Manuel Antonio

Trip Start Jul 21, 2009
Trip End Apr 28, 2010

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Flag of Costa Rica  , Province of Puntarenas,
Saturday, November 7, 2009

After a surprisingly scenic travel day on Friday, we arrived in the town of Quepos, which makes a good base for the national park Manuel Antonio -- our destination for Saturday.  The national parks in Costa Rica are known for containing some great jungle areas, both rain forest and cloud forest, and are supposed to have amazing wildlife.  So, we couldnīt pass through Costa Rica without stopping at at least one.  Manuel Antonio had the advantage of being reasonably accesable, and small enough and well-marked enough that it can be explored without a guide.

On Saturday, we woke up early and headed over to the park when it opened.  We hiked straight through to the furthest point in the park, a lookout that had ok views of the ocean and the jungle.  We had hoped that an early start and reaching the deepest parts of the parks would be a good way to find wildlife, but to no avail.  It was a beautiful hike, and I love being back in the rainforest,  listening to the birds and just marveling at the size of everything, and how the plants are dripping in moisture for no apparent reason.  But our wildlife for the morning was limited to 2 butterflies (morphis butterflies, which are a brilliant blue color) and a hummingbird (spotted due to the fact that it almost flew into my face, but it stuck around for a bit so I could watch it). 

Making our way slowly back towards the entrance, we came across one of the biggest surprises of the park.  We knew that the park was located on the ocean, and that there were beaches, but I simply wasnīt expecting a pristine white sand beach with turquoise blue waters, and palm tree shade.  It was one of the nicest beaches weīve come across -- and we didnīt bring swim suits!  Bummer!  Nonetheless, we opted to hang out at the beach for a bit and relax.  The park was starting to fill up, and the beach quickly went from empty to crowded.  After a bit, we saw a guide pointing a set of binoculars up into a tree, and lots of people pointing.  When we went to go investigate, we saw a sloth.  It was up in the tree, taking a nap, but it was there, just chilling out on the beach over the heads of all the tourists. 

From the first beach, we went to go do a loop around a small peninsula.  Leaving the first beach, a pair of iguanas crossed the path.  It was a male and a female, apparently, and they were in the middle of the mating process while walking along.  Up ahead, a guide was pointing into a small swampy area, and we were able to pick out the eyes of a caiman with his head just barely above water.  In the same area was a strange lizard that we havenīt yet identified.  We passed a second, even larger, white sand beach on the way (although, to be fair, the water wasnīt the same turquoise blue).  Not too far up the path, John heard or caught sight of something, and we discovered that we had come across a fairly large group of monkeys.  We watched them for quite a bit, as they were playing in the trees but also on the ground, but eventually they went away. 

Heading further up the path, we passed a small rat/rabbit-like creature, and then arrived at another nice lookout over the ocean.  John spotted a few more monkeys in the tree.  Once you find a monkey, it turns out that there are typically more around, and one monkey quickly turned into about a dozen monkeys.  I had poked into a far corner by the fence to try to get a picture of a nearby monkey, when all the sudden the monkey started heading straight at me, flying pretty quickly through the trees.  Luckily, it stopped about 5-10 feet away, and proceeded to do cute things, almost as if it was posing for pictures.  We watched this troupe of monkeys for quite a while, as they were putting on a great show, and stayed very close to the path.

Finally, we completed the loop, and headed back for one more look at our sloth before we headed out.  As I was staring up at our sloth, I heard someone say "Oh look, thereīs another one!"  I turned to look, and they were staring at me and my sloth.  Well, if mine is "another one" then they must have one somewhere, and sure enough, just one tree over was another sloth.  This one was nice because it wasnīt curled up -- you could see itīs shape clearly, hanging from a tree branch.  Not only that, but a little ways down was yet another sloth, this time with itīs face more clearly visible.

Add in a dozen more monkeys and another great iguana, and we eventually made our way out of the park, quite satisfied with our wildlife sightings for the day.  After a few drinks on yet another beach, we made our way back to Quepos to figure out a plan for how we would get to Panama. 
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