Costa Rica Pacific Highlands and Coast-Feb 2015

Old Feb 20th, 2015, 10:50 AM
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Costa Rica Pacific Highlands and Coast-Feb 2015

We spent 10 nights in Costa Rica in February (our 6th time) exploring parts of the country we hadn’t seen before. It was a combination rest/relaxation plus birdwatching trip.

I'll provide a brief summary and then follow with more detailed posts on how the trip went. Will be working on photos for a while--took about 2000 of them. Will post a link when they are up.

Bullet point summary:

Itinerary: Fly into San Jose, followed by a ‘loop’ that begins with a drive to Bosque del Tolomuco (2 nights) (15KM north of San Isidro), stopping for lunch and a tour in Cerro de Muerte, followed by three nights at Rio Magnolia (about halfway between San Isidro and Dominical), then drive to Tikivillas in Uvita (three nights) stopping at Los Cusingos reserve first, then back up the coast to Cerro Lodge near Tarcoles for two nights) then back to the airport.

Purpose: Rest, relaxation, and birds. Lots of birds.

Air travel--Copa: RECOMMENDED but be advised that coach class on the red eye isn’t great for sleeping.

Costa Rica Discount Card—RECOMMENDED. It got us discounts with both Vamos and Bahia Aventuras—two quality outfits. More than paid for itself. Just be sure to have a printout or electronic file of the actual card image with a card number they send you.

Car rental—Vamos. RECOMMENDED Great service, looked for ways to save us money even.

Lodging:

Bosque del Tolomuco—RECOMMENDED for people who love nature and willing to rent their own vehicle and are looking for a spring-like, not summer, climate. Good location to explore the entire valley and highlands area. Especially recommended for birders.

Rio Magnolia—RECOMMENDED for people (especially couples—no small children allowed)wanting to get away from it all for a few days and enjoying some nice creature comforts while in splendid isolation with great views and experience nature. The owners are great hosts. Great place for birds.

Tikivillas: RECOMMENDED for just about everyone who can deal with heat (especially couples—no kids allowed). Amazing views, chic, romantic ambiance, just lovely. And it’s got enough nature for those who appreciate such things.

Cerro Lodge—RECOMMENDED for nature lovers, especially birders, who aren’t in need of a full service lodging option and can organize things themselves.,, But, no hablan Ingles.

Tours:

Paraiso Quetzales lunch plus quetzal tour—RECOMMENDED. We had a hearty lunch, saw great hummingbirds and other birds on property, and then had a tour where quetzals flew over our heads.

Andres Chinchilla (bird guide): RECOMMENDED for birding in the San Isidro/Valle General area—he was our guide at Bosque del Tolomuco, Rio Magnolia, and Los Cusingos. Good guide, great at spotting and recognizing vocalizations.

Los Cusingos: RECOMMENDED for anyone who’s into birds, this not only has great birds, but also the home—perfectly preserved—of the most prominent and important ornithologist in Central America, Dr. Alexander Skutch.

Bahia Aventuras: RECOMMENDED for boat tours leaving out of Uvita to do whale/dolphin watching or Mangroves. Great service.

Rancho Merced Night tour: AVOID AT ALL COSTS. Terrible, worthless experience. They apparently do pretty nice horse riding tours and take good care of the animals, but their night tour is a night mare (see what I did there).

Fantastic Birding (affiliated with Cerro Lodge) boat tour: RECOMMENDED. It doesn’t seem like much when you start—only a captain, no other guide, but man can he spot birds. He picked out three pygmy kingfishers hiding in mangrove tangles.

Carara Birding tours (booked via Cerro Lodge): YOU CAN DO BETTER BY BOOKING YOUR OWN. The owner Federico is not the most organized guy, and despite us asking for a bird guide for Carara several times MONTHS before our trip and then immediately before our arrival, the day we arrived he had not booked a guide for us. He managed to scramble and find us a naturalist (but not a bird specialist) guide (Vic Tours) who took us on a tour of Carara with some first time visitors to Central America. He was very good for that kind of tour, and we enjoyed it, but still we were hoping for a more specialized tour, that we had asked for, that was the entire purpose of staying there.
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Old Feb 20th, 2015, 10:51 AM
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(Note: I’ll be posting more specific bird information for each day separately as to not clutter up the narrative with species names (we saw over 290 species). However, when there is a highlight bird, e.g. ornate hawk-eagle, I’ll mention those in the main narrative, since this was a birding-driven trip.).




