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Returning to Costa Rica – Adventure #5 – June 2014


Glass-winged Butterfly

Glass-winged Butterfly

This trip would turn out to be one of definite possibilities. I flew to La Fortuna using my frequent flyer miles as I simply could not afford to buy a ticket. I had lost my job in February, and was only able to find part time work. Things were getting really boring, not to mention discouraging, and I did not know which way to jump. I was spending endless hours every day looking for a job, and quickly realized that for someone who had 40 years of experience in various aspects of office management, I may possibly have a shot at getting a job that paid up to $10 an hour. Houston has a lot of jobs, but employers are wanting to hire well-experienced people for inexperienced salaries. They get around offering benefits by working you only 29 hours per week. But I did not care what it paid, I just needed a job. I submitted at least a dozen resumes every week with no response. To pass the time, I was building bird houses—a hobby I had taken up one year earlier. It was fun! I found out that I had a knack to use a miter saw and all the other tools necessary. It was a great relief but there was no fortune to be made  in building bird houses. I needed to get away, as cheaply as possible. By using my miles, the plane fare ended up costing me taxes only of something like $25. I got a 20% discount at The Hotel Arenal Green; I rented a car at Europcar for $18/day (that included insurance!). And for my spending money, I sold my plasma for $50/week (2 donations weekly). So, scrimping and saving every penny I was off. And who would know that I would hit gold on this trip.

Hotel Arenal Green in La Fortuna

Hotel Arenal Green in La Fortuna

As soon as I walked into The Hotel Arenal Green, I met the new hotel manager, Alex. And our eyes met. Ever have that moment when you see someone and your stomach jumps? “Oh…my….God. Don’t look at him,” I kept telling myself. “Don’t be crazy; you don’t even know who this guy is.” Okay, so that lasted all of a minute. During my 10-day stay Alex took me to a festival in the nearby town of El Tanque and introduced me to some of the Tico culture. It was much fun! So, yet another friendship was born. (I quickly realized that the Tico people are quick to make friends, and Alex was just one of many friends I would soon make.)

I spent the next 10 days re-visiting the same sights and adventures as I had on previous trips. Here’s a quick recap of those beautiful places (you can read more on the other pages of my blogs):

Ecocentro Danaus: I saw this bird that had the strangest behavior ever. It stayed close to the ground, jumping from one plant’s trunk to another and making this extremely loud “clicking” sound. When he finally sat still long enough, I was able to get these photos.

Manakin at Eco Centro Danaus

Manakin at Eco Centro Danaus

You can see in the first photo his neck area looks common enough. But in the second photo

White-collared Manakin at Eco Centro Danaus in La Fortuna

White-collared Manakin at Eco Centro Danaus in La Fortuna

he has “bristled” his feathers. It turns out that the White-collared Manakin does this whenever a female is in the area. Needless to say, this absolutely made my day. (It doesn’t take much to please me. One fantastic photo a day keeps me happy.)

 

Blue Jean Poison Dart Frog

Blue Jean Poison Dart Frog

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I also got numerous photos of the Blue Jean Poison Dart Frog for the first time.

 

Butterfly

Butterfly

Arenal Ecozoo in El Castillo featuring the Butterfly Conservatory: After browsing the Mariposas in the four screened areas, I set out to walk the trail leading down to the river. Shortly I saw this Brown Jay.

 

Brown Jay at El Castillo Butterfly Conservatory

Brown Jay at El Castillo Butterfly Conservatory

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another great find for this wonderful day! I also saw a couple woodpeckers, but could not see through the dense foliage good enough to identify them.

