to get to corcovado national park requires an early start. we got to the dinner hall at 6am for breakfast, dropped off a bag of dirty laundry, and by 6:30am everyone was really to go. off in the distance i saw a pair of squirrel monkeys sitting on top of a palm tree. coming with us was don and janet, faye and jonathan. our guide was manuel, whom i didn't like very much initially because he seemed very serious, but he'd turn out to be the best guide we've ever had. we all piled into the boat for the 40 minute ride to san perillo, the closest ranger station in corcovado. we were told to wear our tevas for yet another beach landing, but my father and i, already seasoned veterans, just wore our hiking boots, taking them off when we get to the beach.

the weather got cloudier and cloudier as we approached san perillo. by the time we arrived, it had started to rain. i was fine on the boat, but when we came to a stop for the beach landing, i started to get a little motion sick from the rocking. once we got on land, there were some rangers who said something to manuel in spanish and pointed to something in the grass, a snake eating another snake. the one doing the eating was a musarana, which feeds on other snakes. the one being eaten was a fer de lance, a deadly viper of the costa rican jungle.

musarana eating fer de lance

manuel set up his spotting scope. i figured he was just drying off his equipment,

but he pointed to it for us to have a look, and we saw a bunch of bats roasting underneath a large branch high up in some trees. this was just the first of many ocassions where manuel scared us with his amazing ability to spot animals. while waiting for the rain to stop, manuel gave us some history behind the park, and showed us some of the specimens lining a table, including various animal skulls, critters preserved in jars (including a deadly sea snake), and an assortment of animal footprints, including the tapir and the jaguar. it was like being in a museum, except all these animals actually lived here, like we could go into the forest and actually see them, that was pretty mind-blowing.

sea snake

animal skulls

tapir footprint

the rain didn't seem to be stopping. we watched the hermit crabs run around on the ground, like moving rocks. we finally decided to head into the forest and hope that the rain would subside eventually. to get into the jungle we had to cross a small river that ran into the ocean, about 15-20 feet across and knee deep. we took off our shoes and waded across, putting them on at the other side. we headed into the forest. manual explained to us that we were in secondary forest, that a long time ago before the place was made into a national park, people lived here, that's why there are some non-indigenous trees. the rain never let up. it wasn't a big deal for me, i had my umbrella, by my father had zero rain gear, and he was carrying his video camera. what he ended up doing was wrapping the camera in a plastic bag like an upside down hot dog bun and trying to shoot horizontally so he wouldn't get rain in the lens.

despite the bad weather (although it wasn't all unexpected, it is a rain forest after all), we did see a lot of larger animals, waiting out the downpour. we saw bright red and black manakins (little tiny birds), a pair of scarlet macaws, an anole (a lizard that flashes a red wattle when threatened), a leafcutter ant trail with no ants (washed away? or perhaps hiding), male and female trogons, howler monkeys (howling throughout the forest), and a spider monkey (manual shook a tree so we could see the monkey hiding in it). we'd walk a little bit with manuel up in front, he'd stop and listen, then set up his spotting scope and let us see what he found. although trekking through the forest with a guide meant less self-exploration, without manual we wouldn't even have seen any of the animals he spotted for us. manual was definitely an animal guide, but occasionally he'd offer up tidbits on unusual plants, like the walking tree that can "walk" through the forest, sending down new roots and relocating itself to a more fertile spot.

walking tree



crested owl

spider monkey

leaf mimic katydid

there's also a bunch of things growing in the forest all with monkey-names: monkey brush, monkey pot, monkey cup, and monkey ladder.

monkey brush

monkey pot

monkey ladder

our trek through the forest brought us back out to the beach, then we went back into the forest for another hour and a half of hiking, returning to the ranger station we originally arrived at. manuel was not only our guide but our waiter as well, serving sandwiches and salad the resort had provided for us. the rain had died down to drizzle by then, but we were so soaked it didn't really matter anymore. my feet were dry though, but the cuff of my socks were all dirty and my shoes were covered in mud. i brought a pair of clean socks and put them on. there was some shouting as somebody spotted a large (6-8 feet long) crocodile sunning itself out on the beach.

after lunch, it was back into the forest, this time to see a waterfall. more animals were spotted, including a crested owl (looked like a big fat cat), a tiger heron, some blue morpho butterflies (fluttering too high to take their photos), and a basilisk aka jesus christ lizard, so named because it can run on the water when startled. manual demonstrated this by throwing sticks at such a lizard rest on a log by a riverbank. it ran away running on the water. there were a lot more little streams crossing our path, and we reached a point where it was impossible to cross without getting wet, and there were enough rocks in the water that walking barefoot would be dangerous. manuel told us to just brave it, since back at the lodge they had free overnight shoe cleaning/drying service. once we got to the fall everyone took the obligatory photos, then we went back downstream so people could swim beneath a smaller waterfall. my father and i kept our distance on land, not wishing to get any wetter than what we already were.