Day 1: Our flight was a red-eye from New York, connecting through Panama City. Connection was tight but no problems whatsoever—no customs or immigration to navigate in Panama City, and all the gates are close together. We flew Copa which had a competitive fare and was getting us in Costa Rica in time to have a full day. The only quibble is that the Copa flight was not one where we could sleep at all because the seats were kinda close together (I had the biggest dude on the plane next to me which didn’t help). If you can upgrade to 1st class at a reasonable price for the red-eye, it might be worth it for the sleep.




We arrived in San Jose around 8:10 am and breezed through immigration, baggage claim, and customs within a half hour, and were met by Fabian from Vamos Rental Car. After a bit of a mix-up due to a changeover in email systems they had, we confirm the price, along with GPS and a free cell phone to use, plus a cooler. Our vehicle was a Mitsubishi Montero, big powerful vehicle which handled all steep terrain but wasn’t terrific on gas mileage.




This is where the fun really begins. Our plan was to drive from the airport through the Cerro de Muerte area, stopping for lunch and hopefully quetzals, on our way to our lodging for the first two nights, Bosque del Tolomuco, (about 15 km north of San Isidro), taking the Interamericana highway. The problem was that there was a landslide on the interamericana requiring a detour. We tried to map it out as well as we could, but that the road map for the detour area looks like a plate of spaghetti.




As a threshold matter, we had to program a point in the middle of the detour route for the GPS since it didn’t know about the need for a detour. From there the plan was to just then to use our next destination, Paraiso Quetzal lodge, where we planned to stop for lunch and a bird tour.




The first half worked pretty well and we then got the GPS to direct us for a path back to the highway. Well, along the way we ran into a fork in the road, where the route the GPS was telling us to take had experienced a small landslide itself. Not being willing to take that chance, we kept on going and eventually wound our way out using the GPS and confirming with people alongside the road. All told it probably added 75-90 minutes to our travel time to Paraiso Quetzales lodge (from about 90 minutes to 3 hours). But it was a lovely drive, and we literally had all day so there was not much pressure.




It was cloudy and rainy when we got to Paraiso Quetzal lodge around 12:45 PM. We had arranged a 2:00 PM tour with Jorge, who serves as tour guide as well as helping his family run the place. First a hearty lunch and time spent in the hummingbird garden for some spectacular hummingbird photography despite the rainy conditions. We were able to spot a number of highland endemic species just walking between the lodge/restaurant and our car as well as from the adjacent hummingbird garden. Then time for our quetzal tour. We drove Jorge to a local finca whose family had given permission to watch quetzals at their wild avocado tree. It was a steep drive, but we made it okay as we joined up with another guide and two more quetzal paparazzi. And boy oh boy did we get what we wanted. Around one modest tree in a small clearing we saw 4 males and two females, with the birds flying all around, at one point a female flew a foot—12 inches, 1/3 of a meter—above our heads. The quetzals were flying so close we had to duck! About 250 photos taken later, I wandered off a bit (yes, I got tired of taking close up photos of quetzals—never thought it would be a ‘walk away’ bird) and spotted a few more species before we had to leave so we would arrive at Bosque del Tolomuco (about 1 hour away) in daylight.




We around 5:00 PM to Bosque del Tolomuco, on the downslope from Cerro de Muerte but still at a fairly high elevation (around 1400 meters). Even though it’s late in the day, as we pull up to the lodge from the steep driveway, the place is exploding with birds. We meet our wonderful hosts and the owners of the lodge, Lise and Rolff, and their three dogs, including the ultra-energetic Enzo. They check us into our cute little cabin and Lise begins to make dinner for us (we had to arrange this in advance so she could pick up the ingredients). We are treated to a lovely, very well cooked chicken and potatoes dinner and settle into bed, exhausted but happy.
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Old Feb 20th, 2015, 02:14 PM
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Day 2: I get up early to meet my guide Andres Chinchilla for our bird hike around the grounds of Bosque del Tolomuco. When Rolff and Lise bought this place about 15 years ago, it was all deforested. They have done a wonderful job in turning it into a natural area full of trees, plants and wildlife. It’s of particular interest to birders because its location and elevation allow for species one wouldn’t likely see elsewhere. This did prove to be the case, as among others I see my #1 target bird for the entire trip, the red-headed barbet (this one was a female, who is just as beautiful despite lacking the bright red head of the male). Andres and I hike up the side of the ridge for a couple of hours, then return for a home-cooked breakfast. My wife joins us for a bit of a post-breakfast walk before we resume our hiking (my wife has arthritis in her knees and hips so climbing steep trails is not a great vacation option for her). After another few productive hours, we head back to the lodge so we and my wife can head to lunch at Mirador del Valle General, a restaurant/lodge/zipline place about 1 km down the road. There we’re treated to a tasty lunch, and a nice view out the back of both the Valle del General and some great birds, including the male barbet (who was so odd and beautiful I didn’t realize I was looking at my target bird until after he disappeared!) We then proceed to our third area for exploration, the Centro Biologico “Los Quebradas” north of San Isidro. It’s about 2 KM due east of Bosque del Tolomuco, but on the other side of a good sized ridge, so we have to drive all the way into town and then all the way back up. It’s a very lovely place, with a sculpture garden and also hiking trails. As it turns out, that day it was to close early so we only had an hour or so to explore the trails. We wind up seeing more than I thought we would on the trails. After we’re done, we part ways with Andres and stop by a grocery store on the way back, picking up rolls, sandwhich meat, cheese, and other items for dinner at our cabin (which had a kitchenette).