 

 

 

 

 

Cindi at Cano Negro

Cindi at Cano Negro

 

 

Canon Negro River Float: As always, this river trip is totally amazing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Animal sightings included the Capuchin,

Capuchin at Canon Negro

Capuchin at Canon Negro

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Howler Monkey

Howler Monkey at Canon Negro

Howler Monkey at Canon Negro

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and the Black-handed Spider Monkey

 

Amazon and Ringed Kingfishers (first time sightings)

Ringed Kingfisher at Canon Negro

Ringed Kingfisher at Canon Negro

Amazon Kingfisher at Canon Negro

Amazon Kingfisher at Canon Negro

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Swallows that were picture perfect

Swallows at Canon Negro

Swallows at Canon Negro

 

 

 

Anhinga-Anhinga (male) at Canon Negro

Anhinga-Anhinga (male) at Canon Negro

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Anhingas

Great White Heron (male) at Canon Negro

Great White Heron (male) at Canon Negro

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Great White Egret

Jesus Christ Lizards

Jesus Christ Lizard (male)

Jesus Christ Lizard (male)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Caiman

Caiman at Canon Negro

Caiman at Canon Negro

 

Iguana (female)

Iguana (female)

 

 

Iguanas

 

(You can book this tour through the Canoa Adventura group at The Hotel Arenal Green.)

 

 

 

Night walk at the Arenal Oasis Lodge (this was a new activity): Something I had never done before was to take a night walk in Costa Rica. I am a scaredy cat when it comes to the dark. But Alex encouraged me to go, so off I went. It was at the Arenal Oasis Lodge just around the corner from The Hotel Arenal Green. I was so glad I went! We saw the

Red-eyed Tree Frog

Red-eyed Tree Frog

Red-eyed Tree Frog, Cane Frog, icky spiders, and a wonderful snake! I love snakes! I convinced the tour guide to let me handle the little feller for everyone to touch. Needless to say, it MADE MY DAY!

 

 

 

 

One of the best friendships I had made in La Fortuna was with the daughter of the owner at The Hotel Arenal Green, Monica.

Monica Lopez and Cindi Rogers

Monica Lopez and Cindi Rogers

 

In order for me to get together with Monica, I needed to drive to Guapiles where her husband had secured a job working in the agriculture arena on a pineapple plantation. (He graduated from the university earlier in the year.) It’s a five-hour bus ride from Guapiles to La Fortuna which is unpleasant with a five-year-old, so if I wanted to see Monica, I would have to drive there. No problem. Off I went. As luck would have it, it would be a full day of rain. Argh…… But it was well worth it.
Monica had arranged to visit a local farm that was run by the ladies living within a small community. Their desire is to get their farm on the tourist route so they can educate the rest of world as to how industrious and cooperative the Tico people are. The problem is that Guapiles is rather out-of-the-way for the usual tourist. They were reaching out to Monica (with her hotel/tourist experience and her degree in Tourism to help them.) In turn, Monica wanted to pick my brain regarding marketing issues (I worked for a business-to-business marketing firm for 16 years and had learned a little about how to research and market.)

Costa Rica women growing pineapple

Costa Rica women growing pineapple

The ladies grow all their own food. Their massive garden consisted of plantains, bananas, yucca, various herbs, corn, cocoa and so much more that I honestly cannot remember everything.

Bananas

Bananas

 

 

 

 

Strawberry Poison Dart Frog

Strawberry Poison Dart Frog

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We even got to see some of the local Poison Dart Frogs and their resident goat that provided them with fertilizer and milk.

Eating sugarcane

Eating sugarcane

 

A tour of the ladies’ farm included eating sugarcane straight off the stalk and tasting all sorts of fruits and veggies. To end the tour they prepared a complete Tico meal of fried yucca, rice and beans, slaw and hamburger. It was absolutely delicious!

 

 

 

 

It was a wonderful day full of new adventures and visiting a side of Costa Rica I had not yet been. It was a great way to end another wonderful vacation.

 

 

Returning to Houston I quickly found out that I had left a wonderful friend in La Fortuna. Alex was calling me daily, texting me, and wanting me to return. “Okay, but you have to find me some work there as I must work and I need an income of some sort.” “No problem,” was his answer.

And so the plans of making a three-month trial visit was underway. But this time there would be work intermingled with the fun. Right? Stayed tuned…..

