Funniest Things I’ve Heard People Say in Costa Rica #2

As a follow up to last week’s post, here’s a few more things I’ve heard people say or seen on various facebook groups:

  1. I wish there was air conditioning in all of Costa Rica.
  2. At Pavas airport, one girl says: There’s a nice view on the second level.  Her friend responds: Is it air conditioned?
  3. Why are all the restaurants open-air?  Doesn’t anyone offer air conditioning?
  4. The waves are too loud and are keeping us up at night in our beachfront hotel room.
  5. There are Halloween crabs and/or geckos in my hotel room…they must be removed! (Note: these are two of the most harmless and timid animals in all of Costa Rica)
  6. From someone living in Costa Rica: What should I do with my kids during rainy season? (My thought to this one was: Really? What did you do with them when it rained in your hometown?).

And I’ve saved the best for last:

Costa Rica is such a beautiful island.

Sadly, that last one actually happens way more frequently than you’d imagine.

Pura vida…Chrissy

The return of the scarlet macaws in Manuel Antonio

Lapas For about the last week I’ve been waking up to the sound of scarlet macaws but haven’t been able to see them (their sound is very distinct and unlike the bird itself, not very pretty sounding). One particular day this week, at least 5 pairs flew over my home. It was 5:45 and I wasn’t fully functioning to actually want to take the time to count them all but from the photos, there was at least 5 pairs.

The endangered macaws (called Lapas in Costa Rica) have recently returned to Manuel Antonio because a local group has been bringing them back to the area and releasing them into the wild. Their efforts seem to be working.  And while these photos were taken against a gray morning sky, seeing the red macaws fly over the green jungle landscape near my home is such a stunning sight.  It adds another dimension of pure grace to an already beautiful location.Macaws 3

They seem to have a flight path over my home at around 5:30 a.m. heading from the northern part of Quepos towards the National Park.

On one particular day, I sat outside on my terrace as the sun was just rising, creating gold highlights on the tips of the dark green jungle landscape. The squawking of the macaws was followed by the screeching of about 30 parakeets and then the melancholy sound of a pair of toucans. What a beautiful way to start the day.  Now if someone would just bring me my morning coffee, it would be like I was on vacation on the Osa Peninsula.

Here’s two more photos of when it got a little lighter…Absolutely incredible, isn’t it?

lapas 2

Macaws

Chrissy

Step by step guide on how to remove a wolf spider from your home

wolf spider in Costa Rica 3

Yesterday morning, I begrudgingly dragged myself out of bed at 5:30 a.m. after a fitful night of weird dreams and got myself on the yoga mat for an intense 45 minute workout.  Following that, I quickly downed my daily green juice (still dripping in sweat) and then proceeded to go into the bathroom and turn on the shower.  Only to look down and see a wolf spider hanging out in the corner.  A gigantic, furry, jumping, venomous wolf spider, just slightly smaller than a tarantula.

wolf spider in Costa Rica

Oh dios mio.  Seriously?  It’s just too early to be dealing with such mayhem in my home.  Thankfully, I had that green juice to pump up my energy like Popeye and deal with the situation.

So I started the task at hand by staring at it but that just seemed to bore the spider as it stretched out its front legs.

wolf spider in Costa Rica 2

I left the light on in the bathroom (they’re nocturnal right?  So if there’s a light on, it’ll think it’s daylight and go to sleep?) and started to pace around my house.  Since I can get from one side to the other in about 8 steps, that didn’t really get me very far. Meanwhile, all I could think about is how long has this gigantic spider be in my home and how did he get in (and even more important, how am I going to get him out)?

I pop back into the bathroom and it’s still stretched out in the corner.  I took a photo of it and posted it to Facebook, leaving a comment for some local friends to see if they were nearby and not working yet (and maybe they could come and rescue this poor spider from my home).  No reply…ugh.  I’m gonna have to deal with this one on my own.

I went into the kitchen and looked for my widest and tallest container.  The only one that fit the description was a brand new one that I hadn’t even used yet (and am still debating on whether I want to use it now or not).

I carefully nudged the spider out of the corner in order to get it under the container without cutting off any of its legs.  Then I took a piece of paper and nudged it under but it wasn’t strong enough.  I found a piece of cardboard but that was too thick.

