Monday, February 28, 2011

Sunset Tour at Bosque del Cabo

December 30, 2009

We signed up for the Sunset Tour the first night we were there. It's a relatively short walking tour of the grounds near the restaurant, that occurs right before dinner.

It is astounding that we have no idea what is really going on out there in the darkness. Unless, of course, we venture out - with a knowledgeable guide - and see it for ourselves. I mean, we could have just as easily not signed up for this tour and headed straight to dinner, complacent but completely unaware of all the activity and wonder that was happening around us...

blue moon

We met up with Philip Davison, the resident biologist and ever-so-knowledgeable tour guide, with flashlights in hand and - under a blue moon - off we went into the darkness...

The first stop was at some palms, under which the tent-making bats will sometimes roost. Tent-making bats! (I got so excited!) Bosque del Cabo has tent-making bats! We didn't see any though, only evidence that these palms were once their home. What they do is make bites in the palm so that it will bend to create a tent. (That is so awesome!) Philip pointed out they are crepuscular and have different day and night roosts that they change daily to avoid predators. (see a short youtube video of a tent-making bat)

By the way, there are 80 species of bats on the Osa Peninsula!

palms under which tent-making bats roost

We do have something here though...

a wasp nest

* * *

As we moved on across the grass, Philip told us to hold our flashlights at eye-level right against one side of our face, shining it out in the distance at the grass... (Yes! I knew what we were doing!)

Immediately a thousand glistening eyes were looking back! I was just captivated! They were the eyes of spiders in the grass! I would've never imagined - that there were that many! From here on out, my husband and I were like children, playing with this technique for the rest of the tour - and the rest of our nights here!

What this is is the light of the flashlight reflected back to you from the membrane behind the spiders' retina - animal eyeshine. I have a post on it (see link at the end), as ever since I had read about it, I've been fascinated. This is how biologists locate and even identify nocturnal animals that they otherwise couldn't see. They can identify the animal by the distance between the pupils, the manner of the blinking, the movement of the eyeshine, and the height at which it is coming from. Typically certain colors are associated with certain animals. (Though why a particular animal displays a particular color is not yet known.)

* * *

Moving along...

nicely camouflaged

Next we came upon what is know as the Chanel No. 5 tree...

the ylang-ylang tree

The ylang-ylang (ee-lang ee-lang) is native to Indonesia and the Philippines. Its fragrant, five-pointed flowers are used to make Chanel No. 5 perfume!

Moving along...

Philip pointing to something on the calabash tree...

a calabash flower about to bloom

The calabash tree - not to be confused with the calabash vine - has musky flowers that open for one night. Bats are attracted to the musky odor - it smells like them! - and pollinate it. I've since read that bats of the genera Glossophaga and Artibeus (the tent-making bat) - both leaf-nosed - are the bats that pollinate it. And because the flowers grow on the tree's trunk - which is referred to as cauliflory - it provides convenient access for its bat pollinators. (Read more about bat pollination in the link at the end.) Philip said that he has seen bats pollinating these flowers many times. Unfortunately, there weren't any out that night or the subsequent nights when we tried to locate this tree in the dark ourselves.

calabash flower

an inviting opening for a little bat

After pollination occurs, the fruit begins to develop.

the fruit of the calabash tree

The calabash tree is native to southern North America, the Caribbean, Central America, and northern South America. It will flower and fruit at any time of year. Once the fruit has fallen to the ground, horses are the only animal that can break open the hard shell with their mouths and eat the pulpy fruit inside (no New World herbivore can break the shell). The seeds are then dispersed through the horse dung. The hollowed-out shell can be used as a container. (I read that in Africa, it is called the Tupperware Tree!)

inside of the fruit

* * *

I think it was somewhere in this vicinity where Philip mentioned that at a certain time of year, this area of trees becomes dimly illuminated by hundreds of fireflies! The way he described it made it sound so beautiful and otherworldly - something we must see in the future!

* * *

Now we come to the pond area... (Philip mentioned this pond is teeming with life in the rainy season.)

marine toad

smokey jungle frog

oops...pardon me

baby jesus christ lizard

Moving along...

golden orb spider

Further along...

With Philip's help, we spot this bird nesting on the ground by its eyeshine. Even then it's so greatly camouflaged.

bird nesting on the ground

Back to the pond...

frog eggs on a leaf

Philip then hears the call of the red-eyed green tree frog, so he endeavors to find it for us...

somebody's watching us...

it's the red-eyed green tree frog

how photogenic!

* * *

This is one tour you should not miss! In fact, we did it twice when we were here! For us - an ex evolution & ecology grad student (husband) and a nature nerd (me) - this is a nighttime playground filled with awe and wonder.

And Philip enriches you with so much information! The next day I jotted down a few hopefully correct notes from the tour, but it's difficult to remember everything. So I apologize if anything is incorrect and that many critters are not identified.