Day 3: I get up extra early (around 5:15 am) hoping to track a pair of owls known to be on the property. I put my headlamp on the “red light” to avoid scaring off any wildlife. When I open the cabin door, I see two red eyes emerging from the dark running towards me. It takes me about a half-second to realize that it was Enzo just running to say hello. I also hear footsteps on our cabin’s roof while I’m under it, but that disappear when I walk out from underneath. Most likely a small weasel-like critter called an olingo, according to Rolff and Lise. Anyways, I hike around for the better part of the morning, pausing for breakfast, seeing all kinds of great stuff, including a spider monkey (I was not aware they ranged this far inland or this high). After that, we pack up, check out and head to our next place, Rio Magnolia Nature Lodge.




Rio Magnolia is about 15 KM south of San Isidro in the foothills north of Dominical. We eventually find our way onto the correct road heading south of San Isidro (please don’t drive in San Isidro without a GPS, it’s very confusing for someone who’s never been there as the roads are basically unmarked). The road winds quite a bit as it goes up and down but we eventually get to our turnoff. We wind our way on a rural road for several KM until we get to the gate for Rio Magnolia. We get out to open the gate/hold it open, and proceed down a 1.5KM, extremely challenging ‘driveway’ that eventually gets us to the lodge, a beautiful, semi-open air place situated on a hillside in its own little valley. By this point, it is POURING rain outside. I mean POURING. We can barely see 15 feet in front of us. But we get checked into our gorgeous suite (El Cielo) and have a yummy lunch before settling in for a relaxing afternoon. Around 4:00 we meet the owners of Rio Magnolia, John and Maureen, and their three dogs, Terra the sweet but dim golden retriever, Brunca the shy dog who turns into shameless beggar around dinner time, and Palomo, a beagle who will join us on the hiking trails in the coming days. We sit down to a home-cooked dinner with John and Maureen and the two other couples staying there with us for 2+ hours of great homecooked meals and even better conversation. After that, we turn in early for bed, with the lights dimming. Rio Magnolia is powered by an on-site hydroplant on . . . the Rio Magnolia, and in times of extreme rain it can flood and stop working properly.
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Old Feb 21st, 2015, 10:04 AM
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Thanks for your report. I appreciate the practical information at the beginning and it's always interesting to read about new (to me) places. Looking forward to more and your photos.
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Old Feb 22nd, 2015, 04:02 AM
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Enjoying the read - glad you visited Los Cusingos, we drove 2hrs from Dominical only to find it closed, when it was supposed to be open - bummer!
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Old Feb 22nd, 2015, 01:52 PM
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Enjoying your report, RAC. I applaud you for first tackling the drive through the Cerro de Muerte, then doing it after a red-eye flight, and then managing a detour! Looking forward to your pictures.
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Old Feb 22nd, 2015, 05:07 PM
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Photos from Paraiso Quetzal:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/312673...7650971975491/

and Bosque del Tolomuco:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/312673...7650570804530/