 

All photos are copyrighted by Cindi L Rogers


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Craftori

SOLO TRIP – MAY 2012


Iguana (female)

Iguana (female)

Preparing to take a trip away from home is always a burden as I have three dogs and two cats. It’s difficult for someone to come over daily to check on the critters, especially in Houston since the traffic is frequently lousy. But I have a friend who offered to take charge and make daily visits to the house. The dogs have a doggy door to go in-and-out whenever they need, I just needed someone to ensure they were okay. So with that burden relieved, I was once again set to make what was my third trip to Costa Rica—but this time I would go alone.

There was a great amount of fear inside of me planning this trip. I am not all that adventurous alone. And with the driving fiasco the kids and I ran into on the previous trip, I was mortified, to say the least. But it would turn out to be a really wonderful trip.

View of the cabins

Hotel Arenal Green

The first worrisome hurdle to jump over was finding a hotel, one where I could feel comfortable, safe and was affordable. I wanted something close to town but yet out in the country where it was quiet and I could soak up the nature. (La Fortuna only has a couple thousand people, so I don’t mean to make it sound like it’s huge metropolis.) Searching endlessly on the internet, I stumbled upon the Hotel Arenal Green. It’s located on the road leading to the cataratas, about one mile outside of La Fortuna coming from San Jose.

The rates at that time for May 2012 were $40 for a single cabin. I COULD AFFORD THAT! I didn’t know what to expect for that rate, but it said it had air conditioning and that was my main requirement. And since I already knew where the cataratas was located, I felt reasonably comfortable.

And so I was off for a week of solo adventure.

The goal for this trip was to do everything I had not done before. What were those things? I had no idea. Last time Miles and I visited the butterfly conservatory and serpentarium in El Castillo (Arenal Ecozoo), La Paz, La Fortuna cataratas, our usual hangout – Lava Lounge and Proyecto Asis wildlife refuge. So I was going to wing it.

The drive to La Fortuna was totally uneventful. In fact, the drive took me only a little over two hours (it can be anywhere between two-and-a-half to three hours). When I arrived at the Arenal Green I was greeted by Monica Lopez, daughter to the owner, and Anna, the activities director. They were most welcoming, and I started to feel at home pretty quick.

Since I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do other than visit the usual previous butterfly farms, etc., I turned to Anna to make suggestions. She told me about a boat ride at the Canon Negro Wildlife Refuge bordering Nicaragua. She said you could possibly see the Capuchin, Howler and Black-handed monkeys, birds, Caiman and other wildlife. An all-day event that included transportation and lunch would be $65. It seemed to be a little more than what I really wanted to spend, but hey, I was here to see what I hadn’t seen before. “So make me that reservation, Anna!”

The next morning the tour group Canoa Aventura picked me up at 7:30. There were six other people in the van, and we set off for a couple hour drive to Canon Negro Wildlife Refuge.

Canon Negro Wildlife Refuge

Canon Negro Wildlife Refuge

The tour guide was so informative. She spent the entire trip talking about the wildlife, educating us about birds, sloths, etc. We were toodling down the road when the driver stopped. He had spied a sloth in a tree (unfortunately it was too far away so we couldn’t see if it was a two- or three-toed). We all got to gawk and take photos. We also spotted Bare-throated Tiger Herons,

Bare-throated Tiger Heron

Bare-throated Tiger Heron

various marsh birds, and then the biggest surprise ever! We pulled into a little soda that was situated at a bridge at the top of the river’s bank. In the tree that reached from the bank up to the top of the building were dozens of the largest Iguanas you have ever seen! Totally unbelievable. I never imagined that Iguanas would live in the top of trees.

Iguana (female)

Iguana (female)

It turns out that the females had it all figured out. They basked in the sun while the males stayed on the ground protecting the eggs. And all they did was sleep. Until recently, the people ate the Iguanas; it was a major meat source. They say it tastes like chicken (but then, so does alligator). Hence the term, “Chicken of the Trees.” But since the country has become very aware of preservation and sustainablility, it is now illegal to kill an Iguanas. Good move, dudes.