By this time, another local friend had commented that I should use a magazine cover.  So while I don’t normally buy magazines, I did recall having some old Nature Air magazines sitting on top of my frig and grabbed one of those and ripped off the cover (this is why you should never throw anything away – you never know when you might need a magazine cover to deal with a spider). 

wolf spider in Costa Rica 3

That did it.  As I nudged the cover under the container, the spider ran up the side of the tall container.  Good.  It was no longer hanging out along the bottom…less chance of an escape when I turn the canister over.

wolf spider in Costa Rica 4

Okay.  Now let’s all just take a moment here and breathe.  I knew I didn’t want to attempt to right side the container until the spider had a chance to relax into its current position at the top of the canister.  I chose this “relaxing” time to open my front door.   After some time had passed, I very carefully lifted up opposite sides of the paper and the container, placing it right side up on my shower floor.

I quickly replaced the cover with the container’s lid and ran outside and downstairs to the open jungle lot next to my house.  I then opened the lid and using a swinging motion with the container, released the spider, flinging him several feet out into the wild.  Deep breath.  It landed on a branch and went off on its merry way.

And people wonder what I do all day…

Pura vida…Chrissy

Birds, birds and more birds

I gotta give it to the birds flying around here these days…they are some smart animals.  They know it’s crazy to stay in a place that turns cold for 6 months out of the year.  And they know the perfect place to winter is Costa Rica. Because my house is literally set against a jungle landscape, I don’t have to go very far to see (and hear) an abundance of resident and migrating birds.  From every window in my house, I can see them flying around and from the rooftop terrace, I can literally spend hours trying to find where the chirping sounds are coming from.

I’ll admit that between the birds and the monkeys, I am very easily distracted.

A few weeks ago, I posted a turquoise crowned mot-mot on my Facebook page and a discussion followed about where this bird resides.  The turquoise species is mostly only found on the Nicoya Peninsula but we do have a blue-crowned version here on Costa Rica’s central coast. I hadn’t seen one yet but then no joke…a few days later I was coming home from the farmer’s market and there was a blue-crowned mot-mot sitting on a broken branch next to my staircase.  It actually scared me a little as it’s quite a large bird (up close) and I was definitely not expecting to see it.  Of course, by the time I got upstairs to get my camera, it had flown off.  But I did take the photo opportunity to go up to the rooftop and see who else was hanging out in the trees that day.

The streak-headed woodcreeper was super fun to watch.  It smoothly “creeped” its way up the tree branch circling it around and around and then flew to the next branch and did the same thing.

About two weeks after the initial visit by the mot-mot, I was sitting on my living room sofa, drinking my morning cup of coffee when I heard a loud bang against the window behind me.  I jumped up and opened the slider to my terrace to see the blue crowned mot-mot laying on the ground.  I grabbed my shoes but when I got outside, it had flown off into a nearby tree.  I was so very grateful…I really wasn’t sure how I was going to handle this bird had it been injured or dead. If it’s not squirrel monkeys falling out of trees (read my latest blog on that topic here), it’s birds flying into my windows…I’ll say it again…life is never dull here on the Rich Coast.

Blue crowned mot-mot

Pura vida…Chrissy

Falling Squirrel Monkeys: A special “never a dull moment” post

I know I said I was taking a short break from writing unless something extraordinary happened.  And it did.  Really no surprise, I suppose.  I live in the jungle and life is never dull here!

Yesterday, while I was working, I saw a troop of squirrel monkeys playing in the trees a few feet away from the window.  Incredibly distracting but so fun to watch.

But after a few minutes, I heard a loud crash (never a good sound) and monkeys scrambling to the tree right outside the window.  They were all screaming and frantically moving around the canopy.  I looked down and could see one monkey moving slowly through the shrubbery below me and it finally popped out and sat uncomfortably on a tiny branch.

Costa Rica grey crowned squirrel monkey

I ran outside and my heart nearly broke.  There on the slope was the fallen monkey shaking and scared, unable to move.  All of its troop was higher up in the trees, looking down, also not moving.

