Volcanoes, Bridges, and Waterfalls: More from Costa Rica

I’m leaving tomorrow morning for a quick research trip to Oklahoma for my dystopian storm book.  (No, I don’t know what I was thinking scheduling two research trip so close together. My hiking boots aren’t even dry yet.)  But thought I’d share a few more Costa Rica photos before I go.

Morning spider web at Selva Verde Lodge

A few people have asked where we stayed. In the Sarapiqui region, it was a place called Selva Verde Lodge.  The rooms are in buildings, raised up on stilts in the rain forest, and covered walkways lead all over the property so you don’t get drenched going to dinner during the afternoon rains.

And it rains a lot.

Here’s the  hanging bridge that leads from the main property of Selva Verde, over the Sarapiqui River to the primary rain forest. 

And here’s one of the less exotic birds we saw on our morning bird walk around the area.

Chicken with Chili Peppers!

While most of the week was spent in Sarapiqui, we also stayed a couple nights at the Arenal Observatory Lodge near La Fortuna. This was the view from the room.

Arenal is an active volcano, and it was quite active while we were there. We were lucky to have some great views of the cone, since it’s almost always shrouded in clouds.  Every few hours, we’d hear what sounded like very loud, sudden thunder, and then see this.

At night, we could actually see red-hot boulders glowing as they rolled down the side of the mountain – something I’ll never forget.

The property at Arenal Observatory Lodge was lovely, too, and there was a great hike to a waterfall.

My friend Loree Griffin Burns, who was in Costa Rica earlier this year, told me that I absolutely had to go zip-lining while I was there.  I like and respect Loree a lot, so I signed up for the zip-lining thing.  What Loree neglected to mention was that this would involve taking a tram up the side of a mountain…

…and then flying back and forth, down said mountain at 40+ miles per hour on cables that were up to half a mile long and 600 feet above the ground. 

But there is something about Costa Rica, the beauty of the land and the friendliness of the people, that somehow makes this seem like a perfectly good idea. So off I went!

Can you see me? I am that tiny, scared speck zooming along in the middle of the cable.

Tomorrow, I’m off on a different sort of adventure — a quick trip to interview an incredible storm scientist and tornado chaser and to tour the National Severe Storms Laboratory in Norman, Oklahoma.  No tornado chasing on this trip, though…at least it’s not in the plans!

Morning Wake-Up Call: The Birds of Costa Rica

The Sarapiqui region of Costa Rica is incredibly quiet and incredibly loud, all at once. At Selva Verde Lodge, where we stayed, the buildings are on stilts in the middle of the forest, and there are no windows — only screens — so all night long, frogs chirp, insects buzz, and critters rustle in the underbrush below.  There was no sleeping in, for a couple reasons. First, the rains came each afternoon at around three or four, so we didn’t want to miss any  of the dry daylight hours. And even if we had wanted to sleep past dawn, there were the birds.  They were LOUD. 

And they were stunning.

Crested Guan near Arenal Observatory Lodge

Montezuma Oropendola – This was one of my favorite birds, with its long yellow tail, and it made the loudest warbling call in the morning.

Here’s a tree full of oropendola nests close to our room at one of the lodges (which explains why the birds were so loud that last morning!)

Here’s a keel billed toucan…and over in the next tree…

…a chestnut mandibled toucan.

Mangrove swallow on the Sarapiqui River

An anhinga dries its wings along the river bank.

Blue crowned motmot.  That’s fun to say, isn’t it?  Motmot.  This one sat on a branch near the deck where we were having breakfast our last morning in Costa Rica, up in the hills of Heredia.

I’ll share more photos later on, and if you’d like to see some of the other wildlife I photographed on the trip, you can check out this post.

Home from Costa Rica: Thoughts and a whole lot of wildlife photos

My blog has been mighty quiet this past week or so because I’ve been in Costa Rica, researching one (and possibly two!) future books set in part in the rain forest.  This is an ecosystem that’s fascinated me since I was in third grade, so getting the chance to spend a few days in the Sarapiqui River area of Costa Rica was just amazing.  I spent most of my days hiking in the forest and staring either up into the trees or down at the ground. Here’s some of what came into focus through the camera lens…

We spotted two kinds of poison dart frogs (and heard them, too! They make a loud chick-chick-chick! sound in the rain.) 

Here’s a blue jean poison dart frog, so named for his denim-colored legs.

Giant iguanas were draped over limbs above our heads, sometimes sharing trees with sloths or monkeys.

A two-toed sloth in a tree near the swimming pool…

A white-faced monkey eats breakfast.

There were also lots and lots of bats, swooping in and out of the restaurant when we ate dinner and hanging around in and on trees during the day.

Long-nosed bats on a tree along the Sarapiqui River.

There were caimans all along the river, too — they’re like crocodiles only a bit smaller.

Until this trip, I thought a basilisk was just a mythical Harry Potter snake that could turn you to stone.  But this is a basilisk, too.

It’s an emerald basilisk – Sometimes, they’re also called Jesus Christ lizards because they can run across the water.  I loved the colors in these creatures.

Some of my favorite wildlife sightings happened on our longer hikes, after we’d crossed a hanging bridge over the river to go deeper into the primary rain forest. At one point, our guide, Alex, motioned for us to follow him off the trail and into a stream, where he turned over leaves until he found this.

It’s a glass frog – Isn’t it incredible the way he blends in with both the foliage and the eggs?

There were also leaf-cutter ants, marching in huge armies through the forest and up and down trees.

And there were some rain forest residents that we needed a zoom lens to photograph, like this one…

We actually just hiked around this hognose viper at the edge of the trail.  Alex marked the spot with some sticks so other hikers wouldn’t step on it by accident, since it blends in with the leaf cover. 

This snake, though, was a different story. 

Alex stopped us several yards back and warned us that it was a Fer-de-lance…more venomous, more aggressive, and right in the middle of the trail.  After we snapped a few pictures (this is the only clear one I have….my hands were shaking, so the rest are all blurry), he coaxed it off the trail with a long stick.  We watched as it slithered up onto a tree limb, and then passed by, giving it plenty of space.

After our hike, the rains came as they did each day, and I spent the rest of the afternoon in the hammock outside our lodge room, writing and outlining.  But there was one last visitor from the forest…

This slender anole sat quietly next to me on the hammock for over an hour.  I’ve decided that he must be my muse for this new book.