Howler Monkey at Canon Negro

Howler Monkey at Canon Negro

 

Cindi at Cano Negro

Cindi at Cano Negro

Arriving at the boat dock, we were treated to brunch: pastries, juice and coffee. We were all pawing at the trough to board the boat, so off we went. We didn’t get two minutes away from the dock when someone spotted a monkey on the bank in the trees. It turned out to be a Howler monkey family. Costa Rican Howlers are black with a little brown spotting of hair on the belly.

 

Baby Howler Monkey at Canon Negro

Baby Howler Monkey at Canon Negro

Included with this family was a baby that was orange (appeared to be less than one-year-old, according to the tour guide).(PHOTO The guide informed us that due to in-breeding their babies can be this color. If this monkey were to breed, it did not necessarily affect the coloring of its offspring. And the reason for so much in-breeding is due to the fact that the monkeys cannot cross the river to get to the other monkeys. “Monkey see, monkey do.”

 

 

 

Anhinga-Anhinga (male) at Canon Negro

Anhinga-Anhinga (male) at Canon Negro

Floating along we saw Anhingas, various small birds,

Long-nosed bat at Canon Negro

Long-nosed bat at Canon Negro

Long-nosed Bats and plenty of Caiman.

Caiman at Canon Negro

Caiman at Canon Negro

There really weren’t a lot of any one particular species of animal. Unfortunately we did not see the Capuchin or Black-handed Spider monkeys. It was May and a fair amount of birds had migrated north for the summer and the river was very low as the rainy season had not yet started. Migration and rain had a lot to do with the park’s population of wildlife. The sightings were sparse, to say the least. But, hey, at least I got to see a Sloth and Howler monkey on this trip. You can’t have everything all the time. Guess this means I’ll have to start planning another trip for next year, huh? Yup, good excuse. We got back to the dock in time for lunch. And then the drive back. It was a good day, and everyone was tired and ready to grab an Imperial back at the camp.

The Canon Negro Wildlife Refuge trip is a MUST SEE.

A visit to the Arenal Adventura Park that is located towards the volcano was recommended. At this time it was newly opened and was still being stocked with exotics and the habitats were under construction. I felt the entrance fee of $30 was rather steep. Although I enjoyed the personal tour through the small serpetarium and frog habitat, it did not make a marked impression on me. The interesting items were the Red-eyed Tree Frog eggs and the Leaf Cutter Ants.

The Leaf Cutter Ants are amazing. They carry large amounts of leaves to their nest making 1,000 cuts per seconds with their jaws. The largest nest recorded spans one-quarter acre.

Brown Siporeta Butterfly

Brown Siporeta Butterfly

A return visit to Arenal Ecozoo in El Castillo beckoned me. I must absolutely take that horrid road that turns off from the main road leading to the volcano, directly across from the little Police station. No trip to Costa Rica would be complete without at least one jaw-jarring road trip. It couldn’t be more than two miles from the cut-off to the next turn to get to El Castillo, but it takes about 20 minutes as you cannot drive any faster than 5kmh. The road is …. what they call “gravel,” but what I call “boulders.” (Grin) The rocks are not tiny by any means; they are good-sized rocks. If a rock becomes displaced, a rather gaping hole is left. And, of course, with the rock protruding up several inches, it makes for the most bumpy road you have ever driven. I had a water bottle setting in the glove compartment. By the time I got there, the bottle had jumped out onto the seat, busted open and drenched my iPhone. So much for that.

But in any event, I made my way to the Ecozoo Butterfly Conservatory. This is one amazing place. They have four butterfly exhibits, each housing a different species. The most intriguing was the Glasswing Butterfly.