I made several phone calls to local friends who told me to call a nearby hotel that could help treat the wild animal but as it turned out, the hotel couldn’t come and get the monkey.  They told me I had to bring it to them.  I’m now looking at this still shaking monkey and wondering how was I going to get him without putting us both into a state of total panic.

Costa Rica grey crowned squirrel monkey2

Thinking back to having cats and the days of catching them for visits to the vet, I figured I could maybe get a towel, throw it over the monkey, reach up on the slope to get it and put it in a box.  Then call a taxi to take me and the monkey to the hotel.  I was still unsure though as 1. you know I never like to interact with wild animals and 2. I wasn’t sure if I should take him away from his troop.  I felt really bad as he’d probably never find his friends again if he was released back into the wild after being treated.

45 minutes went by of me making phone calls and watching this shaking monkey, who offered no signs of being able to actually move from where he was at, so I called one more friend, Johan, and fortunately he was done with work for the day and still in Quepos.  He came over a few minutes later but in that short amount of time, the capuchins (white faced monkeys) had arrived on the south side of my house. Let’s just call them the gangsters of the monkey world. At this point, more screaming was coming from the squirrel monkeys, as the capuchins are a predator for them, and now they were all running towards the north end of my house.  I found them on the staircase and in the tree next to it, still screaming.  But I could no longer find the injured monkey.  I checked every capuchin I could see to make sure none of them had taken my poor little injured monkey.

After Johan arrived, my neighbor found the monkey hiding under the water heater on the north side (hence why all his friends were now on that side of the house, bouncing around the staircase).  So at least we knew it could move.  Johan took the towel and carefully and slowly moved towards the monkey but it ran up the hillside before he could grab it.  And then it disappeared into the dense brush.

I really hope that the monkey was just in shock from the fall and that it wasn’t adrenaline from being chased by capuchins that made it capable of moving again.  My concern is that if it was adrenaline, eventually that will wear off and he will be in pain again if he broke a leg or injured some other part of his body.

These little endangered monkeys were so sweet through the whole ordeal.  Normally they only use my house as a bridge between the jungle landscapes and pass through quickly but the troop stayed put and stood by their friend, watching over him, every step of the way.  I really hope that he is once again with his troop, hanging out in the canopy of the trees and enjoying a good meal of leaves, flowers and berries.

Oh and in the middle of all of this, if that wasn’t enough, two black mandibled toucans decided to come by for lunch on the banana tree. Thanks to Johan for the correct name of this awesome bird species.

Black mandibled toucans in Costa Rica

Pura vida…Chrissy

More Wild, Magical Happenings in Tortuguero

It’s been difficult to come up with the words to describe this magical event that occurred while I was in Tortuguero a few weeks ago.  It started with my alarm going off at 4:15 a.m. for a 4:45 a.m. tour.  I’ve gone on 5:30 a.m. birdwatching tours but 4:45 is incredibly early.  The sun isn’t even awake yet!

But we all quickly downed some coffee and grabbed umbrellas.  Unlike where I live on the Pacific, it’s now the start of winter on the Caribbean side and from what I quickly learned, they have some wild weather over there!

We set off from Tortuga Lodge on the boat and crossed the channel to get to the beach side.  Walking about 100 meters east through the dark jungle and arriving at Tortuguero’s black sand beach…hoping to see one of nature’s most beautiful miracles…hatching baby turtles.

Baby turtles hatching in Tortuguero Costa Rica

The palm tree lined beach is 22 kilometers long but we would only walk a short stretch of it over the course of the next two hours.Our guide, Juan, began by checking the sand with his flashlight to find baby turtle tracks, of which he found many.  Which meant that we missed those hatchings.  As he was walking away from one of the nest sites however, his flashlight moved over a section of sand and I saw the sweetest little baby turtle crawling just inches from my feet.  It was too dark to take photos (remember, I don’t use flash – and neither should you) but I’ll never forget that moment as we watched this lone turtle make its way into the crashing waves.

We continued to walk north along the beach and saw more turtle tracks.  We also found a lot of turtle nests that looked like an animal had gotten to them (lots of broken eggs on the sand as well as paw prints that Juan told us were probably raccoons).

We came across one baby who was desperately trying to get to the water but kept flipping himself over.  It didn’t seem like he was going to make it.  And another turtle who died near its nest, which also had signs of being broken into by wildlife.

