A few questions about Costa Rica

Old Jul 11th, 2001, 10:28 AM
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A few questions about Costa Rica

Hello, everyone. I have a few things on my mind about Costa Rica, which I might be visiting in late December/January.

Can someone compare the rain forests of Costa Rica to, say, the rain forests of Brazil? Can you tell the difference between them? I'm just curious about this. Also, what is a cloud forest, such as the difference between a cloud forest and a rain forest?

Can someone compare for me the beaches on the Atlantic side vs. the Carribean side of Costa Rica?

Could someone describe for me a canopy tour? I'm very interested in this opportunity, would like to hear a personal description by someone who has experienced it first hand.
Okay, one more that is kind of silly. How is the poisonous snake factor? How common is it to run across them in any of the tourist adventure type outings?

Thanks in advance for any first-hand insight ... I have e-mailed a couple folks here asking about their trip reports and newsletters, as well.

Sandi Maier

Old Jul 11th, 2001, 01:07 PM
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I can't give you a comparison of the rain forests, as I have never been to
South America. My impression is that, like the country itself, the rain forests in Costa Rica are just on a smaller scale but every bit as wonderful. The "cloud forest" is an elevated area of forest which essentially touches the clouds because of its elevation. And, a canopy tour is literally a tour of the upper part of the rain forest -- the canopy. You are elevated (whether by walkways, platforms, arial wires, etc.) many feet in the air, where you are in the canopy of the rain forest and can observe its beauty up close. It can be a scary prospect, but even my children (ages 7 and 9) took a canopy tour and thought it was a great adventure. I would recommend the "Original Canopy Tour" company, as they are very safety conscience, particularly with children. I can't answer the remainder of your questions, but I would highly recommend Costa Rica. It is wonderful and the people are simply some of the best you will every find. Enjoy.
Old Jul 11th, 2001, 02:29 PM
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I cannot compare the rain forests of Costa Rica to Brazil as I have not been to Brazil. However, I can tell you that even within Costa Rica they are very different. In the Osa Peninsula we saw "old growth" rainforest that was very old and had never been cut -- the trees are enormous and there is all kinds of wildlife everywhere. In other parts of the country there were areas where the forest had been cut and in some cases had regrown, and the trees were still tall and dense but not like in the Osa Peninsula. Costa Rica has dozens of "microclimates" and even though it is a small country (the size of West Virginia I believe) the terrain, foliage, and weather vary a great deal from one region to the next. In terms of plant and animal life, I know that Costa Rica and Brazil have some species that are the same, some that are similar, and some that are very different. For example, we saw scarlet macaws in the Osa Peninsula but I believe these are a different variety than is found in Brazil. One nice thing about Costa Rica is that you do not need to take malaria precautions whereas in Brazil I believe you do.

We did see snakes in Costa Rica but only when we were with a guide who knew how & where to look for them. I do believe that having a good guide at least one day that you are in the rainforest is key to a full appreciation of the experience. We saw two boa constrictors (huge but not poisonous -- they squeeze their prey) and a green eyelash viper which is highly poisonous. We saw these in Manuel Antonio National Park. They were thrilling to see. The prospect of snakes was one reason I wore ankle-high hiking boots when I went in the forest in Costa Rica.

If you are interested in seeing some gorgeous photographs of rainforests in Costa Rica, Brazil, and elsewhere, there is a wonderful coffee-table book of photos called "Jungles" that I highly recommend. It is one of the most remarkable books I've ever seen. There is a macaw on the cover -- here is a link to it on Amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/AS...935212-3300002
Old Jul 11th, 2001, 02:33 PM
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Bridget and Lisa,

Thanks for your thoughtful insight. I would welcome any additional information from others.

I will check into that book, Lisa. I have a parrot (Amazon yellow nape) myself and the prospect of seeing parrots in the wild fascinates me, as well.

Bridget, the canopy tour does sound awesome, especially the one with the wires and harness. That is what I had seen a picture of, I believe.

Thanks again!