Greta - Glasswing Butterfly

Greta – Glasswing Butterfly

When I first entered the enclosure, I thought it was empty. But then I saw something fly by. Upon a closer look I saw this magnificent small butterfly that was translucent. Never had I heard of such a thing. (PHOTO) The four hours I spent snapping photo after photo was the best event yet. For only $11 I felt I had hit gold. This place is an absolute MUST SEE. (Remember, this trip happened in May which is butterfly season. So be sure to check the calendar before going.)

On the way back to the Hotel Arenal Green I spotted a butterfly farm right before entering La Fortuna (located just past the Mega Super, on your way to the volcano, on the left, next to the Sky Trek office). Entrance fee was $6 and it, too, had four enclosures. The varieties were, again, amazing. You walk in and just about got hit in the face by the butterflies. For $6 it was a true value. And it’s located so close! They also had a habitat for frogs, but I only saw one Blue Jean Frog. Again, make sure it’s butterfly season as this place will not tell you they have no butterflies, and they will take your money anyhow.

Waterfall Cataratas 5421

La Fortuna Cataratas

After thinking about it quite awhile, the decision to get more than just a little exercise by descending and climbing the steps to the La Fortuna Cataratas turned out to be a true experience. (Entrance fee is $6.) Going down the steps was a little more digestible this time. Not only was I better prepared mentally, I figured out that I needed to rest occasionally. So getting to the bottom was more pleasant. (PHOTO) After spending about one-half-hour sitting at the waterfall’s edge, it was time to get back to the top. It looked like rain. Up I go. All of a sudden the sky opened up its over-abundant supply of water and drenched me in a matter of seconds. I quickly grabbed a cheap plastic poncho I had in my backpack and wrapped it around my camera. There was no way I could afford to lose yet another expensive part of my happiness. Losing the cell phone was enough disaster for one day. Making my way back to the top, the rain just wouldn’t quit. I finally dashed to the car and drove the 1km back to the Hotel Arenal Green. It rained the rest of the day into the night with winds gusting severely. It hit the roof of my cabin so hard I literally could not hear the TV. I later found out they had a tropical storm. It sure did make for great sleeping!

Parrot at Cataratas Cabins in La Fortuna

Parrot at Cataratas Cabins in La Fortuna

The next morning came the sunshine, 5:30 a.m., as usual. “Up and at ‘em!” The birds were chirping and there was motion all about. It’s a great place to be for early risers. If you like to sleep in, I suggest you simply go to bed early as it’s dark by 5:30 p.m. That, in itself, will get you 12 hours of sleep.

TIME TO HIKE! Yes! I read about a hiking trail that would take you to view the Arenal Volcano slide that happened in the 1960s. (It’s located on the road that takes you past the Arenal National Park. Go to the end of the road where you would turn right to enter Arenal Observatory Lodge. On the left is a place to park.) For the entrance fee of $10 you get a little hand-drawn map showing the two trails. The lady said the self-guided round trip hike was about one-and-one-half-hours. Right off the bat you have to cross this dilapidated bridge. (Maybe they’re saving up the entrance fee to replace the bridge? Ummm…the ladies collecting the fee could possibly just simply be sitting there to collect money for themselves. An answer I would never know.) That should have been my first clue as to we what lay ahead. Within a few minutes I was faced with these steps leading up the hill that were knee-high. Man! I’d have to literally lift my legs with my hands, placing one foot on the stop while grabbing for something to pull myself up. How many of these steps are there? Looking up I could see maybe six steps. Okay, no problem. Hi Ho! Well! What I did NOT see was that the steps turned a corner and there, in front of me, was another set of steps. I ascended this next set of steps only to turn yet another corner. At this point I thought maybe I should throw in the towel. I looked down and realized that to descend would mean I’d have to sit down, kinda jump to the next step and hopefully not fall forward on my face. Lord. It cannot be that much further up, can it? And so I continue, hiking my ass up step after step. I had no idea how high up I was, but it certainly was a long way up. I actually tried to count the steps. After 33 I wasn’t sure that I was counting correctly—I had lost count due to my exhaustion and frustration. Finally I reached the top and sat on the bench with a sign that educated you about the lava flow. I look out across the way and stared; I squinted. Exactly where are these large boulders they spoke of that came from the bowels of this famous volcano? I couldn’t see anything. It was all grown over from the last 40 years. Okay. Well, that was a disappointment. Let’s go home. I’m tired and I need to pee.

