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