Costa Rica is absolutely spectacular when it comes to wildlife watching. Not only do the have one of the highest diversity of species in the world, these animals, lizards and plants are accessible to view and enjoy. A well planned trip to Costa Rica will assure you of seeing some of the most amazing sites you will ever witness.
Wildlife Watching: Birds of Costa Rica
There are 874 species of birds in Costa Rica. Hiring a knowledgeable guide is the best option for seeing plenty of birds, but it is also possible to spot many of them on your own if you have a keen eye. There are so many varying types of forests and terrains in Costa Rica, so make sure to visit more than one, which will improve your chances of seeing more species. Some of the better places to visit are Osa Peninsula, Monte Verde, Talamanca Mountains, Guanacaste, Manuel Antonio and Braulio Carrillo National Park. In fact, for all animals and birds, these locations will offer optimal chances to spot wildlife. Some of the more famous birds to glimpse are the Toucans, Parrots, Macaws, Mot-Mots, Vultures, Pelicans, Ducks, Herons, Storks, Cranes and too many more to mention. Just know that you will see water birds, birds of prey, hummingbirds and nocturnal birds. The best thing you can do is to get a bird book, mark off the ones you want to see, and get to Costa Rica to start exploring.
Wildlife Watching: Monkeys of Costa Rica
Monkeys are everywhere in Costa Rica. There have been conscious rehabilitation programs instituted in areas to help create easy movement for troupes across roads and farmlands. This has helped to maintain a high population of monkeys. The most prevalent monkeys are the Capuchin, or white-faced monkeys. They are playful and noisy. If you are lodging in or very near to the jungles, you are almost certain to see these animals. A more elusive group of monkeys are the howler monkeys. They are not often spotted by the normal tourist, but if you have a guide that knows the area and maybe where they congregate, you can catch a shot of them. They are bigger then the white faced monkeys, and the size and shape of their jaw makes for a massive sound. The completely black howler monkeys travel in smaller families, and usually stick to a particular pattern of movement. Spider monkeys are the other type found in Costa Rica. They are smaller, and range in colors from auburn to light brown. A particular group known as the Titi monkey can be found in the Manuel Antonio area.
Wildlife Watching: Reptiles of Costa Rica
Costa Rica is flush with lizards and snakes. Out of the 130 different types, there are a number of beautiful snakes that you need not worry about meeting, but there are three in particular that you do not want to encounter. These would be the bushmaster, fer-de-lance and the terciopelo. Always be on the look out when hiking, and try to find a reptile center where you can go in and visit these wonderful creatures from a safe viewpoint.
Iguanas are also abundant all over the country, and fun to watch. There are some breeds that lounge around the beaches all day, and others that prefer to hand out in trees. The green iguana is beautiful, and the bigger ones, almost two meters in length, can look like small dragons.
One of the more famous lizards is the ‘Jesus Christ Lizard’. These guys were named as such because they stand up on their hind legs, and can run fast across the surface of water.
Trips into the mangroves will allow you to encounter the caimans and crocodiles. Saltwater crocs are the biggest in the world, and seeing then resting on the side of the bank is enough to make your hair stand up. There is a bridge crossing just north of Jaco that is famous for spotting these prehistoric beasts. Any given day you can see up to 30.
Wildlife Watching: Flowers of Costa Rica
Summer in Costa Rica is flower season. Many people choose to create fences around their houses with shrub flowers such as the mariposa, or hibiscus. It is synonymous as a tropical flower. The most widely recognized and loved flowers belong to the Heliconia family. There are more than three hundred types of these flowers and their leaves can be just as spectacular. They are commonly known as Bird of paradise, but local guides can give you their more specific names. Another exquisite flower, and often overlooked, is the banana flower. It grows at the end of a banana formation, and when open, it brings a smile to your face with its bright white petals.
Wildlife Watching: Trees of Costa Rica
Flowering trees are found in all parts of the country and vary heavily depending on where you visit. Some of the more vibrant ones are the Poro trees with their bright orange flowers, the Tabebuia with its pink and white flowers and the Poró-Poró (cotton tree) with its huge yellow flowers.
Some of the other trees that nature lovers enjoy are the Ficus trees, famous for their massive roots systems. Mangrove trees are fascinating because of the way their roots seem to walk through the mud and waters, insuring their survival.
Wildlife Watching: Other Notable Creatures
Sloths are one of the local favorites. They rest languidly in the tops of the trees, only moving when the sun has dropped. If you have a local guide, he can help you spot one easily. Crabs may not sound so exciting, but along the rocks and mangroves you can find some really colorful specimens. One in particular that is interesting is the Tiger crab. When held in a certain way, its back shell resembles the face of a tiger. There are reports of Jaguars still in Costa Rica. There are rarely ever seen, but still believed to be present. Tapirs are huge jungle dwellers, resembling long nosed pigs. There is an effort in parts of the country to rehabilitate them as they were wiped out as a food source previously.
So many animals and flowers can be enjoyed in Costa Rica. If you plan to go there, do your research so you will be sure not to miss anything you see.