Since my visit to Galapagos in 2011 in Central America, I have been planning to visit Costa Rica to photograph some of the rare birds that are endemic to that region.
It was during the month of July 2014, when I visited Toronto, Canada to join our batch get together in Niagra Falls ( 1967/68 Engineering batch studied at the University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka); I had the opportunity to visit this beautiful country, the “Land of Birds” sometimes known as Switzerland of Central America . More than a third of the land in Costa Rica is forest, which is reserved and protected to preserve the Fauna and Flora of the land.
Lilani and I stayed two weeks in Costa Rica from 8th July 2014. The first three nights we stayed close to the Carara National Park and the Tarcoles River, two hours drive from the San Jose International airport. We did two boat trips on the Tarcoles River on two mornings apart from a visit to the Carara National Park. Although, we sighted more than fifty bird species, I was able to photograph close to thirty including a Mangrove Hummingbird, American Pygmy Kingfisher and the Scarlet Macaw. Unlike going on a vehicle, trekking in the rain forest with camera equipment and photographing birds was not easy, especially with its high humidity.
Thereafter, we moved towards the cloud forest (elevation 2000-3500meters) on the southern part of Costa Rica. We spent our next three nights at the Savegre Hotel, which has its own land of nature reserve over 400ha (elevation 2200meters) in the cloud forest. Once again, I was able to photograph over thirty bird species that were found in the cloud forest especially the Resplendent Quetzal that belongs to Trogon family. The male is very colourful. Apparently, this bird is endangered since the super predators, the humans, are destroying the cloud forest. Apart from the Quetzal, I had a great sighting of Hummingbirds, Tanagers and Flycatchers including many other bird species that are confined to the cloud forest.
Our next destination was to visit the Corcovado National Park for seven nights, located South of Costa Rica, facing the west coastline of the Osa Peninsula, which is the largest park of the country; and it is one of the few remaining sizable lowland tropical rainforests on the Planet Earth. Also; the home for a small population of the endangered Baird’s Tapir including the very rare Harpy Eagle, which was my main interest in visiting the Corcovado. Even Jaguar and Puma are very rarely sighted. The first four nights we stayed at the Casa Corcovado Jungle lodge, bordering the north of the park, which had no road access. Hence, we had to use a motorized boat, which took almost 90 minutes.
During our stay at the lodge, I trekked into the park once and the rest of the days around the lodge. The inclement weather hindered our movement. Although I was able sight the Black-cheeked Ant-Tanager, endemic to Corcovado, Costa Rica, the overall stay at the lodge was not to my expectation in terms of wildlife. Apart from a few other birds, I was able to photograph the Spectacled Owl and the Chestnut-mandibled Toucan in the lodge surroundings.
The last three nights in Corcovado we stayed at Luna Lodge located outside the South of the National Park, that had road access from the main land. A Far better place than the previous location in terms of wildlife; we sighted more than fifty bird species, including Hummingbirds, Trogons and the Tanagers. Also the lodge location was better for bird photography. There was a rare sighting of Puma by two ladies from Boston, who trekked into to the National park on one morning, which we missed. According to my bird guide at the lodge, there was no sighting of Harpy Eagle during the past few years, which disappointed me. During our stay at Corcovado I also had the opportunity to photograph a few different species of monkeys such as the White -faced, Spider, Mantled Howler and the Squirrel.
After Corcovado, We returned to San Jose by a domestic flight. Our last three nights in Costa Rica, we stayed at the Arenal Hotel in the Volcano Mountains of La Fortuna, which was two hours from the airport by road. It was a more relaxing place similar to Nuwara Eliya in Sri Lanka, rather than bird watching. However, I was able to photograph a few bird species including Grey Hawk, Green Honey Creeper and Collared Aracari.
Before returning to our motherland we spent three nights in New Jersey, USA at Dr Manilal Dahanayake’s residence where he organized a dinner to the Sri Lankan community; where I had a successful sale of my (wildlife) book the ‘’ Odyssey into the Wild”.
Although I went to Costa Rica in July, the best period to visit that country is in January to April, especially for bird photography.