Costa Rica – Wildlife up close at Manuel Antonio National Park

Best Wildlife Experience at Manuel Antonio National Park

There’s one place in Costa Rica that exemplifies Pura Vida, Manuel Antonio National Park on the mid-Pacific coast, south of Jaco.

Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio’s 4,014 acres are a concentrated section of coastal jungle, home to 109 species of mammals, 184 species of birds, and dozens of reptile types. Also there are marine mammals, whales, porpoises, and varieties of fish off the park’s beautiful beaches. The best way to take it in is with a guide.

Manuel Antonio National Park, Costa Rica, Pacific Coast, jungle, monkeys, birds, lizards, iguanas, sloths. Toucan, cicada, Howler Monkey, agouti, porpoises, whales, reptiles

I arranged a tour through my hotel. My guide, Filipe carried a spotter scope on a tripod, and he knew the habitat of each creature. His telescope was camera adaptable, so I could take close-ups of all the animals. Unguided guests missed most of the wildlife, even when it was right in front of them.

The first animal we sighted was a Three Toed Sloth. So slow that in the rainy season its fur turns green with moss.

Next was an Agouti, a 10 lb. red furred rodent. Filipe said as a teenager he killed and ate them. “Very tasty,” he claimed.

A hundred yards down the trail we found a troupe of Howler Monkeys. These primates are in the top 10 of loudest beasts, with a territorial cry up to 150 decibels, heard three miles away. Howlers account for some of the jungle’s eerie sounds at dawn and dusk. They are the biggest New World Monkey, up to 10 kg (22 lb).

Manuel Antonio National Park, Costa Rica, Pacific Coast, jungle, monkeys, birds, lizards, iguanas, sloths. Toucan, cicada, Howler Monkey, agouti, porpoises, whales, reptiles

Howler Money

We soon heard another of nature’s loudest creatures, the Cicada, a winged beetle-like insect. Though only two inches long, Cicada’s songs reach 120 decibels.

The Keel Billed Toucan is said to be very social, flying in flocks of half a dozen, but the one we saw was a loner. They are always bright, though colors vary, up to 22 inches long, with 6 inch beaks.

Next in our lens was a Hoffman’s Two Toed Sloth. This sloth is an omnivore, said Filipe, “He feeds occasionally on slow insects as well as leaves.”

Down by the beach a troupe of White Faced Monkeys was in some low trees, and I didn’t need the telescope to photograph them. Smaller than their cousins, the Howlers, they are less reclusive. These are the ones likely to steal human’s possessions or food. We saw one characteristically grooming his friend’s pelt. Later in Manuel Antonio village we saw another troupe of White Faces sneaking through a hotel garden, looking for trouble.

Manuel Antonio National Park, Costa Rica, Pacific Coast, jungle, monkeys, birds, lizards, iguanas, sloths. Toucan, cicada, Howler Monkey, agouti, porpoises, whales, reptiles

White Faced Monkey

Seen beach side, the Basilisk lizard, which hunts and eats juvenile Iguanas. With its ear flaps extended for balance, the Basilisk can run across water.

Another impressive lizard was also beach side. The Black Spiny Tailed Iguana is not a true Iguana. It is large, and looks similar.

The final creature we saw before leaving Manuel Antonio National Park was another Hoffman’s Two Toed Sloth. Viewed through the telescope, it seemed to be looked back at us and smiling.
By Andrew Kolasinski

Manuel Antonio National Park, Costa Rica, Pacific Coast, jungle, monkeys, birds, lizards, iguanas, sloths. Toucan, cicada, Howler Monkey, agouti, porpoises, whales, reptiles

Manuel Antonio Park Beach

MANUEL ANTONIO ESSENTIALS

Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio, Admission $10. Telephone 2777-0644

Park Information: http://www.manuelantoniopark.com/mapk/default.asp

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