Pura Vida! Animals I’ve Never Seen Before


The animals of Costa Rica are vastly different than the ones I’ve encountered in the United States. Now granted, I haven’t been everywhere, in every state of the union, but these animals seemed very exotic to me.

The very first animal I saw after arriving in Costa Rica, was down on the beach. This little guy is an anteater, and he was moving very slowly in the intense heat, hiding from the sun under the leaves of the tree.


Shortly after that I started spotting iguanas, a vast variety from very small to rather intimidatingly large. They are perfectly suited to the surroundings, able to survive in the heat and eat the fruit from the trees heavy with mangoes and cashews. They look prehistoric, the descendants of dinosaurs. Oh, and they hiss. Even the little ones will let loose with a warning hiss. Some have spines, others don’t. This one was by far the most exotic one I spotted.

We decided to treat ourselves to a tour of the Corobici river. It’s a wide river that moves very gently and provides the opportunity to spot many varied kinds of wildlife. The boats are small, with minimal chances for shade, so wear a hat and lots of sunscreen. And, fair warning, the bus that carries you from the resort to the river travels for an hour and a half along a seriously rutted old road, causing a lot of jolting and shifting around. Backs and bottoms were sore, and more than one person felt queasy on the return trip after a day in the unrelenting sun. But if you can brave the rough transport you’re in for a delightful treat.

Howler monkey baby
Capuchin monkey

Unlike the parrots, and toucans you find in the tropical rain forest of western Costa Rica, the Guanacaste area hosts completely different animal species in their tropical dry forest. They say there are three varieties of monkeys there, but I only found two: one of the loudest animals on the planet, the Howler monkey, and one of the smartest animals on the planet, the Capuchin monkey. Both are intensely curious and if you stay still, they’ll eventually creep out to take a look at you.

Nine foot crocodile  in the river
Crocodile waiting for an unlucky monkey.

We also saw crocodiles along the river, some in the water, some on the shore. It was a great reminder that you’re in their world, not sitting at home watching it on television. There are signs on the boat warning tourists to keep their hands and feet out of the water at all times. After seeing these two less than a mile apart on the river, I totally agreed. I was lucky to get a picture of the crocodile on the bank. He was so well camouflaged I had to have him pointed out to me, and since I never did see him with my own two eyes, I pointed my camera where their fingers were aimed, and took a chance. I think I’d easily miss him until too late if I were wandering through the forest on my own. CHOMP

Turquoise-browed motmot

There are many beautiful varieties of birds in the tropic dry forest, but all the parrots and parakeets hid from me that day. I did catch sight of a Turquoise-browed motmot, which I’d only ever seen in drawings before.

Further down the river our guide stopped the boat with excited gestures toward this bird. We all dutifully took pictures, but I have yet to find the name of this little beauty. The guide insists they’re very shy and was pleased for us to see it in the wild. If you can identify her for me, I’d be deeply grateful.

It was perhaps the best vacation of my life, filled with luxury and adventure, pleasure and laughter. Yes, all-inclusives are a little spendy, but given the wealth of opportunities to explore, and the fact that except for tips and souvenirs you never need your wallet, I think it’s comparable to most other vacations. Our vacation package contained a non-stop round trip airline ticket, which made things even better.

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