we came back to the ranger station once again. with a touch of irony, the sun finally came out, just as we were about to leave. although we couldn't have nice weather for our jungle tour, we would have it going back home on the boat ride. i licked my lips as the salty spray of the ocean water got on my mouth. although the ride was still a little bit choppy, it was soothing and i almost fell asleep, the warm wind blowing in my face.

back at the lodge, we picked up our bag of clean laundry, still warm to the touch in this tropical climate. i took a hot shower at the cabin. my father was outside cleaning our hiking shoes and left it at the office to be dried for tomorrow. the past two days at drake bay i've taken a nap around this time of the day, but i wanted to break out of that habit, experience more of costa rica, so i forced myself to stay awake even though i was tired. we walked around the beach along the resort a little bit, but the weather was still slightly rainy. afterwards i came back to the cabin to sort my photos while my father went to hang out at the bar.

close to 6pm my father came back to the cabin. i went to go use the bathroom and saw something small on the tiled floor that i thought was an ant. upon closer inspection, it was a tiny scorpion. i wasn't prepared to test the potency of its infantile poison, so i just left it alone. we departed the cabin to go have dinner at the dining hall.

dinner was excellent, grilled shrimps and mushrooms on a skewer. maleni came around the tables asking us what we wanted to do tomorrow. my father and i wanted to see the sirena biological station, further south of the corcovado national park. "we want to go there because we heard you can wander around by yourself," i told maleni. "no no no," she said, "you can't do that." apparently we heard wrong, but sirena is so remote, there has to be a guided tour otherwise if we got lost, it'd be impossible to find us. regardless, that's where we were going tomorrow morning

afterwards, i waited down by the bar for the bug tour. after hearing about it last night, i knew it was something i had to do. i wore my father's spare pair of sneakers because our hiking shoes were still being dried. it was starting to rain, so i brought my umbrella. gerald tossed me his poncho because he heard i didn't have any other rain gear. though the tour should've been cancelled because of the weather (like it was yesterday), it was suish and vicki's last night here so there was no other choice. tracy the "bug lady" showed up with her assistant. they had on those heavy duty thigh high rubber boots, good for muddy jungle trekking.

when suish and vicki showed up, we went into the forest for the night tour AKA bug tour, the same path behind the resort my father and i took when we walked down to cocalito beach. it was pitch dark except for the beams of our flashlights and headlamps. despite the rain, we managed to see a lot of insects and other creepy crawlers. there was hidden dangers of course, tracy told us how they saw a fer-de-lance last night when they headed back home, so we had to be wary of snakes. we saw a lot of tailless whip scorpions (some as large as 2"), which look menacing but are not poisonous, although they do bite with their formidable pedipalp pincers. tracy caught a few in her hands to show us the pedipalps but freaked out and threw the scorpion on the ground when it got too frisky.

tailless whip scorpion



tracy walked with a long stick and would poke around in holes to see if she could get anything to come out, particularly tarantulas, which are pretty common (although we never did see any). her assistant walked further ahead, scanning the jungle for insects. tracy showed us how to find spiders by putting the flashlight at eye level and shining it into the dark. spiders, because of their many eyes, reflect back as green. we went into a grassy field heavy with dew to try out the technique. amongst the glistening water drops i was able to catch several spiders. we also saw a horde of army ants moving their biouvacs in the middle of the night. tracy told us army ants carry things below their legs while leafcutter ants carry things from above. i walked with tracy and her assistant, talking about bugs (the best time to see certain insects, the scorpion in my bathroom, etc.), while suish and vicki lagged behind on a different entomological wavelength. i found out she's actually lived in costa rica for almost a decade, and has a little nature resort of her own catering to people interested in the macroscopic world. she's currently in the research phase of a book she's working on about the roles of insects in different cultures. the bad weather almost made it easier to find bugs, a lot of them were stationary, waiting out the rain. the tour only lasted for an hour (the rain got heavier) but i could've stayed out all night.


giant millipede



when we got back to the resort, tracy let us play with the night vision googles she had brought with her but didn't use because of the wet weather. under the dry canopy of the open bar, we played around with them, seeing things in the dark in that characteristic night vision green hue. there was a moment of awkwardness when i was saying good bye and didn't know whether to tip or not. i decided not to, figuring it might demean their scientific research. i went back to the cabin, took a shower, then went to bed, a satisfying day of nature watching finally coming to an end.

today's count: 307 photos, 1 quicktime movie, and 4 audios