Walking further, we came across two women who had found a wet baby turtle high up on the shore.  Juan told us that he had probably gone into the ocean but then couldn’t breathe and made his way back to the beach.  We watched the little turtle and could see that he was still breathing but sitting there in the sand meant that one of the nearby hawks or vultures could potentially make him their next meal.  Juan told us however that he had a better chance of survival if we left him there and not put him back in the ocean.  There was obviously a reason why he came back to shore.  And disturbing the natural rhythms of nature is never a good thing.

Baby turtles hatching in Tortuguero, Costa Rica

We were almost to the beach exit for the Lodge when it started to torrentially pour down rain.  Everyone quickly threw their cameras into their backpacks and opened up their umbrellas. And as we continued to walk north just meters from where we needed to cross, that’s when the magic happened.  The rain was letting up a bit, the sun peeked out from the dark clouds and that’s when Juan spotted turtles running into the water.  Just writing that now brings an uncontrollable smile to my face.  We quickly (but cautiously as there were turtles everywhere) ran over to see about 50 turtles making their way into the water.  And then more magic happened as Juan noticed, just a few meters away, the sand cracking open with dozens more turtles trying to dig their way out of another nest.  He said he had never seen two nests hatch simultaneously in the same location.

A moving experience to say the least.  So totally special.  To read more on this experience and the life lessons learned, check out next Tuesday’s post on my business site: Social {media} Wellness.  Enjoy the video…

[wpvideo dY5IOri5]

A Wild Week of Animals

Costa Rica wetlandsAfter a very long stretch of working long days, I got a text on Tuesday morning from a wildlife guide/friend who wanted to know if I’d like to join him at El Rey Wetlands for an afternoon of birding.  While I was leaving the next day for Nosara and had to much to do, I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity.

Johan has his own guide business – Manuel Antonio Birding with Johan Chaves – and is sought after regularly by people coming down to Costa Rica who want to go birdwatching. He has seen over 500 birds in Costa Rica (there are about 850) and has a goal to reach 600 before the end of the year.   He even just spotted a bird never before seen in Costa Rica while at El Rey a few weeks ago!  I first met him when my friends from California were visiting and he took us on the Manuel Antonio National Park tour.

About 15 minutes south of Quepos, we turned off the main highway and traveled through an African Palm plantation, heading west towards the Pacific, eventually arriving at a marshland covered in rice fields.  Johan told me that he doesn’t go into the marshland – 1. because the water is often deep and 2. because there are crocodiles and caimans who like to hang out there.  Plus (3), it’s always best to stay on the trail.

El Rey is an easy short walk along an unpaved road with rice fields on both sides – we walked maybe 100 yards at most during the two hours we spent there.  And while the area is small, there is an abundance of birds to be seen.

It’s so amazing to me how easy it is for Johan to find birds.  I mean the trees are still thick with leaves from winter and yet he can spot a tiny little bird up in the canopy.  My favorites of the day were the caracara (Mexico’s National bird), anies (related to the roadrunner), storks and the jacanas.  Especially the baby jacanas.  There were a few that were juveniles but then Johan spotted the tiny little fuzzy babies. Oh, so cute!

Caracara in Costa Rica

Then…the next day I flew to Nosara and a friend and I headed north to Playa Ostional in hopes of seeing turtles.  Unfortunately, the turtles did not cooperate with my travel schedule and the arribada happened three days before but I was still hopeful that possibly a few might be coming onto shore at sunset.

There were about 10 either in the process of coming onto shore or already above the high tide mark and slowly and methodically digging their holes in the sand.  All the while the vultures hovered and watched.

Olive ridley turtle in Ostional

While I didn’t get to see the arribada with thousands of turtles coming to shore to lay their eggs, it is always a nice sight to see even a small number creating this miraculous event.  What is not nice to see are people who think it’s okay to approach the turtles.  In one instance, there was a guide nearby who told the people to move away.  Unfortunately, there was no guide when a family literally tried to put their 2 year old daughter on top of the turtle for a photo.  However the friend I was with saw it happening and ran over to the people telling them in Spanish that this was not appropriate and that turtles need space.  The family just looked at us with disgust and ignored what she was saying.  As we walked away, we knew that they would just do it again and sadly, the turtle who had just come out of the water, was turning around to go back in. It’s space had been violated and it obviously didn’t feel safe going further up the sandy shore.

