Saturday, April 5, 2008

Manuel Antonio National Park

Our first real day aboard the Pacific Explorer started with a good breakfast and plenty coffee in the dining room on the first floor. After catching up on some much needed sleep the night before and getting some caffeine, we were ready to meet the day.

The night before, we met the staff and they let us know what was in store for us this morning so needless to say, we were pretty excited. This was to be our first of many wet landings and the idea of splashing ashore and exploring the rain forests of Costa Rica had my sense of adventure peaked. I was ready to meet the dangers of the wilderness head on. Especially since it was clear the professionalism of the safety conscious crew and naturalists meant I had nothing to fear. Phew!

One thing to point out is that before any of us gets to shore, the crew has already been there and back setting up a drink station and some chairs and towels so you can dry your feet if you want. Even though they have drinks, make sure you bring the bottles of water from your room and keep track of them for the whole ten days. The idea is to reuse the bottles to prevent needless waste and I thank them for that. Just refill on board or at the drink stations as needed and carry them along on the walks.

Once we were ashore, our groups naturalist gathered us up and talked about the history of the area, the plants and wildlife as well as the way the land we were on was formed. It had used to be an island but I won't spoil the rest for you.

Before we had even walked 100 yards we had already seen several kinds of wildlife, some of which are pictured below so as you can imagine, we were all pretty eager to see what lay ahead.

The first thing we saw was a set of tracks that were obviously from some large man eating cat and it was going to be up to the fearless naturalist to keep us safe. As you can see by the picture below, danger lay around every bend.

And shortly after that we ran across a dragon

Now I have to warn you, my wife and I differ a bit in our opinions regarding exactly what some of these things were so I'll let the pictures speak for themselves and you can decide what you think. Either way, we both agree the day was worth the wait.

The next thing we saw was a sloth, and during our day we actually saw several. Both the 2 and 3 toed variety. This picture was taken by placing our camera against the lens of the naturalists telescope. Thank goodness for that handy device because although I could see them with my eyes, I couldn't get a clear shot with our camera.

This next picture is one of many cool looking plants and flowers we saw, but I really liked this one because it grew up so high and is another picture taken through the telescope that came out pretty well.

We found out later in the evening that not every group sees the same things and that we were in fact one of the lucky ones. The reason is that what we saw next, others on the cruise wouldn't see for another day or so. Up to this point we had been wandering through the rain forest and up a hill. The next area we went was deeper in and as we went around a bend suddenly all around us were monkeys. They were pretty entertaining as they jumped all over and it was pretty amazing how close they were. Now granted, this is a well traveled tourist location and beach for the locals, but these little guys were close enough to touch at times. Very cool.

Another kind of monkey we saw were howler monkeys, but I didn't get a good picture of them. They were lounging high up above us in the trees content to keep their distance and toss down the occasional half eaten fruit.

Here is a picture of Danielle and I in front of some bamboo that was pretty impressive. You can't see it all, in fact you only see a small part of it, but the picture gives you an idea.

Pretty much from the moment we stepped on shore to the time we were back on the boat we saw a large variety of birds, almost all of which I was unable to capture with our camera. There was one exception though, and it is this mother and baby here. The bird was referred to as a stick bird because as you can see it blends in with the branches. In fact, the only way I could see it or get the picture was by looking through the naturalists telescope. He then took this picture through the telescope like the sloth and flower above. At this point I was pretty close to being convinced these birds weren't really there and the telescope was really a high tech digital viewfinder, but how to explain seeing the sloth with my own eyes?

This wraps up the pictures from the day and what we did next was go back on board the boat for lunch then back on shore for an afternoon swim. I am not much of a swimmer but the water was more like a bath and I couldn't resist. While we were swimming, those who chose to do the canopy walk did their thing. This was one of only 2 things that cost extra on the cruise (about $85/person) and we decided to skip it.

Then it was back on board for social hour, the evening wrap up and a quick run down of the next days events. The great thing about this is all the things you learn about the area and the question and answer time. If I haven't made it clear, the naturalists know an awful lot about the area and can answer most questions in a clear and entertaining way.

Right after this we all headed to dinner and then back to the sun deck for more relaxing in the evening. I will leave you tonight with a couple of pictures of the sunset before heading off to bed. Tomorrow we head to the Corcovado National Park for a walk, picnic lunch on the beach and an afternoon of zip lining. I sure hope I can sleep.

Until then.

Photos taken with Canon Powershot A570is

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