While the trek up the hill was an adventure, coming down was another story. I was so relieved to see the exit sign pointing in another direction other than that of the entrance. It was smooth sailing. Along the way I spotted a family of Howlers and a Great Curassow. That made my day even though it was way too dark to photograph.

And then I turned the dreaded corner. The trail ended. In front of me was dense forest; to the right was the same; to the left was a steep climb down—no “steps”—but boulders. Large boulders stacked on top of each other. How in the world are you supposed to descend this? Oh, man, I freaked out. Was I going the right way? Should I turn around and go back the way I came? This one-and-one-half-hour hike had already hit over two hours. I packed my camera equipment on my back, secured the laces on my shoes, and started the descent—the descent from hell. Sitting on my butt, I reached my legs out a far as I could to position my foot on the next rock so I wouldn’t fall into the crevice. I dare say my pants were worn thin by the end of the descent. It must have taken me a good half hour to get to the bottom—it was a LONG way down. Once I got to the bottom I spotted the dilapidated bridge and breathed the biggest sigh of relief ever. This is a wonderful adventure if you like to hike a new area. But there is literally no view to be had.

I love to eat at various restaurants with my favorite being the “Just Good Food” soda that serves absolutely amazing hamburgers (try the Texas burger—it’s the best!) The soda was purchased by a New Jersey tourist earlier in the year. The original owner was ready to retire, and Mike’s inquiry was a deal waiting to be consummated. To find this quaint place, as you are coming into town on the road from San Jose, cross the bridge through the first intersection. In that first block of buildings, near the next corner at the main street, on the right is “Just Good Food.” I ate there several times during my visits over the next two years. (UPDATE: As of 2014 the restaurant is closed. I understand they had a fire and it’s under renovation.)

Another great restaurant is located across the street, on the corner from the bank, directly across from the park. This full-service restaurant  serves an excellent chicken breast in a cream sauce, topped with sliced avacado. It is to die for! The food is a little more pricy but well worth it.

As a side note: be sure to check the bottom of your restaurant tab. Some of the restaurants incorporate the tip into the total. I was unaware I was tipping a total of 30%! Yikes!!!

After a week of adventures, I was ready to head home. I’ll be back next year!

 

Cindi at Cano Negro

Cindi at Cano Negro

All photos are copy righted by Cindi L Rogers

 


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Craftori

Returning to Costa Rica – Adventure #3 – May 2011


Passion Flower

My third trip to La Fortuna was going to be a solo trip. My daughter was busy with college and my son had already taken his vacation earlier in year. This was something that really scared me. Although I felt I knew the ins-and-outs of driving the roads, it was still going to be a challenge.

Upon arriving at the San Jose airport, I easily enough got on to the van to the car rental. I had decided to use Mapache Rent A Car again since we had a good experience with them previously. The people there are very nice and accommodating. So I took out for La Fortuna, arriving there in plenty time before dark, and I somehow managed to evade traffic on the long, winding roads.

Hotel Arenal Green in La Fortuna

Hotel Arenal Green in La Fortuna

The best decision I ever made was to spend my entire vacation at The Hotel Arenal Green. It’s on the road leading to the cataratas in La Fortuna. The rates were so affordable I couldn’t believe it could be that great. Much to my surprise it would be the place I have stayed every time I have returned. You couldn’t ask for a better place. The property is owned by German Lopez and at that time the manager was his daughter, Monica. They have six cabins, some with one bed, two beds and a family-sized cabin. Each cabin has its own private patio with a table and chairs. The cabins all have a mini bar with sink, nice-sized refrigerator and coffee pot. The bathrooms are spacious with a hair dryer, soap and shampoo. The property itself is very large. If you walk to the back of the property, there is an additional cabin that is for the die-hard traveler. It has no electricity. Nope, not for me! I need my a/c. There is also a hut situated on the river’s edge where you can get a massage complete with a shower under the trees.