* * *

more about the calabash tree from Backyard Nature (nice photos)
interesting link on bat-pollinated flowers
Philip's Blog - gorgeous photos and accounts of life at BDC

my links:

previous post << Bosque del Cabo Lapa

Friday, February 18, 2011

Bosque del Cabo Lapa

We arrived at Bosque del Cabo and were given our welcome drinks and our introduction to the rainforest lodge. Since we arrived before check-in, we had to wait a bit for our room, but we had lunch in the meantime. Afterwards, we settled into our private deluxe bungalow, Lapa. All of the classic and deluxe bungalows are perched on a cliffside, a short walking distance from the restaurant and pool areas.

The back of the bungalow - with its wrap-around deck and lower observation deck - overlooks the ocean with absolutely breathtaking views!

True to our bungalow's name, about the time we arrived was about the time the scarlet macaws (Lapa) arrived in the trees outside our bungalow. (These guys can be quite loud! But, that's what they do. I welcomed the photo opportunities! They are literally right there.)

The inside of the bungalow perfectly brought the allure of the outside in, with its doors that opened to nature.

When lying down in bed, the view was such that the ocean was right below you. Tropical relaxation at its finest...

ah yeah...

dressing area - bathroom to the left, outdoor shower to the right 

The private outdoor showers were invigorating! There's nothing quite like taking a shower outside surrounded by plants and the skies above. Ahhh...

* * *
Being on the secluded Osa Peninsula, we had one electrical outlet for the fan (which we did use) and for charging our camera batteries. You're not allowed to use hairdryers, hair irons, irons, etc. because there are no power lines running out there; the lodge produces their own solar and hydroelectric power. However, there is hot water for the showers.

Visit the Bosque del Cabo website for more information. They have an excellent FAQ that can most likely answer any questions you may have.

next post >> Sunset Tour at Bosque del Cabo
previous post << Bosque del Cabo

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Bosque del Cabo

 ariel view of Cabo Matapalo © Roy Toft

Bosque del Cabo is a rainforest lodge situated at the very tip of the Osa Peninsula on a 500 foot bluff - Cabo Matapalo - that overlooks where the Golfo Dulce meets the Pacific Ocean. It's a 700+ wildlife reserve and has been an owner-operated hotel since 1990. The grounds were a former farm, and the land that was cleared for farming is now a large wildlife-attracting botanical garden and the grounds on which the lodge sits. The lodge's grounds are open, well-manicured and full of activity with its wildlife inhabitants. It is surrounded by primary and secondary rainforest (this makes up 90-95% of the reserve), creeks, waterfalls and is bordered by the ocean.

Bosque del Cabo serves as a wildlife corridor from Matapalo point in the south up towards Corcovado National Park. Most of the proceeds from BDC go to purchasing more land in the area to protect it. Today 3/4 of the Osa Peninsula is either national park or forest reserve! It is one of the most biologically diverse places on earth.

There are plenty of activities to do at Bosque del Cabo and also day-trips to nearby locations, though an afternoon of lounging about your bungalow can provide equal entertainment, and relaxation.

The hotel's restaurant provides 3 meals a day, coffee, tea, and snacks throughout the day, different each day. The meals are prepared with fresh, local ingredients. Dinner is buffet style, and there's a different theme every night. (sample menus)

Bosque del Cabo's website contains lots more information, illustrated with beautiful photographs from wildlife photographer Roy Toft, who gives photo workshops at BDC.

next post >> Bosque del Cabo Lapa
previous post << The Flight & Drive to Bosque del Cabo

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Flight & Drive to Bosque del Cabo

December 30, 2009

Woke at 5:30, got ready, got picked up and dropped off at the Quepos airport (7000 colones). We're waiting for the flight now. Pulled my breakfast cheese (the leftover chunk) and gatorade out of my bag. The Quepos to San José stretch was BUMPY! I was nauseous the whole way. The San José to Puerto Jiménez portion was not as bad, though I had my eyes closed for nearly all of it. (My husband took the pictures.)

nearing Puerto Jiménez 

 the gorgeous Osa coastline 

the cemetery greeting 

At the airport we were greeted by our driver, Eric, a cool and friendly guy. I got to ride in the front seat. (Or I should say get bounced around in the front seat on those crazy roads.) He'd be driving us into the jungle in a Land Rover with a couple from Baltimore, who were meeting up with another couple at Bosque del Cabo.

Eric stopped at the supermarket to pick up some supplies. At this point I was thinking, oh God, what if Bosque del Cabo is disastrous? But then we begin conversing with the couple. They stayed at Lapa Rios once also, and this was their third time at Bosque del Cabo. Considering how the rest of our trip wasn't quite living up to our expectations based on our first trip to Costa Rica, this was encouraging! And the more we conversed, the more our minds were put at ease.

Along the 45 minute or so ride, Eric spotted monkeys and parrots along the road. Bosque del Cabo is a bit further down the peninsula than Lapa Rios, at the very tip of the Osa peninsula.

monkey antics  

the scarlet macaws  

From here on out, it just gets more and more incredible!

next post >> Bosque del Cabo
previous post << Damas Island Mangrove Boat Tour