Old Jul 12th, 2001, 09:22 AM
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Dear Sandi,

Just a few more things about Costa Rica that I hope will help. First of all, it is a good idea to take malaria precautions. There are some parts of the country (particularly the Osa Peninsula) that are very remote and you never know what you might encounter.
In terms of snakes, most likely you will not encounter them if you stay on marked trails. There are several poisonous species, but most are nocturnal. Wearing high boots is a good call, but be careful of low tree branches. It's a good idea to carry a stick to brush branches away when walking. Also, you might want to invest in some sulphur powder for your shoes when hiking because of chiggers, which will wreak havoc upon ankles and legs.
In terms of the beaches, the Caribbean side is much calmer than the Pacific (much of the Pacific side is a surfer's paradise), but from what I saw, the Pacific side has the better seaside resorts. Lisa is right on the money in talking about micro-climates, which makes giving a general assessment of the actual beaches difficult. Because of the range of elevations throughout the country, no beach is the same. Some are very rocky, some are very wide and long, and some are very dangerous. The only consistency I found was on the Osa Peninsula, where all the beaches tended to be beautiful but extremely wild (in terms of both water roughness and wildlife). Be sure to pick up lots of reading material on where you plan to go just to be on the safe side. If you have any specific questions, please feel free to contact me. I lived throughout Costa Rica for three months doing research and have nothing but great things to say. It is a wonderfully diverse place, and you will no doubt have a fantastic time.
Old Jul 12th, 2001, 10:09 AM
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I just want to add a couple of comments on the canopy tour. We took one not far from the Rincon de la Vieja National Park in the Guanacaste Province. The forest there was neither the typical rain forest or cloud forest. I think the guide described it as wind forest.
The canopy tour was of the harness and zip line variety and it was very exciting (my 6 year old daughter who is very fit and athletic loved it). Don't expect to see much in way of wildlife on these tours. We practically did not see any. We took our tour in the middle of the day when animals tend to hide and there just wasn't too much activity in the treetops. But we were not disappointed, zipping among tree tops was great on its own.
One word of caution, you need to be fairly fit to do these canopy tours. There is some stair climbing involved, and you need to be able to control your speed appropriately.
Old Jul 13th, 2001, 07:20 AM
Robbie Felix
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A couple of comments...
The cloud forest is just a high-up rain forest. What makes it unique is that they find many species in the cloud forests that are sort of "undiscovered". Apparently there are life forms being discovered in these places which are not in any other place in the world...There is a horseback tour from the Chalet Tirol which goes up there which is very cool. I think they are at www.chalettirol.com .
Out here in Manuel Antonio there is a canopy tour called "Rainmaker" which is a series of bridges through the canopy that doesn't require the same level of fitness to enjoy as the others. Older and younger people can do it as it is more of a "walking tour" through the canopy without the "swinging effect " of mountain climbing equipment. For the many tourists who are not able to do the Tarzan thing, it is a wonderful option...
I have lived here in Costa Rica for a year and a half and never seen a poisonous snake. There are snakes, but I have seen about 6 in one year, none of which were poisonous. I live in a place that is partially rainforested and in back there is a huge reserve. So by rights we know there are snakes, but apparently they are pretty shy!
I wish I could say I had been to Brazil!
But the rainforest here in Costa Rica on the Pacific Coast starts to thicken and become older and more "virgin" about mid-coast, the farther south you go on the Pacific side the more you are in real jungle. The older the actual rainforest...
Osa Penninsula is where the real rainforest is at!
The country is beautiful and I love living here in the midst of such amazing wildlife. We have in the central pacific everything from sloths, monkeys, armadillos and stuff to some of the most beautiful birds I have ever seen.
The National Park in Carrarra is famous for the birds and I believe they also have parrots...There is also a place in Silencio, outside of Quepos, called Gaia Jardin , which is a rescue/rehabilitation place for rainforest animals. They have some lovely Parrots up there that are accustomed to humans as they were previously injured and nursed back to health by humans. They are pretty cool!
They actually like people and you canget pretty close if you want to take pictures...Silencio is a small Costa Rican village that promotes conservation and is worth a visit if you are into animals and forest conservation...
Enjoy the country and it's wildlife!
Remember that January and February are VERY busy here in Costa Rica. Many of the hotels are already half booked for that time, make reservations early and confirm them in advance!
Best warm wishes,
Robbie Felix
Hotel California
Manuel ANtonio, Costa Roca
[email protected]

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