Hotel Arenal Green outdoor shower

Hotel Arenal Green outdoor shower

The PVC pipe surrounding the shower is painted to look like bamboo. It’s really neat!

Bonding almost immediately with Monica, I felt at home. I don’t want to forget to introduce you to the maid, Blanca. Even though she doesn’t know a lick of English, she is such a sweet person. She makes your breakfast every morning that consists of the most wonderful plantains ever! You also get the usual “Typical Breakfast” that consists of Pinto Gallo (beans and rice seasoned with Cilantro), scrambled eggs, toast and bacon.

Since this was going to be my first solo trip, I was bound and determined to see and do everything possible. My primary goal was to visit every butterfly farm in the area. I had researched a few places on the internet, and so that’s where I started.

My first day in La Fortuna took me to Ecocentro Danaus, a little wildlife park just outside of La Fortuna , right before you enter El Tanque. (There are more directions and information about this place on my page, “Activities and Locations.”) This is a small private ecological reserve that I visit every time I come to La Fortuna . Hi-lights are the butterfly and frog exhibits, lake and garden. You’ll be sure to see the two-toed Sloth, many butterflies, Poison Dart Frogs, Boat-billed Herons at the lake and the White-collared Manakin, to name a few. On-site is the Maleku indigenous culture store displaying their hand-made crafts with a large variety of masks.

Maleku

Maleku

Walking through the park on your own, considering you will spend some time looking for the frogs and taking lots of photos, can take up to 1-1/2 hours.

The next day Monica arranged for me to take the river float trip in Canon Negro in Los Chilies. (Tour cost is $65.) It’s a reserve a few hours north of La Fortuna on the Nicaragua border (be sure to take your passport along if you go). The tour guide was wonderful. She educated us on all the animals, informed us of purchasing Costa Rican Rum, let us know that pineapples were only 75 cents and bananas were 10 for $1. Did you know Costa Rica is the major importer of pineapples to the US?

Jesus Christ lizard

Jesus Christ lizard

On the way there we spied a Jesus Christ lizard on a fence post. Interesting fact about this lizard is that it can skim across the water. He has webbed feet that allow him to stay afloat. Watch this superb video by National Geographic. It will surely amaze you!

Cindi at Cano Negro

Cindi at Cano Negro

When we arrived at Canon Negro park we enjoyed a complimentary brunch and then boarded a canopied tour boat. Some of the animal sightings included the Long-nosed bat, Howler monkeys, Tiger Herons, Anhinga-Anhinga (both male and female), Caiman, Red-eared Sliders, White-faced Capuchins, Black-handed Spider monkeys, Amazon and Ringed Kingfishers and the Great White Egret.

Ringed Kingfisher at Canon Negro

Ringed Kingfisher at Canon Negro

Swallows at Canon Negro

Swallows at Canon Negro

Black-headed Trogan (male) at Canon Negro

Black-headed Trogan (male) at Canon Negro

Capuchin at Canon Negro

Capuchin at Canon Negro

Baby Howler Monkey at Canon Negro

Baby Howler Monkey at Canon Negro

Cayman at Canon Negro

Caiman at Canon Negro

Great White Heron (male) at Canon Negro

Great White Heron (male) at Canon Negro

Howler Monkey at Canon Negro

Howler Monkey at Canon Negro

Amazon Kingfisher at Canon Negro

Amazon Kingfisher at Canon Negro

Tiger Heron at Canon Negro

Tiger Heron at Canon Negro

Long-nosed bat at Canon Negro

Long-nosed bat at Canon Negro

T

Anhinga-Anhinga (male) at Canon Negro

Anhinga-Anhinga (male) at Canon Negro

The entire day’s events entailed 8 hours of nature and education. It’s a “must-do” for all visitors to Costa Rica.

