Costa Rica 2009:
Day 4 - Tortuguero


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Costa Rica 2009: [Day 1 - San José] [Day 2 - San José] [Day 3 - Tortuguero] [Day 4 - Tortuguero] [Day 5 - Fortuna] [Day 6 - Fortuna] [Day 7 - Guanacaste] [Day 8 - Puntarenas] [Day 9 - Central Valley]

Monday, June 22: This blurry image is of Tom's watch in the pitch black of 4:42 in the morning. The howler monkeys had decided it was time to wake up. Their howling sounds like the cries of the damned, except louder and scarier. Fortunately, we had been warned, so we just sat back in bed and enjoyed it. It's a rare and amazing experience to get awoken by monkeys, and we highly recommend it.
We learned an important lesson this morning: leave nothing on the floor of a cabin in the jungle. This was Debbie's sock after removing the caterpillar who was building a cocoon in a fold. The white dots were little stitches holding the sock together, and it sounded like velcro pulling them apart to figure out what was in there. The caterpillar was relocated to the front porch instead.
Meanwhile, in Jill's cabin, we took a look at the giant bug Jill had trapped in her wooden trash basket with a pillow. Tom liberated him outside the cabin as well.
Speaking of cabins, here is cabin 131, complete with plastic roof and adorable rocking chairs on the front porch.
Here's one of the aforementioned howler monkeys. They're not very big considering how much noise they make.
We split into three groups this morning. Our boat was piloted by Herman and captained by Henry, who ended up being our guide for the entire day.
We passed a crane on our way to the park station.
It took just a few minutes at the park station to get our entrance tickets to the national park.
Henry did a great job of pointing out wildlife for us. In this tree, there were several black turkey vultures. They look like gigantic hawks when they fly, with impossibly large wingspans.
This is a male aninga, stretching out his wings in the sun. We had seen these birds at Iguazú Falls in January and didn't know why they were doing this. Our guide explained that their feathers aren't waterproof, so they need to dry in the sun after diving in the water to fish.
Here's a boa constrictor, lounging on a fallen bamboo branch.
Here's a basilisk lizard, nicknamed the "Jesus Christ lizard" for their ability to run across the water, a talent we saw demonstrated a few days later.
Our boat ride continued into narrow streams heavily shaded by jungle canopy, which was fine with us. Once again, we had gotten lucky that it hadn't rained at all.
Henry's sharp eyes spotted this caiman lurking at the side of the river.
Here's a blue heron fishing for his meal.
We didn't catch the name of the mama bird, but we saw her babies in their nest.
This is a tiger heron.
Here's a mama caiman, ...
... and here are her three adorable babies.
We were this close to them!
Deeper into the jungle we went.
This is a boat-billed night heron. Check out the beak on this bird! His coloring was really cool too.
The water was very silty so there was no way to see what was in the water, but every once in a while, a gar fish would thrash in the water very quickly, several times in a row, and they always seemed to be aiming at Debbie.
Here's Henry, ably leading our group through the amazing jungle scenery.
These are called blood trees. They were all along the river banks and they're gorgeous. They have a hollow sound when knocked.
At the base of the tree, there were a couple river crabs, but they're elusive little creatures, as was the squirrel we saw briefly.
We stopped to watch a spider monkey and her baby move from tree to tree for a while, getting closer and closer every time. If you look closely at this photo, the baby is clinging to his mama's back as she leaps to the next tree. We saw plenty of howler monkeys, too, but didn't get great photos.
These gorgeous birds flew by just as we were returning to Aninga Lodge.
Back at the lodge, we had a mid-morning snack of pizza and chicken bites, then had a little free time to explore the lodge. We admired yet another leaf cutter ant trail on the ground below the raised walkways of the lodge.
Maria, one of the lodge staff members, was pointing out a tree full of green parrots. They were loudly eating nuts, and dropping them pretty regularly, and we immediately recognized this as the source of the loud dropping noises we had heard on the roof of our cabin the night before. There is a parrot in this photo, but good luck finding him. Here, we'll help you.
Here's a close-up. Cute little guy, huh?
After a short break, we were off on our second trip of the morning, this time to the town of Tortuguero. Our first stop was the Caribbean Conservation Corporation's Natural History Visitor Center.
We watched a video and learned about the turtles who come to Tortuguero's beaches to lay their eggs.
Next, we had a coconut demonstration, while every man in attendance made a vow to buy a machete.
We learned all about uses for coconut water, coconut milk, and coconut husks.
Then, we sampled a little fresh coconut.
It was just a brief walk behind the center to get to the Caribbean Sea.
Yes! Ocean!
We love oceans.