(note: we really did see a ton of stuff at Bosque del Tolomuco, but photography conditions were just bad due to a major weather system that moved in).
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Old Feb 23rd, 2015, 02:34 AM
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Awesome pics! The "L" series lenses are certainly a game changer. Looking forward to more!
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Old Feb 23rd, 2015, 06:34 AM
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Amazing pics, RAC, thanks for sharing! Sounds like a "productive" trip so far, looking forward for more.
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Old Feb 23rd, 2015, 12:04 PM
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Day 4: Up early for 6:00 AM bird walk with Andres and another couple staying at Rio Magnolia. Rio Magnolia is another place known for having bird sightings one doesn’t get in the more heavily trafficked places, and it lives up to that reputation. We do a jaunt around the lodge grounds for the couple of hours before breakfast. We see some okay birds, nothing too exciting, until seeing a fairly rare and much-sought hummingbird (white-tipped sicklebill) on the way back to the lodge, enough by itself to make the 2 hour walk worthwhile. After breakfast we head out on the Toucan trail, a largely flat trail leading through primary rainforest. This time we’re joined by Palomo, who continuously runs ahead, looks at us wondering why we ‘re so slow, then backtracks to join us. He’s very well behaved, however, not barking or making any noise or disturbing any wildlife. We see great things, and it’s beautiful in the rainforest. This is followed by lunch, then another fairly unproductive hour birding (mid-day is usually slow).

During lunch we did discover that Palomo is guilty of barking at birds sometimes--when turkey vultures get too close to the pool. Never seen that before.

We spend the rest of the day with some R&R before another evening of great food and conversation.


Day 5: This is a free day, which we plan to spend on the grounds of Rio Magnolia (once we arrived here, we didn’t leave until our stay was done). I get up to try to stake out the heliconia plants where we saw the sicklebill, hoping for a photo this time. I get just a frustratingly fleeting glimpse of him before settling in, hoping it will return. It doesn’t. So, I grumble, get up, and start heading back up the hill when—whooosh—a BIG bird flies over me and into a nearby tree. A big, special bird. I notice right away that it’s a big bird of prey with a raised crest of feathers sticking straight up behind its head. It’s a young Ornate Hawk-Eagle! Maybe my best bird sighting ever, certainly in Costa Rica. I snap off about 100 bad pictures, with a brief pause only as it chases a nearby (and much smaller) roadside hawk out of its perch in a tree (not quite sure whether it was after the perch or looking for breakfast. After it flies out of sight, I return back up the hill all giddy, the day having already been a success.

The rest of the day is spent alternately walking around, resting, and eating. One highlight from lunch was when I see one of our fellow guests (a non-birder) whipping out her iPhone to take a picture of a hummingbird. Turns out to be another one of those on my wish list (white-crested coquette). I try a brief dip in the pool that afternoon, but due to the largely overcast weather the pool just isn’t warm enough for that kind of thing—I last 15 seconds before climbing out.

That evening, another downpour ensues (apparently a big nasty weather system was slamming the entire south pacific for this period) and we wind up having our dinner over candlelight as the power goes out in the building completely. We find that this just enhances the experience, reminding us that we’re in a remote, natural setting where we’re dependent on nature for our needs. We settle up all of our outstanding bills for our stay, and Maureen makes sure we have coffee and a packed breakfast/lunch available for our drive tomorrow, as we’re checking out early to leave.
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Old Feb 24th, 2015, 06:58 AM
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Rio Magnolia pictures:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/312673...7650595538400/
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Old Feb 24th, 2015, 09:48 AM
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This is great info. Thank you for the report.
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Old Feb 24th, 2015, 08:23 PM
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Thanks for posting!
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Old Feb 25th, 2015, 08:42 AM
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Day 6: We get up around 5:00 am and are packed up and out the door (with sadness) shortly thereafter for our drive to Los Cusingos, a private reserve that includes the home and study of Dr. Alexander Skutch, the JJ Audubon of tropical birding. It’s situated on the opposite (Chirripo) side of the Valle General, about 30 minutes or so from San Isidro. The reserve itself includes streams and forest, and of course birds, including the gorgeous Turquoise Cotinga. But perhaps the most impressive thing is how unimpressive Skutch and his wife Pamela Lankester lived in was. Though he bought the place in 1941, the place has no electricity or phone lines, and only got running water in the 1990’s. It was left exactly as it was when he passed away ten years ago—clothes still in the closet, binoculars still on the night stand. My wife and I spend the most productive two hours of the day hiking around the trails, then she stays at the visitor center while I drag my guide up and down the trails for several more hours, including a healthy walk to see the on-site petroglyphs. Of course, what happens while we’re out hiking and she’s relaxing at the visitor center—she sees a tayra (weasel-like mammalian predator) raid the bird feeders! Sometimes it is about luck.