I don’t know if the people don’t care or if they just don’t understand but it’s so disturbing to me, either way.  These are endangered species and we should feel so fortunate to be in their presence and do whatever we can to protect them.

Enjoy the slideshow.  Note: I have a very large zoom on my camera and any close-ups of turtles coming out of the water were taken at a far distance.  Once the turtles begin laying their eggs, the guides allow visitors to get closer.  Also, all of the soft white shells you see on the black sand are baby turtles that hatched (or that the vultures got to).

[slideshow]

Pura vida…Chrissy

My New Roommate: A Baby Gecko

Costa Rica baby gecko
Mid-September

There is a baby gecko living in my bathroom.  He’s been there now for a few weeks and doesn’t seem to be growing (although I don’t actually know the time frame for gecko growth) nor does he seem to have the desire to move out into the wild.  I can’t imagine what he’s eating.  Except for the gigantic cockroaches that I also find in my bathroom (and again, can’t explain why they like it there), there’s nothing to eat.  Which brings me to my two fears for this tiny gecko – one: that I will end up stepping on it or two: one of the gigantic cockroaches, which are about 5x larger than this little guy, will eat it.

Costa Rica Gecko
Just this week

But I also don’t want to put it out into the wild as I’m afraid it will be eaten by the many predators that exist outside!  It’s just so small and he has a stub of a tail so I wonder if he’s already encountered one of the roaches (or perhaps it just takes time to grow)!  So for now, I’m just being extra cautious where I step and hoping the cucarachas don’t find my new little friend!

As a side note, I also recently had a butterfly find its way into my home.  I quickly caught it and took it outside, placing it on my mint plant where I think it was much happier.

butterfly in my housePura vida…Chrissy

A Visit to Manuel Antonio National Park

Manuel Antonio National Park, Costa RicaAs I mentioned in a recent post, I recently had a visit from an old California friend and his family.  While seeing the wildlife was possibly the most exciting thing for them, the most exciting part for me (besides seeing him and his family!) was the “gifts” he brought me from Amazon.com.  Yes, I can now happily say that I finally have a Downy softener ball.  Never thought that would be so exciting but trust me, it is.  I also now have, amongst other things, corers for pineapples and mangos.  YAY!   Life just got a little more simple.

Okay but onwards to our day at the park.  My Tico friend was also staying with me at the time so we met the family at a local soda for breakfast and then met our private tour guide, Johan Chaves, who would take us on an easy walk along the main trail of the park.  I’m always in awe of these expert guides who know where everything is.  I realize that much of the natural world doesn’t often move around too much, especially the little things like spiders, snakes and bats.  But still, they’re so good at finding even the tiniest of creatures.  I was really hoping we’d see the yellow pit viper that he had been seeing the last few weeks but no such luck.  No snakes whatsoever seen on the tour that morning.

What totally made my day though was not the big animals like the monkeys and sloths but seeing one small insect: the tiny rainbow grasshopper.  Oh wow, I have only seen photos of this little guy and was so excited when Johan found one.  It’s so beautiful with its many stunning colors!

Costa Rica Rainbow Grasshopper

We were also so lucky that the weather held out for us the entire day.  The day before, it had poured down rain all morning long.  And Matthew confirmed my sentiment that the rain here is different from that of California.  I thought maybe I was exaggerating when I say things like that but was pleased to know that he was in agreement.  It’s just different.  You have to experience it for yourself to fully understand.

The end of the tour landed us at the beach where we spent a little time exploring and cooling off in the tropical water.  The beach inside the park is very calm with almost no currents.  We also spent quite a bit of time shooing the raccoons and monkeys away from our belongings.  Never walk away from your belongings and leave your backpack open or food out!

Enjoy the slideshow…

[slideshow]

Pura vida…Chrissy

Never Never NEVER Feed Wild Animals

White faced monkey in Manuel Antonio, Costa RicaAn article came out this week in a Costa Rica online English newspaper that talked about searching for monkeys.  It was written by a non-Tico “freelance photographer” who is living in Costa Rica and I was just so horrified that I had to write this blog in order to counterbalance what he wrote.  I’m not going to give a link to the article because I don’t want to give any publicity to such a tale of wrong-doing.