On my previous trip we visited the serpentarium but did not make it further up the road in El Castillo to the Butterfly Conservatory. So on this day, since I was trying to visit more butterfly farms,  I spent several hours going through the four butterfly houses they had at the Arenal Eco Zoo. Considering it was May, there were more butterflies than one could imagine in any one spot. One house contained nothing but Glass Wing butterflies. I had never seen such a beautiful sight! At first I could not see the butterfly since you were looking “through” them.

Glass-wing Butterfly

Glass-wing Butterfly

This is a “must see” while in La Fortuna!

Anna, the tour assistant at The Hotel Arenal Green, turned me on to Arenal Natura Ecological Park that had recently opened. It is close to the volcano (down the road leading to Hotel Miradas Arenal). It is a small park and I felt it was a little pricy. But since they had recently opened, I’m sure they expanded their offerings by now. They had snakes, but you weren’t able to handle them–they were primarily venomous. A frog display, Caiman pond and trails to  hike. I will re-visit this park on my future trips and hope to see more for my money.

There is a butterfly farm right in La Fortuna on the road leading to the volcano (past the Super Christian supermarket). It’s on the left, next to the Sky Trek office where you will pay your entrance fee. At the time it was $6 and well worth it. Just remember, there is a butterfly season. If you go at any other time than in May/June, there may be no butterflies. Be sure to check it out before paying your entrance fee (2014 fee is now $11). They have 4 buildings, each one slam-packed with butterflies. It was definitely an awesome event. It, too, is a “must see” at the right time of the year.

Another trip to the La Fortuna Cataratas? Yup, why  not. I had survived the first torturous stair-climbing adventure in 2011. This time it would be better as I had been walking 3 miles everyday prior to my trip. The walk down the steps wasn’t quite as harrowing as the first. I figured out I needed to rest ….. frequently! While I had been walking a lot at home in Houston, the terrain is flat, so my legs weren’t accustomed to stairs. This time I made it down much easier; I rested and spent quite awhile gawking at the beauty before starting back up.

Majestic "Splash" at the bottom of the waterfall at La Fortuna

Cataratas La Fortuna

For the first time ever I got caught in a downpour. My camera equipment may not be the top of the line, but it’s all I have. And to think it would be ruined if I didn’t act super fast and protect it. I whipped out my plastic poncho from my bag in record time. Wrapped it around my equipment still in my hand and just stood there for friggin’ ever. The rain wasn’t going to stop. I couldn’t even see as the rain was blinding me. Okay, this was exciting. NOT! I decided I needed to make it to the top, no rest periods, just trucking on. It rained for another 1/2 hour. Everything was fine, equipment was dry. That was my first experience of the “rainy” season. Regardless of what people say about rainy vs. dry, any day, any where, you can have a rain storm. For all the times I’ve been there, there were only a few days where it rained for longer than 5  minutes, no matter what the season. So don’t let “rainy” vs. “dry” deter your vacation plans.

Hanging Bridges

Hanging Bridges

Another day, another adventure. The Hanging Bridges must be re-visited. I hoped to spy beautiful birds on this visit, and I was not disappointed. This lovely Mot-mot greeted me on the trail leading to the cataratas.

Rufous Motmot in La Fortuna

Rufous Motmot in La Fortuna

I also was followed by this curious White-nosed Coati on the trail. Looked like he was hungry, so I tossed him a little banana.

White-nosed Coati at Hanging Bridges

White-nosed Coati at Hanging Bridges

And so this ended yet another marvelous trip to the land God created for nature lovers. And yes, another trip is in the making. Next time I will be sure to visit Monteverde for a few days. I hear it’s amazing. Stay tuned!

Parting words of wisdom: Always check to ensure the butterfly habitat exhibits have butterflies. Again, it depends upon the time of year. Unfortunately, they won’t tell you upfront that there are only 3 butterflies in each garden. You’ll pay your money, and then get upset.

All photos are copyrighted by Cindi L Rogers.

Craftori


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