Where the wild things are

Sloth on the beach or see one in the jun­gle... Jane Waksh pon­ders the op­tions in Costa Rica

Buckinghamshire Advertiser - - GLOBE TROTTING -

IF you want to be the next David At­ten­bor­ough and nar­rate a fab­u­lous wildlife doc­u­men­tary then head to Costa Rica as ev­ery mo­ment in th­ese na­tional parks and na­ture re­serves is pure ‘wildlife gold.’

Bio­di­verse be­yond be­lief, in 1980 the Costa Ri­can gov­ern­ment re­alised na­ture could be nur­tured into a prof­itable as­set.

By 1991, eco­tourism had re­placed cof­fee as the num­ber one rev­enue gen­er­a­tor and now a to­tal of 35 per cent of the coun­try’s land is pro­tected.

The jun­gle jewel in the crown has to be the Mon­teverde Cloud For­est Re­serve, a huge 26,000-acre vir­gin for­est, home to more than 400 species of bird and 2,500 plant species, and only 180 peo­ple are al­lowed in each day.

Forests aren’t nec­es­sar­ily best viewed from the ground, much of the ac­tion takes place high up in the canopy. Stretch­ing through the re­serve for two miles, the Sel­vatura walk­ways cross eight suspended bridges and arc through the for­est canopy. If you like wild more than wildlife then you can even zip­wire!

Costa Rica has many vol­ca­noes, the most fa­mous be­ing Are­nal which reg­u­larly leaks pho­to­genic drib­bles of glow­ing lava – un­til re­cently. Since 2010 it has been quiet.

It is def­i­nitely worth a visit as a breath­tak­ing sight and you can hike among the lava fields and take boat trips on the calm wa­ters of Lake Are­nal. The area has many hot springs and there are sev­eral ho­tels that make the most of the geo­ther­mal ‘spas.’

From here head up to the Cano Ne­gro Wet­lands and take a boat tour on the Rio Frio. Get your cam­era ready for the Caiman bask­ing in the sun­shine, tur­tles splash­ing into the river off logs whilst sloths and mon­keys watch the spec­ta­cle. The birdlife is equally spec­tac­u­lar with king­fish­ers, night­jars, the en­dan­gered jabiru and a greater po­too

keep­ing a watch­ful eye.

Costa Rica has a choice coasts, the Caribbean and the Pa­cific of­fer­ing jun­gle-fringed beaches ad­join­ing a na­tional park.

In­evitably they at­tract crowds, es­pe­cially Manuel An­to­nio which is the go-to beach des­ti­na­tion for golden sandy coves and turquoise wa­ters. How­ever, it is still an en­joy­able place to spend a few days, ei­ther re­lax­ing and tak­ing in the views or kayak­ing and snorkelling for the more stren­u­ous.

The top five wildlife to spots in Costa Rica are: the sloth; the Re­splen­dent quet­zal (shim­mer­ing turquoise and scar­let birds); poi­son dart frogs; Cen­tral Amer­i­can squir­rel monkey and the Basil­lis­cus (Je­sus Christ) lizard – aptly named as they can run across wa­ter on their hind legs.

A sloth in the Costa Ri­can jun­gle and the stunning Ce­leste Falls

Beaches and vol­canos are part of the rich land­scape in Costa Rica

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