By Judy Pinegar
The day dawned (it was a 4:30 AM start) without rain and clear skies promised, and it lasted dry all day which I feel was a near miracle, given the amount of rain we have been encountering so far in Costa Rica. We had opted for the longer trip, by boat to La Serena Station (reached only by boat or small plane), although San Pedrillo station was closer to us, because the word was the animal “finds” were much better at La Serena.
So it was an hour and a half, out of the bay and through the open Pacific on a small boat holding 15 people max, to a beach unidentifiable to my eye than any other, but the guides knew. With the tide out, and no dock, we landed in the water and quickly got to a huge area of old lava flow, at least 150 feet of it, before the sand and then the jungle started. At about 9 AM, stowing some stuff on shore we were quickly into the jungle and our first sighting was a Chestnut-mandibled Toucan, beautiful in black and yellow. A while further and we saw a pair of Scarlet Macaws.
Within an hour we had also seen three of the four species of Monkeys in Costa Rica, and had heard the fourth, the Howler Monkey. First was the tiny Squirrel Monkey, then the largest, the Spider Monkey, a whole family, and then a family of the White Faced Capuchin. Then we saw some cute, tiny Leaf Tent Bats, who bite at a leaves by the main rib until both sides fold in, then they attach upside down within the leaf.
By then we were back on the beach and following the tracks of a Baird’s Tapir, which had traveled quite a way up the beach, so we rapidly walked up the beach in the now hot sun, when we found a group of tourists with cameras, there he was… HUGE really, with a funny elephant like nose with a prehensile finger like structure on the end. And boy could he eat, our guide said he ate 80 pounds of leaves a day. He continued to graze, ignoring at least 20 people who got within 3 feet of him for pictures for over 30 minutes.
Looking up we found a White Nosed Coati, resting, after a feast of what was a nest of turtle eggs laid last night, we could still see the tracks of the poor mama turtle, and the eggshells left over, now being nibbled by Hermit Crabs. By now we had also seen the fourth species of monkeys, the Mantled Howler Monkey, and more toucans and macaws too, as well as the other monkey species. So we moved to the river, where a large American Alligator was resting with his mouth completely open (because he was lying in the sun and was hot).
A noise behind us and it was a small Collared Anteater, who however quickly moved away, our guide said it was unusual to see them. Moving back into the forest, a Three-toed Sloth was resting high in a tree, after more monkeys, we came to about four Collared Peccaries, including a baby about 8 inches long… sort of grey instead of black and so cute. The monkeys were eating and dropping many of the nuts so the peccaries were having a feast.
We came to the ranger station for a rest, seeing another pair of Scarlet Macaws, one of whom had been nursed back to health there and keeps trying to come back to get food (which everyone was forbidden to give them of course). Then a walk back through the jungle with more sightings of the same animals, to arrive at the beach about noon, for the boat trip home. It was an extraordinary 3 hour jungle hike, full of seeing fantastic mammals, birds, and a reptile in a well protected rain forest.
Judy Pinegar is a writer and her articles have appeared in numerous publications.
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