This area specializes in producing the artisanal cheese that is a mainstay of Costa Rican breakfasts. We visited a hotel staff member’s family farm to watch her Mom & Dad go through the 2hr cheese making process. They repeat this twice a day - once at midday and again at midnight (!!). (Turrialba, Feb 3)
During the day, the red-eyed tree frog flattens itself out and covers up its colorful legs to prevent attracting predators. When the frog’s bright red eyes are closed, they’re covered with special eyelids to help it blend in with the leaf. The weblike lids appear reptilian - they’re worth zooming in.
Strawberry poison-dart frogs. The belief is that the various species of dart frogs take their name from native Colombian tribes who used them to make poisoned arrows. The hunters rubbed their arrows on the frog’s back and when the arrow penetrated an animal’s hide, it entered the bloodstream and caused paralysis.
Green & black poison dart frogs are poisonous, but not lethal to humans. Unlike others, the dart frogs are good parents. The male picks a leaf, with a low risk for predators and no sunshine, for the eggs to be deposited on. Even a few minutes of sun exposure can be fatal to the offspring. The eggs are constantly watched and once they hatch, the female gently carries the tadpoles on her back to a place where they can safely mature into froglets. While there, the female returns regularly to feed them her own unfertilized eggs.
Female golden orb-weaver spider’s 3-dimensional webs shine like gold in the sunlight. Science has tried to figure out ways to use the super strong spider silk. If wikipedia is to be believed, certain fishermen remove the webs and form them into a ball, which they later throw into the water. There it unfolds and is used to catch bait fish.
Sloth spotting has exceeded our expectations! The beach goes on for several kilometers and along our walk this guy was perched on a tree overhanging the surf. At first this juvenile three-toed sloth was rolled up and looked like a nondescript cluster of leaves. But, we patiently waited him out and after about an hour he finally snacked for a few minutes. (Punta Uva, Jan 29-31)
South of Cahuita sit quiet Punta Uva and Manzanillo with nearby Puerto Viejo for a few blocks of restaurants and activity. Pristine beaches offer kilometres of walking. In this time of overtourism - that we’re a part of - it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find such spaces of solitude. Above: a tranquil bungalow in Punta Uva.
Always interesting to learn (or relearn:) how and where everyday foods grow ... these nutmeg fruits are used for 2 spices. The fruit is sun dried until the nutmeg seed shrinks away from its shell and the shell is used for mace. Fun fact: In large doses, nutmeg can cause a psychotic episode that could last up to 3 days.
This sloth was in an animal sanctuary along with other animals found injured or confiscated by the government from homes where they were kept as illegal pets. The injured are often returned to the jungle, but unfortunately the former pets usually haven’t learned the skills needed to fend for themselves. Over lunch in the village we watched a wild one lumber about in a nearby tree trying to find a peaceful spot away from the pesky birds. Interestingly, it takes sloths a month to digest a single meal and they only come down from the tree about once a week to dig a hole to urinate and defecate before returning back up to their perch. This separates their scent from where they live to make them less vulnerable to predators.
A trio of wild capuchin monkeys visit the sanctuary for casual hook ups with a troop of females. The hope is that once the females are well enough, they’ll take off with the males for a better chance of integrating back into the wild. The impressive thing about the sanctuary was that the public was only allowed in for 1.5hrs on a once per day tour, so there weren’t any tourists teasing or feeding the animals - always a sad sight.
Rich brown termite nests are a thing of beauty and their denizens taste good too (we even had seconds:). The termites here don’t bite, they taste citrusy with a bit of crunch and if you rub them between your fingers, the sap-like resin provides relief from mosquitoes. They’re listed on a website noting 7 [protein rich] insects you’ll be eating in the future.
Protected land covers over 25% of the country. So when this main east-west thoroughfare intersected with nature, the tree dwellers got their own bridge system - netting strung between trees on each side of the highway. The nets appeared to extend into the forest, presumably to make the crossing as natural as possible. Tunnels provided safe crossing for other wildlife. Sadly (for nature and independent travelers), the highway from San Jose to the relatively undeveloped east coast is being significantly widened as part of a pact the country reached with China and its Silk Road Economic Belt initiative. (Bajos de Chilamate, Jan 22)
My 59th birthday was spent traipsing through the reserve’s virgin forest. Literally walking through clouds left our skin feeling dewy plump. Rufous-tailed hummingbirds are the aggressive ones of their species. There was a lot of time spent chasing each other away from food sources and occasionally dive bombing close to our heads.