Costa Rica Day 1: Monkey Business

If you read my first post from Costa Rica, you know the jaw-dropping landscape I woke up to Friday morning.  That was just the beginning to a day full of beautiful weather and wildlife encounters.

On our way to breakfast, we passed a massive amount of country side and it was full of different farms. We drove by rice fields, grazing fields full of cattle and mule, miles of palm tree farms that grew palm fruit used for palm oil, a palm oil refinery and Teak tree farms. The Teak tree is skinny and tall, and is used mainly for construction.

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Palm tree

We ate breakfast at a gorgeous hotel restaurant called Costa Verde which is adjacent to Manuel Antonio National Park and Beach. It was perched on the side of the mountain and overlooked the water and the park. To our enjoyment, we saw some monkeys in the trees. Luckily, that was only the beginning to our monkey encounter that day.

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View from Costa Verde

From breakfast, we drove down the long and winding road spotted with unique hotels and restaurants and through the small town at the bottom. On Palma Norte-CR 34, we made our way to a monkey tour in the mangroves near Quepos. We passed through a long dirt road off the highway surrounded by hundreds, if not thousands, of palm oil trees. As we pulled into the location of the tour, we were greeted by the tour guides, along with a sweet dog, a turkey and other birds and a sloth, which is the first one I’ve ever seen.

A few minutes later we were on our way in the small, but long boat used to navigate the tiny canals. There I was in the rainforest of Costa Rica, feeling like I was on a water ride at a theme park. It was unreal. The water was shallow, but we couldn’t see the bottom because of the brown mud that covered it. During our ride, we observed various animals and plants such as:

  • pink ginger
  • black and red mango mangroves
  • Guanabana (a fruit that is acknowledged as a cure for cancer)
  • a crocodile
  • crabs
  • a hawk and other birds
  • basilisk or “Jesus Christ” lizards (they can run across water)

Of course there was more that I can’t think of or could not even pronounce, let alone figure out how to spell, if I tried. It was incredible being so close to nature in a way I never before have been.

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A male basilisk (behind) and a female (forward)

Did you forget about the monkeys? The whole point of this tour was to see the monkeys, and part of the reason I wanted to come to Costa Rica. We met up with another boat from the same company, which was already surrounded by about five monkeys. I have to say monkeys are some of the cutest animals with which I have ever had the pleasure of interacting. Their squeals were so tiny, I compared them to my dad’s cat (Hi, Teddy)! I was sitting in the front of the boat, so the tour guide picked me to interact with the monkeys first. He had me stand at the bow (front) of the boat and hold my hand right in front of my chest with my palm up. He warned us to not make eye contact with the monkeys and to not grab them (I was not planning on trying to catch a wild monkey to begin with), and then he smeared some banana into my hand. It took a few minutes for the monkeys to warm up to me, but one or two did come to me and grab some banana out of my hand. Okay, maybe by that time I was considering grabbing one and taking it home with me.

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Monkey Business

Four more of our six people party tried their turn with the monkeys, and then we were on our way down the canal. We boated to the the mouth of the canal where it met the river and we continued onward. Our guide tried calling one of his friends, an older monkey he has formed a bond with over the years, but he was nowhere to be found.

The guide told us he liked  that the water was high tide, because he didn’t have to worry about getting stuck. We stopped the boat near a very thin strip of land that separated the river from the ocean and chatted a bit there. This was the first time I ever saw a river flowing right into the ocean, and it was mesmerizing. The rough ocean water broke down onto rocks on the other side of the land strip and calmed down as it carved around the land and entered the river. The water here is brackish: half salt and half fresh.

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Ocean meets river

We eventually turned around and headed back through the luscious forest. The trees, roots and large ferns lining the water were right from a Jurassic Park movie, I’m almost positive! We pulled into the dock, said our thanks, and headed back towards home. However, we ventured a little off road, which I will talk about in the next post.

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