Monday, June 30, 2008

Costa Rica: day 12 - Lapa Rios Night Walk

The night walk was pretty cool. There are simply so many nocturnal creatures in the tropical rain forest that if you only search for them during the day, you are really missing out!

We saw lots of bats, some of them quite large. We hiked to a man-made fish pond in which we found a snake on a leaf, a tadpole of the Red-Eyed Tree Frog, a HUGE bullfrog, and some other frogs.

A Masked Tree Frog.


My eagle eyes (Nick will love that!) spotted a bird sleeping in a tree, which, I must say, is a very neat thing to see, that I hadn't seen before.

We hiked along a road. Here you can see the bats quickly fly by you. Then we hiked along part of the Carbonera River. We could faintly see the Greater Fishing Bats that swoop down and catch fish in the water. Their wingspan must have been at least a foot. (See excellent National Geographic video of a fishing bat in Belize.)

We saw a huge gecko on the generator building (you can't really see how huge he is in the picture) and lots of spiders.

There were lots of little shrimp in the water with metallic glowing eyes. Stink bugs (like roaches), a female tarantula, a scorpion. It's too bad that photography is so difficult in these night walks. I don't like to use flash - I don't know if the guides would let you use flash anyways - so your best bet is to have someone shine a flashlight on your subject.

Speaking of flashlights and shine and glowing eyes... Read more about this fascinating phenomena in my post "Eyeshine in Nocturnal Animals." Read more about night walks by clicking on the "nature at night" label at the bottom of this post.

* * *

After the hike, we showered and ended up being pretty late for dinner. The appetizers were the best part - these chicken tamales in banana leaves. The tropical fishcakes were okay. The bouillibaise de Osa was dry, but I have a feeling that was because we were so late. For dessert, the choices were deep, dark cheesecake or drunken watermelon.

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Costa Rica: day 12 - Lapa Rios Flora & Fauna

I woke around dawn but went back to sleep. I got up after 6. We enjoyed our lovely morning coffee on our deck. Then for breakfast we had the famous panqueques Lapa Rios. Nick had his con frutas tropicales; I had banano y granola.

The Lapa Rios staff are so amazing also. When you go to breakfast they come in and clean the place. When you go out for dinner, they come in and prepare the place for night. They put the "day" pillows away for you and leave the goodnight note. The story of Lapa Rios is really neat and inspiring. They are a model in ecotourism and sustainability. Apparently no - or maybe one? - trees were cut down in the construction of the bungalows.

On the observation deck by the restaurant.

I also noticed some interesting epiphytes.

Particularly one that had a pattern of embossed dots, running in two parallel lines.

Termite mound.

As always, the walk back provided us with plenty of critters to see. Lizards, a spider, a lone bat roosting in the hut by the pool.

* * *

Lunch: the soup was gazpacho. Nick had pasta with basil and mushrooms. I had the salada verde a la tica con pescado. With blackberry (mora) juice. For dessert, Nick had tropical fruit. The chip of the day was plantain and the juice was tapa dulce con limón.

Again, the walk back to the bungalow we spotted lizards, spiders and squirrel monkeys. Today seems like a lazy day. We signed up for the Night Walk from 6-8 pm, but we were too late to sign up for the morning tours and weren't that interested in the afternoon ones. Though sunset birds might be nice. Darn! - We can't see the bats or iguanas anymore at the observation deck at the top of the spiral staircase because they're fixing the staircase.

I'm pretty sure this is bamboo, but I've never seen the yellow with green stripes part before.

From our bungalow's deck...

There's a lizard just off center in this picture...

Not sure what kind of grasshoppery thing this is. I love the coloration.

More monkey!

* * *

There's just so much to see in do in Costa Rica. The activities and tours are absolutely wonderful, but equally wonderful is just sitting back and relaxing, taking it all in. Being a spectator in this living zoo. And when you do this, you notice things and start putting them together. I especially enjoyed reading my Tropical Nature book on our deck and being able to look up from the pages and see words become illustrated in the surrounding jungle... I could watch the hummingbirds and insects buzz by, in search of their favorite flowers... (Read about what makes these certain flowers their favorite in my post on "Animal Pollination in the Tropics: Hummingbirds to Hawkmoths.")

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Sunday, June 29, 2008

Costa Rica: day 11 - Lapa Rios Lunch, Surf, & Dinner

After the hike, we had the juice of the day: guanábana - yummy, and the chip of the day: yucca - good.

This guy wasn't on the menu, just curious...

Another postcard view, on our walk back to the bungalow...

* * *

We washed up and had lunch: casado with tuna (below) and yuccassoise (the yucca version of French potato leek soup). Fruit for dessert.

While having lunch, we saw a green snake with a blue tongue slither across the deck.

We paged through a book on Costa Rican animals before going back to our bungalow to change for Nick's surf lesson.