Of course, we had to take off our shoes and walk in the surf.
So did this little guy.
No molestar tortuguitas. Don't disturb the baby turtles.
There weren't any on the beach during the day (nor that evening, according to those who went on the evening turtle walk, dubbed the death march by some participants). However, here was a turtle nest where some babies had recently hatched.
Here's a hatched egg.
Cloy drew pictures of the different types of turtles that lay their eggs on these beaches (green turtles, hawksbills and leatherbacks, among others), while Henry told us about them.
There are beautiful flowers thriving in the beach sand too.
On our walk into town, we saw an elementary school in session. We passed quickly and didn't take photos so we wouldn't disturb the students. Instead, here are the recycling bins. This country takes its recycling very seriously and we appreciate that.
Here's the main street in town. We bought some banana bread from the local bakery that was still hot from the oven.
We also bought t-shirts and souvenirs.
We waited for our boat trip back across the river while sipping Coca-Cola Light in these comfortable rocking chairs.
Our pickup point was at this brightly colored riverfront park ...
... which had these cute little flowers lining all of the walkways.
After lunch at the lodge, it was time to get in the pool.
The pool is shaped like a giant sea turtle, with a hot tub at the head, ...
... and a fountain at the tail that also served as a bird bath on top.
We saw a couple of howler monkeys, and also spotted an iguana high up in a tree.
Here he is, lounging on a branch.
In the afternoon, we went out for our third trip of the day. We met a boat with people returning from a zipline tour, and transferred a few folks so some could skip the afternoon tour and others could join us.
This time, we got a nice shot of a female aninga drying her feathers.
Shortly into our tour, we stopped to watch these howler monkeys play in a tree. There are at least three in this photo. First, spot the huge iguana sitting on the center branch on the right. Now, look at the branch above him, where there is a monkey slightly to the left. There's another monkey in the foliage at the very end of the branch he's on all the way on the left, and there's a third dangling upside down near the bottom of the picture slightly to the left of the iguana.
Speaking of monkeys, there's Jill in the back. (Hahaha, we're so funny.)
This is a sloth. You'll just have to take our word for it.
Here's a great egret. Yes, that's an awesome name to have.
There are two iguanas in this photo. You can try to find them yourself, or scroll down for the answer key.
Iguana A is up in the tree, trying to get away from ...
... Iguana B, who would be after him if he could be bothered to move at all.
Here is Mount Tortuguero. One theory is that the turtles are able to find their way back to Tortuguero's beach by looking for this landmark on the horizon.
These hanging nests are made by Montezuma Oropendulas.
More beautiful jungle scenery.
And still more.
The water here is so dark that it creates a mirror effect. Stop and admire it.
This is another tiger heron ...
... and this is another blood tree.
This is called a Great Potoo and we were lucky to see it, since it is fairly rare.
We spotted several toucans, including this one. Such a shame that the lighting didn't let us capture the colors, so we'll just have to describe it to you. He was yellow and black.
At the end of the tour, we passed the familiar grassy sand bar, ...
... and made our way back to the dock at Aninga Lodge.
The kids named this dog Patty. She did not go unloved while the kids were around.
<> That evening, approaching rain triggered the howler monkeys to start their howling. One in particular seemed very close. When we traced the source of the sound, we found him in a tree right outside our cabin. We got this video of his group calling and him answering.
At 6:00 PM, most of the adults had gathered at the bar for beverages ...
... and calypso music. Joining the band as guest musicians were Jim on bongos and Richard on cowbell.
The ceiling of the bar always had at least three geckos on it, diligently eating bugs.
This light fixture was harboring one as well. Look closely.
When a game of Musical Chairs was announced, the kids all volunteered, and a few adults did as well.
One by one, contestants were eliminated, ...
... and Jill's time to go was when the field had been reduced to five people but only four chairs.
Julia celebrated her victory with a free drink. Runner-up Evan received one as well.
Next up: Limbo! Ben showed everyone how it is done, ...
... and we were impressed by how well people did.
Three anniversary couples were treated to large fruity drinks and a heartfelt serenade of "Happy Birthday" from the band.

After dinner, Tom and Debbie did some toad hunting, which took all of five minutes, because the toads do love to come out at night.

Day 5 >


Costa Rica 2009: [Day 1 - San José] [Day 2 - San José] [Day 3 - Tortuguero] [Day 4 - Tortuguero] [Day 5 - Fortuna] [Day 6 - Fortuna] [Day 7 - Guanacaste] [Day 8 - Puntarenas] [Day 9 - Central Valley]

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