Anyways, after a very full 6 hours there, we begin to head to our next destination, Tikivillas in Uvita, where we will spend the next three nights. We trace our way back to San Isidro, and from there past the turnoff for Rio Magnolia on the winding road towards Dominical, and then to the Costanera (coastal highway). Around 3:00 PM we arrive to Tikivillas, which we had no trouble finding from the highway, pull up to the parking area, and ahhh bliss. Tikivillas is built on a hillside with forest behind it and the Pacific ocean in front of it (albeit about 500M away). Anyways, we check in, meet the incredibly cheerful and helpful Pablo, bring our stuff to the beautiful casita we’ll be enjoying for our stay. The casita includes an indoor/outdoor shower where we meet a new little friend, a basilisk lizard (aka the “Jesus Christ lizard”). We then head to the infinity pool overlooking the ocean, where the owner Thomas brings us our welcome cocktails. We make dinner reservations at the restaurant (just off the pool) and head back to our room to change etc. Dinner has a lot of appealing options that are both sophisticated but amenable to a variety of palates. It’s just a cool, romantic, chic vibe—thanks in no large part to “adults only” policy. Then off to bed for us, the rest and relaxation and fun in the sun part of our vacation underway.

Day 7: We have an early breakfast and head towards Playa Uvita for our Whale and Dolphin tour with Bahia Aventura. There’s a slight delay as we wait for a large bus of Danish tourists to arrive, but eventually they arrive and we head out in the boat. We cruise up and down the coast looking for dolphins. At one point, I point out to the guides a large number of birds feeding in the water about 2 km further off shore. We arrive on the scene to confirm, as suspected, that a pod of dolphins is there to feed on the same fish. Almost as fun as the dolphins was watching the brown boobies (yes that’s the name of the bird) chase flying fish who fly as far as 30 yards above the water. We spend the rest of the tour exploring the coastline and islands, including seaside caves called “Las Ventanas” because you can see through them as if they were windows. After that we head back to Tikivillas for some quality time in the pool (at Tikivillas they bring you ice water with lime when you’re in the pool—without you asking—such great service!) We have a very early dinner (since we have a night hike scheduled), and wind up seeing some monkeys hanging out by the restaurant/kitchen. We then head out to Rancho Merced for our night hike.

Which was by far our worst experience of the trip, and maybe of any trip to Costa Rica. There are no wild animals there (the entire area is criss-crossed with electrical fencing). The ‘guide’ (actually a ranch hand/horse handler—very sweet young man but not qualified to lead a nature hike) can’t name a single animal that he’s seen on the night hikes despite doing 2-3 per week during high season, and about half of the two hour hike occurs on the beach, where there is nothing but sand, grass and waves so loud you couldn’t hear wildlife even if it was there. The beach is also at a severe angle, making walking uncomfortable on the back and knee, and extremely muggy. And, then once we get past the beach (about 90 minutes into the hike, on the way back) we hit a stream that’s almost knee deep. After we cross and complain about our soggy boots and socks, the guide asks “didn’t your hotel tell you about the creek and that you needed rubber boots?” We answered “no” but wanted to say more, including the fact that no one from Rancho Merced mentioned that fact, not that they had rubber boots available to use anyways (as if people staying in a beach area schlep rubber boots with them). Grrrrrrrrr. We spend the last 25 minutes or so sitting on feed station in the middle of an empty cow pasture trying to listen for animals that apparently have never been on Rancho Merced. We eventually head back to Tikivillas, and hope our boots will dry off for the next time we need to use them.
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Old Feb 25th, 2015, 06:23 PM
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Great TR and pics, hope you'll post more later. Sorry about the Rancho Merced hike disappointment, but thankfully it was just a hike. The rest of the trip sounds wonderful - we are not going back to CR next year, but I am taking notes and keep them safe!
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Old Feb 26th, 2015, 09:53 AM
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Los Cusingos photos

