Monday, 25 July 2016

July 23 - Manuel Antonio National Park

After a very rainy day yesterday, today's forecast looks like sunny and hot for most of the day. I got up and had another cold shower; most of the places we stayed in did not have hot water. After the shower I used my new body lotion - with 30% Deet. We wanted to get to the park very early before the heat became unbearable. We found a Soda that had a breakfast buffet of sorts. For under 3,000.00mil colones  ($8cn.) We had a good breakfast and coffee.

Before 8am we arrived near the park, was waved into a parking spot and given a sales pitch for a guide. Although all the travel blogs warned of this, and said to avoid the "guide" pitch and hire a guide closer to/or at the park gate - we hired a guide and parked. Carlos showed us his park guide identification and his business card with his info. He spoke english well and lived for awhile in Alberta. We waited on the nearby beach for the tour to start (trans: to allow him to get a few more tourists). Cost for Carlos - 2 hour guided tour was 10,000colones or $20us per person.

Beach just outside of the park

Very quickly a family of five from Montreal joined us. The seven of us started on our walk, with Carlos giving us a history of the area and telling us what we will see. Before we got to the park gate we saw a small Caiman. When we got to the park we lined up to buy our passes - $16us or 16,000 colones. Although it is just after 8am there was already a line up. On each side of the road for several blocks leading to the park gate, there were vendors selling souvenirs, wraps, t-shirts, etc.  As well, as water and coconut water.

The Manuel Antonio Provincial Park was created in 1972 and is one of 11 Provincial Park's in Costa Rica. It is about 82 miles from San Jose and is internationally recognized as being one of the most bio-diverse parks on the planet. Although it is considered a small park it has almost 1,700 acres of land and 136,000 acres of ocean. There are numerous tours that can be taken through the park. There are catamaran tours, snorkeling, kayak, birding hikes, mangrove tours, and many hiking trails. We were doing a 3km guided walking tour. It is possible to do this same tour without a guide and/or take shorter trails.

We are barely through the park gate when we saw our first animals. Two howler money's,  a sloth and a white tailed deer.
A deer and a howler monkey

Howler monkey
Park gate area. That's our guide setting up the telescope
Sloth - through our guides telescope 

While looking at the animals at the gate it became apparent we were "waiting". After a couple suggestions that we move on Carlos said he was waiting for a couple more people. Soon six more people joined. Three girls from Mexico (I think), two young men from Spain and a fellow from Italy. All the guides seem to work together and if one saw something and set up their telescope the others would too. Quite quickly we had seen at least 5 sloths, a few green iguanas, a Jesus Christ Iguana, numerous kind of butterflies including an Owl butterfly which is one of the larger species. A surprising sight was a Rainbow grasshopper. This tiny grasshopper was on a stand of trees where our guide sited his telescope. This little grasshopper has 7 colors - the colors of the rainbow on it. When we asked how he found such animal/insect sighting, he indicated animals/insects don't move around much - they have their areas.

He then explained that sloths live their whole lives within a small circle of trees - about 8 trees. They eat all the leaves and then move to the next tree and continue to eat the leaves until they return to the original tree where new leaves have been grown. He said the sloths only come down to the ground once a week to defecate which also acts as fertilizer to "their life trees". Carlos says the only time sloths make a noise is when they mate and it is not a pleasant sound - it sounds painful. The park has both 2 and 3 toed sloths. Although we could see the sloths, we couldn't count the toes. Carlos says we saw one 3 toed sloth.

Owl butterfly
Jesus Christ Lizard
Trust me - there is a green lizard hiding in these leaves
Another sloth - Male sloth as it has a dark line down it's back.
We continued our tour and saw termite nests and leaf cutter ant nests. Surprisingly, we didn't see as many insects as we expected during our trip. We did see several spiders, but nothing frighteningly scary. Very few mosquitoes were seen - but in most communities, mosquito spraying was done on a daily basis. I did get some bites, but I believe they were from small flies and perhaps smaller spiders.

 In real life, this mound appeared alive with all the ants moving.
Termite nest
Near the end of  the walking trail near the beach, bathrooms and showers are available. A couple places during the tour, drinking fountains were stationed. Carlos indicated it was safe drinking water. None of the tourists tried it. Carlos pointed to a boarded, walking trail and indicated we could take the same trail we did on the way back, or take the boarded trail (also known as the Sloth Trail). He then walked us through three small beach areas and left us there to find our way back. The highlight of the Park was definitely my time on the beaches. White-faced Capuchin monkeys and raccoons were running all over the area.The Capuchin moneys, some with babies on their back and the raccoons were very used to the tourists in the area. They had no fears and were thieves, trying to steal whatever they could from the tourists.
Two adult and a baby Capuchin monkey
Two Raccoons
Val and I were sitting on the beach with some fruit between us that we were snacking on. A raccoon came right between us and attempted to grab our apples. People on the beach were attempting to protect belongings of others, when people were swimming. However, the monkey's and raccoons are quick and smart - they can open zippers on backpacks. We saw monkeys take a loaf of bread out of a beach bag and a monkey open a backpack and take a bag out and run. An iguana appeared to be lured out of hiding by our fruit as well, and skirted our area for quite awhile.

The beach sand was wonderfully clean, the water was warm, but the drop-off was quite sudden and the bottom was rocky, making getting out of the water more difficult than getting in. This area had been used by the historic Quepo peoples to catch sea turtles. They had built rock pools in which to trap the turtles. The Quepo people were famous for their ability to deep dive. They used large rocks and on a boat the would wrap their arms and legs around the rock and roll off the side of the boat,allowing the rock to carry them down fast and farther than if they had just dived.
 On the right side of the picture you can see the remained of a rock made turtle trap

We eventually had to leave this beautiful area. The park closes at 4p.m. We started the 3km walk back to the park gates and then several blocks further to find our car. The temperature was 31 degrees. We finally found our car and was met by a parking attendant who indicated we had to pay 2,000colones. Although I argued with her - there are no signs, we were not told....we eventually paid.

Back to Quepos and back to The Brooklyn Bakery for a sandwich and a piece of well earned amazing chocolate cake.

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