Costa Rica- Manuel Antonio
We had a fairly long bus ride to the Manuel Antonio area and were totally amazed by the changed climate in just a few hundred miles. In San Jose it was really quite chilly and super windy, but by the time we got to Manuel Antonio it was a whopping 36, humid and wall to wall sunshine! It took a bit of a change from wrapping up in San Jose, so I took as many layers off as legal and sweated my life out!
The hotel at Manuel Antonio was a typical Tucan Tour kind of joint, pretty run down and mouldy but okay. Some of the others were really unhappy and one couple even left and rented somewhere else for the two nights. Okay, it was pretty damp, but for two nights I didn’t see a major issue with it. I wonder if our standards have dramatically decreased to rock bottom or other people have high standards, I have no idea. The main issue was a super slippy bathroom with sharp tiles. We had noticed this but clearly not taken enough caution as Matthew had an awful fall. I saw it in slow motion and really thought he would have broken something as it was such a bad one, but he was okay thankfully and just had a few cuts and bruises. I nearly cried though because seeing him fall so badly really frightened me- it’s horrible seeing someone get hurt and not be able to do anything to stop it.
Manuel Antonio is primarily famous for its wildlife, so we set off at the crack of dawn to hit the National Park. We met our guide at 7 and he was wielding something that looked like a camera tripod. Turns out it’s a super magnifying lense so you can zoom in into wildlife in the distance. I couldn’t believe how amazing it was- as soon as we got through the gates he had spotted something, popped his tripod down and my jaw dropped as I looked through- a howler monkey- perfectly visible, hanging out in the trees. It was so exciting.
As we went through the park the excitement every time he popped the scope down was almost tangible- looking through and not knowing what you were going to see was just awesome. I squealed in excitement a lot, particularly at my first sloth spotted in the tree tops.
We saw all sorts of birds, bats, lizards, iguanas, spiders and the shots through our guide’s lense were just fantastic. It is a beautiful place filled with wonderful animals in their natural habitat, undisturbed by humans- it was a treat to say the least.
After our guided walk had finished we took a hike up to the viewing point. We had hoped to spot a whale but it wasn’t to be, but we did see a dainty little humming bird hanging around a flower, and the most amazing army of ants transporting leaves through the forest. I’ve missed the exercise so getting my sweaty bum up those stairs was really enjoyable.
We were all so hot that by the time we had got back down the mountain we were desperate to cool off so we dived straight into the ocean. It was so warm but so therapeutic after being saturated in sweat! There were loads of monkeys and raccoons on the beach pinching peoples stuff so we had to take it in turns to guard our belongings. The raccoons in particular creep up so silently that you can easily miss them. They’re really cheeky- turns out the naughty raccoon in Pocahontas is actually a pretty realistic depiction of the nature of these creatures!
I was so shocked to see a man feeding a monkey- I tried to explain to him that it’s really dangerous and bad for the animals’ natural instincts but he didn’t understand me, or maybe he didn’t care. Dave (the 78 year old legend) shouted at him after a while and he shrugged and walked off. The impact of feeding animals on their relationship with humans is terrifying, and no one is to know when these seemingly cute animals will strike. The guide told us that people have had fingers swiped straight off and only the day before he had seen a monkey chewing through a small iguana, bones and all. Bundles of fluff they may be, but they are wild and people completely underestimate them. That aside, the animals need a natural fear of humans to keep them safe- people are doing them no favours feeding them like pets.
We sat on the beach for a while chatting with some of the older people in the group and learning about their lives, occasionally fighting off cheeky raccoons. After we had adequately discussed how shocking animal feeding is, a little raccoon approached Matthew who was holding a bag with some banana skins in. The raccoon would not be shooed away, Matthew panicked and threw the bag at him in the fear of a rabies bite, and the raccoon ran off with it between his teeth. Dave ran after the raccoon trying to retrieve it and telling Matthew he was silly! We laughed a lot and armed ourselves with sticks so we didn’t have that situation again!