https://www.flickr.com/photos/312673...7650976824916/
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Old Feb 26th, 2015, 11:14 AM
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We were there about the same time, however first timers settled in Guanacaste region more of the beach area. Stayed at Villa Ferlito's. Comfortable place with large pool, close to several beaches with local flare.
Your pictures are beautiful will keep this area in mind for our return visit. Liked reading your blog too!,
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Old Feb 28th, 2015, 08:48 AM
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RAC:
I just booked airfare to CR but am all over the place about where I want to stay (as a family). Can I message you directly somehow for advice? You seem to have been all four of the places on my list and I was hoping you could help before I screw up
Thanks!
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Old Mar 1st, 2015, 10:28 AM
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Love that series of the quetzal gulping down an avocado!
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Old Mar 2nd, 2015, 08:49 AM
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Day 8: We have an early breakfast (specially arranged by Pablo) and head off to our tour of the Sierpe-Terraba mangroves with Bahia Aventuras. Our boat speeds us up to the Coronado river mouth, which is a bit bumpy with the tides, but eventually we settle in and enjoy a lovely boat tour of the mangroves. We see a lot of birds, though nothing we haven’t seen before (we’re a bit hard to please after having seen so many mangroves in past travels), and a small crocodile. But, no monkeys or snakes or anything like that. Still Bahia Aventuras does a very good job and it’s an enjoyable half-day trip. We then head back, grabbing pizza at a small place off the Costanera. (We tried to eat at Pizzeria La Fogata in Uvita, but while they have signs in town and on the highway pointing in their general direction, the restaurant itself is apparently unmarked/unsigned, and we weren’t about to do an Indiana Jones routine for pizza). We spend the rest of the day in the pool at Tikivillas, where sights include a toucan in a tree just off the pool (like 4 feet away) calling very loudly and a king vulture (!) circling high but nearby (my wife told me I was probably just seeing what I wanted to see until I swam over to her with binoculars). Another delicious dinner and we called it a day.

Day 9: For the first time, a bit of sadness knowing that our vacation was almost over. Also, Tikivillas is such a perfect place to be, sigh. I get up early and walk up the road from the hill looking for birds, with some success, and then head back down so we can pack and change. We enjoy our last lovely breakfast, settle our account there, and start driving up the coast towards Tarcoles and our last destination, Cerro Lodge. The drive between Uvita and just south of Quepos goes very quickly, as there is not much development on this stretch of the road. After that, however, it goes a bit slower but we still make it to Cerro Lodge in just about 2 hours flat. (The turnoff for Cerro Lodge is about 5km north of the Crocodile bridge on the western side of the road. Our Garmin GPS tried to make us turn off 150 meters past the bridge onto a private, locked driveway).

We arrive and park, and check in. Cerro Lodge is a very lovely place with cute little cabins. However, service there is . . . an opportunity for improvement. Essentially they have the same 2-3 people washing dishes, cooking food, and running the front desk (with no one who spoke a word of English—we managed but beware). The person who checked us in had to direct our attention to a magic marker board with cabin numbers and names so we could point out my name and a cabin number. We had booked our mangrove birding tour with the lodge, but no one there knew how to get there or anything about this tour. Fortunately, we were able to find flyers/brochures for the tour on the unoccupied tour desk. Since one has to make advance reservations for lunch (something we learned on the spot) we headed to El Guacimo soda across the highway from Cerro Lodge’s entrance. Food there was quick and good, and from there we headed to our 3:00 PM boat tour. We found the place without much problem, thanks to my wife’s navigation skills. The company, Fantastic Birding, provided a very good tour. I have to admit I was a little skeptical at first when we saw that there was only a captain, not a separate guide. But, we started seeing birds right away before even getting on the boat, and our captain was a very good at spotting wildlife, and we saw a ton of birds and at least 20 crocodiles along the river banks. We then headed into the mangroves where the boat captain again wowed us with his ability to spot very small birds inside tangled mangroves. Late afternoon is a great time for photographers as well, as the light in the Tarcoles mouth area is for some reason especially sublime in the late afternoon, both on the water and up in the hills.

We then head to dinner at the time of our dinner ‘reservation’ which is odd because it’s a buffet. The food is all right, nothing special. We then made an attempt to confirm our guided bird tour of Carara national park for the next day. Which we had asked Federico the owner to book for us months in advance. Well, as it turns out, they hadn’t booked our tour. We attempt to ask the waiter/cook/dishwasher about this, and he has a woman who we presume to be the manager, who asks us whether we want a generalist or “un especialista en aves.” We reply that it’s the latter, and eventually we they bring us a phone with Federico who tells us we are on a tour in Carara beginning 8:00 the next morning (park opens at 7:00 which is when the best birding is). He also suggests that I explore the road outside Cerro Lodge’s grounds before leaving for our tour. I thank him and we set our reservations for the breakfast buffet the next morning. We try a bit to look for an owl that is known to hang around the lodge grounds at night, but it’s way too windy, so we turn in.
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