideshow…

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Pura vida…Chrissy

Weird and Pretty Insects of Costa Rica

Never did I think I’d write “pretty and insects” in the same sentence!  But I’ve come to acknowledge that some insects can be rather cool looking with pretty colors and interesting textural details…the only rule I have with them is they cannot land on me and they cannot enter my house.  Their fate is not guaranteed if they come into my house.  Take for example this gigantic cockroach who decided he liked my toothbrush…and who took a long swim down my toilet.  Yes, I might be a vegetarian, but when gross cucarachas take up residence on something I use every day…all bets are off.

Costa Rica cockroach

The cicadas below deliver a melodic chorus throughout the day and into the night.  They like to hangout on the branches of trees and sing to their heart’s content.  Some people may find their monotonous sound annoying but I rather like it.  It drowns out any noise I may be hearing from the main road off in the distance and gives me a daily reminder that I live in a jungle paradise.

Patience and a little bit of courage is required to photograph the insects of Costa Rica.  Especially those that fly.  The grasshopper below erratically flew right at me and hit me in the face.  They really have no sense of direction or ability to fly gracefully.

Costa Rica grasshopper

This colorful bumblebee was already dead when I came across it.  For days after, I had the baby bumblebee children’s song stuck in my head.

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And then there are the funny little beetles (at least, I think they’re beetles), that get flipped over and can’t right-side themselves.  This one ended up with a leaf on its tummy.  Not to worry, I right-sided it and it wandered off.

Ah well, all in a day’s work.

Pura vida…Chrissy

Ocean King Cruise Adventures in Manuel Antonio

After the last post about no more zoos in Costa Rica…it’s only fitting I follow up with something related: the awesome opportunity to see wild animals in their natural environment.

Last weekend, I took a half day cruise on the Ocean King, Manuel Antonio’s largest catamaran.  I actually think it may be Costa Rica’s largest catamaran.  It’s 100 feet long and can hold up to 200 people but there were only about 60 people on the tour that morning.  It even has 2 cold water jacuzzi’s and 2 water slides off the top deck!

Ocean King catamaran with jacuzzis

We boarded the catamaran directly from the Marina Pez Vela dock (thank god…I’m not so balanced when it comes to getting on and off of dinghy’s).  And after safety speeches in both English and Spanish, we set sail into the open water to look for dolphins, whales and sea turtles who call the 55,000 hectares of marine space in Manual Antonio National Park home.

We found spotted dolphins, quite a few actually.  And some swimming with babies.  Only a few wanted to play, jumping out of the water giving us a natural and awesome show…so much better than anything you can get from watching them in a tiny tank at Sea World or other marine parks.  Here, in this vast open ocean, they are allowed to be their natural selves and most chose to gracefully and quietly swimming next to our boat.  No whale or sea turtle sightings that day but they had seen them the day before.  There’s no guarantee on seeing wild animals in their natural setting.  But for me, that’s what makes it so much more special when they do choose to grace us with their presence.

Dolphins in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

From there, we circled around the public beaches of Manuel Antonio (Espadilla and Playitas) as well as one of the private beaches inside the National Park.  We stopped at one of the many islands that surround the local shore to watch the Brown Booby birds.  Here they can mate and nest with very little threat of predators.  There was another type of bird but I didn’t catch its name…maybe one of you can tell me the name of the white and pink bird in the slideshow below.

We then headed over to Biesanz Beach where we dropped anchor to snorkel.  It was a bit of a green water day which means very little visibility but it was still refreshing to jump into the 84 degree water and soak up the sunshine on the trampoline afterwards with a refreshing cold beer in hand.

Snorkelling in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

I’ve recommended catamaran adventures when vacationing in Tamarindo and this crew and catamaran in Manuel Antonio are no different.  Fun and friendly crew, awesome nature sightings and a relaxing environment.  A perfect break from my regular daily routine.

Enjoy the slideshow…

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Pura vida…Chrissy

No More Zoos in Costa Rica

Capuchin white faced monkey and baby in Manuel AntonioWow, to be honest with you, when this article (click here) came across my Facebook newsfeed this weekend, I thought…Is this for real?  Can it actually be possible that a country is taking steps to become more humane towards all living creatures on our planet?  Allowing them to live freely, in their natural state?

Well, to keep this post short and sweet…yes it is possible.  As of March 2014, there will be no more zoos in Costa Rica.  So totally proud to live in a country that understands the interconnections of our planet and that holding animals in captivity for the purpose of human entertainment is wrong and inhumane.

This is not our world to dominate…it is our world to share, learn from and love.  Let us hope that other countries will follow suit and we may all live in harmony together.

Pura vida para todos…Chrissy

Do you like Gallo Pinto?

Guanacaste soda When I moved a few weeks ago, we had an early 6 a.m. start so there was no time for breakfast.  I had 2 slices of leftover pizza from the night before in my backpack so about an hour into the drive, I asked my driver, Tino, (who only speaks Spanish) if he was hungry and wanted a slice.  He laughed a little and told me, No, I only eat gallo pinto and casados.  So I put away the pizza temporarily.

Costa Rica SodaAbout an hour later, I took the pizza out and ate a slice.  While I was eating, Tino asked me: You don’t like gallo pinto? I responded with, Yes, of course, I love gallo pinto but I don’t have any!

So about 5 minutes later, we approached a small soda and he pulled in and said, We’re having breakfast, I want to treat you to gallo pinto.

Costa Rica Gallo PintoWhen you vacation in Costa Rica, you absolutely must do like the locals and eat gallo pinto for breakfast.  And be sure to try it with their famous Lizano salsa…makes it even more delicious!

Pura vida…Chrissy