Manuel Antonio National Park

Friday dawned fresh and clear. I needn't have bothered setting an alarm, the sun streaming through the thin curtains and the sounds of jungle wildlife a few feet from my door were enough to gently wake me. The bus down to the national park was prompt, and we got there after about 10 minutes driving.

The tour itself took several hours, but we were only on the move for about 30 minutes. The rest of the time was spent in different spots with the guide explaining various bits of information about the flora and fauna that we were looking at. Equipped with a spotting scope he made sure that we all got the chance to see the various creatures in the park as close as was practical.

The route through the park is very straightforward, consisting of wide gravel tracks, with towering trees on either side.

The first animals we saw were three-toed sloths, getting ready to slow down for the day. The first one was quite distant, and after looking through the scope I was idly glancing this way and that while the other members of the group took their turn. Looking up I was a bit startled to see another sloth slowly moving along a branch not 20 feet away. We took turns peering at it through the scope, and it peered right back at us.

We carried on along the path towards the beach, along the way seeing bats, spiders, Halloween crabs, raccoons, more sloths, and hearing howler monkeys off in the distance.

Spider in the middle of the web

Halloween crabs

There's a lizard sunning himself in the middle of this photo

This raccoon was no stranger to people

The beach was to be our first encounter with white-faced Capuchin monkeys, who are very comfortable around humans. Unfortunately, people have shown themselves incapable of following the "Do not feed the animals" signs around the park, and this meant that the monkeys have learned to fish trash out of the bins for any scraps that have been thrown away, and to distract owners from their backpacks before making off with them and unzipping the various compartments looking for food.

Yes, that's a discarded crisp packet. But they fetched it out of the trash themselves

The beaches themselves were straight out of a brochure; golden sand, blue skies, palm trees, little islands off in the bay, and we spent a bit of time on the beach (with bags safely secured) before continuing the last quarter of the tour.

Non-indigenous fauna

Up in the trees was another sloth, but this time of the two-toed variety. The guide's description of him as "Costa Rica's Chewbacca" was very apt.

Our guide proved to have sharp eyes; as we were walking carefully along a path by the lagoon he spotted a caiman lurking in the undergrowth. Members of the crocodile family, they're distinguished from crocodiles by the shape of the snout and position of the eyes. They also tend to be a fair bit smaller than crocs.

There's a caiman hiding in this photo

Not 30 feet further down the path we discovered two small boas curled up in the branches of trees overhanging the path.

Because it was high tide the tour finished with a 30 second boat ride across a small lagoon, before heading back to the tour bus for very welcome fruit and water.

View Manuel Antonio Hike in a larger map

I spent the rest of the day enjoying a lengthy siesta, the heat having brought on a bit of a headache. I felt it best to self-medicate with a couple of drinks by the verandah and let the day go by.

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