In the article, the author was explaining how to find monkeys in Costa Rica.  He suggested the basics such as…looking for eaten pods on the ground and listening for breaking branches.  But what came next is just so shocking to me.  First that he wrote it as a photographer who should have some ethics when it comes to photographing in the wild but also just as an adult who should know better.

He said he brought a banana in order to entice the wild monkeys to him.  There are so many reasons that is so wrong.  Never, never, NEVER feed wild animals.  NEVER.  I don’t know how many more times I can say that.  One should not even suggest tempting them with food, even if you’re not going to give it to them to eat.

I recently had friends visit and after 4 days of not seeing any monkeys, they joked that they just don’t exist here in Costa Rica.  On the 5th day though, we did get to see them and enjoy, from a distance, their playful sweetness.

My ethics and philosophy are this: it’s such an incredible wonder if you get to see animals in the wild, in their natural habitat.  It’s special and unique.  But if you don’t get to see them, then that is just life.  The natural world is called “the wild” for a reason.  When we begin to interact with other species (by talking to them, trying to get their attention, feeding them, etc), problems ensue.

There are many public places and parks in Costa Rica where there are signs that say “Do not feed the animals” in both English and Spanish.  I always thought that was pretty much common sense but now I realize there’s a need for those signs.

What I will give credit to is an article that explains why one should never feed animals.  That is something that deserves to be read and shared: http://www.footprintscostarica.com/footprints_informacion_articulo.php?art=4.

Besides writing this blog post, other actions I took were posting a comment with the link above in the article as well as sending an email to the editors of the online news source, expressing my discontent with the article written and asking for it to be removed.  The editor-in-chief responded with the following:

“We allow freedom of speech and freedom to publish about anything to do with Costa Rica, given that it does not break the law, etc.”

I did a quick google search and couldn’t find any laws on feeding wildlife here in Costa Rica so I responded: Feeding wild animals then contributes to wild animals getting used to humans and being captured for the pet trade…which is illegal. 

The editor did respond again…with an offer to allow me to write for his online newspaper, share my viewpoints and have my business be seen by many, which I then responded that I only work with organizations who either already equal my values or are willing to learn and work towards a more sustainable and ethical system of values for all who live on our planet.

I was still unhappy though with the fact that this article would remain published for all those with internet to see.  And then this morning, I read an article about Jairo Mora, a young Costa Rican conversationist who was killed a few months ago because he was protecting turtles on the Caribbean coast.  In the article, it mentioned Wildlife Conservation Law 7317.  And by googling that phrase, I then came up with several articles that described the law which included this from the Costa Rican Times: “Wildlife Conservation Law 7317 mandates that you do not remove any plant life nor engage with any wild animal by feeding them or removing them from their habitat. Feeding animals leads to an unhealthy dependence on humans and hurts the animals.” (Click here for source and entire article).

I promptly emailed the law and the article to the editor who then replied that what he meant was – it’s not illegal for him to publish an article that talks about an illegal act being committed (by the author of the article).  He also said: There are laws for everything in Costa Rica, hardly any of them are enforced.

So what?  That makes it okay?  If the author had written about robbing a house, an obvious illegal act that also has very little enforcement in Costa Rica, would he have chosen to still publish the article?  Or it’s just that this particular article is about wildlife so who cares if it’s illegal and wrong to do even though it contributes to the destruction of our planet.

That old idiom plays in my head when presented with offers to work with companies that don’t share similar ethics: If you lie down with dogs, you’ll end up with fleas. Getting more business and being seen by more people is not worth it to me if it goes against my morals and values.  I’d rather live my values and stay true to what I believe in and hopefully, eventually, it will pay off.  : )

The author of the article has yet to respond to the comment I left on his post.

Sept 6, 2013 Update: The author has responded and informed me that the piece was done as a fluff piece and a disclaimer would be added to the top of the article. While I know he was trying to be pleasant, his email only infuriated me more since I abhor using animals for entertainment purposes. Additionally, it is still illegal to feed wild animals so the article still needs to be removed.

Pura vida…Chrissy