* * *

The lesson was with Oldemar "Pollo" of Tres Peces Surf School at Pan Dulce at 3:30. We were told it's a 15 minute walk; however, just as we were leaving, the Lapa Rios truck that was departing backed up and asked us if we needed a ride. The family from Dallas we flew in with was also heading out for the surf lesson. This was a good thing, as I don't think we would have found the spot on the beach where we were supposed to go, and it would have taken us much longer than 15 minutes to get there.

It's a bumpy road to the beach. The beach is rockier than those we've seen previously and doesn't seem pleasant to swim in. Pretty though. Green-blue water, brown-grey sand, jungle backdrop. Nick, along with the husband, son, and daughter of the family proceeded to the surf lesson while the wife of the family and I watched and took pictures.

Nick thoroughly enjoyed this. I caught a few pics of him riding the waves. Here's one.

I also made fast friends with a very photogenic pelican.

The Lapa Rios truck picked us up at 5:30, and we headed back to wash our feet outside of our bungalow then went back to the main lodge to see the bats take off for the night. When we got there, 5 were still there (they'd been 11 during the day). We shined the flashlight on them to see them better, and they all in turn flew down in a matter of minutes. [We really shouldn't have disturbed them with the flashlight.]

We then sat outside on the deck by the restaurant and watched the bats flitting by. They appeared larger than all of the previous ones we'd seen. Then we went back to the bungalow, showered, and headed to dinner.

They have this drink called the Pink Iguana. YUM-MY!!! The circle of lime forms the eye and the wooden stirrer makes the tongue. Mmmm! Tastes like cottoncandy snowcones!

* * *

Afterthought: it rained a bit today. Some thunder and lightning.

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Costa Rica: day 11 - Lapa Rios Osa Trail

Lapa Rios is more than a luxury ecolodge on the Osa Peninsula. It is a 1,000 acre, private, nature reserve, protecting Central America's last remaining lowland tropical rain forest. The reserve is mostly primary rain forest, meaning it has remained relatively untouched by human activity.

* * *

At 8:15 we hiked the Osa Trail, which, again, brought the Tropical Nature book to life. (There are sign-up sheets at the front desk where you sign up for the activities you want to do; they are all an additional charge.) Jason was our guide. One other guy also did this trail with us. He was the director for Sansa airlines in Panama, on assignment to figure out why people choose Nature Air over Sansa Airlines for their Puerto Jiménez flights.

The hike was great. Very interesting...

We saw the Sangrillo Colorado - a massive tree, found only in the Lapa Rios Reserve (not sure which picture this is). There were the "loco leaves" that move all crazy-like while the leaves around them are not moving at all!

This is either a Strangler Fig or just woody vines that have grown along and fused with the tree trunk. (Link to "Day 4 - Monteverde Cloud Forest," a previous post with info on the strangler fig.)

Light Gap. (Link to "Day 4 - Monteverde Cloud Forest," a previous post with info on light gaps.)

Jason pointed out a tree - with these stilt-like roots - that he said can move up to one meter a year (!) seeking nutrients in the soil. Being that they can live 30 years, well, you do the math! Amazing!

No idea what this is...

Again, no growth rings...

Here is an example of the "buttressed" trees found in a rain forest. These buttresses help stabilize the tree in the wet, shallow soil.

Gazing up into the canopy. The way the trees in the rain forest sway is wild!

More examples of the buttressed trees...

Jason was all excited when he spotted this snake, the extremely venomous Fer-de-Lance. He said it's really rare to stumble upon them like this. He proceeded to tell us that this is the snake responsible for the most snake-related deaths of humans in Costa Rica!

Tons of ants... This mound reminded me of meatballs with parsley on top. (Or maybe I was just getting hungry.) An interesting fact: ants far outweigh humans in terms of biomass - in fact, in terms of biomass, they outweigh all animals!

More intriguing trees...

Cool little out-of-focus mushroom.

There's a monkey in there somewhere... You can see the twisting lianas, the woody vines. They benefit from having their roots in the soil, then they snake their way through the trees, into the canopy, in search of light. Over time, they can actually harden and come together to form a tree.

Strikingly beautiful remains of a Blue Morpho Butterfly. We saw a lot of these at Lapa Rios, live ones.

Can you guess what Jason's looking for?

Bats!!! They roost under these leaves. This is the Disk-Winged Bat. (Link to my post on "The Disk-Winged Bats of Lapa Rios".)

Not sure what this is.

What else?... Jason showed us this seed thing that when you rub it, it smells like Fruit Loops! It's used as an insect repellent. (I wonder if this is how Fruit Loops and Toucan Sam were born?) He also showed us how to make a torch using the sap from the calomina tree, the white powder of which calomine lotion is derived. We also saw puma tracks, ocelot tracks, wild pig tracks. And we ate a palmito (hearts of palm) along the trail - this ingredient is featured in a lot of Lapa Rios' dishes

And that concludes the Osa Trail.

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