MY LAST MONKEY ENCOUNTER

As it was our last day, we returned to our villa in the late afternoon and the boys voted to hang out on the deck until dinner – relaxing. The guide had told me that the best time to see monkeys is from 4-5pm before the sun heads south on the road that leads north of the lodge. The benefit being that the road is on a ridge cutting through the jungle. I spent almost two hours hanging out on the road, watching the wildlife.

The first encounter were these Spider Monkeys. A male, female and a baby about 10 meters from me at eye level (as they were 20-30 meters up the trees, it was a sharp drop off beside the road). They just swung beside me. I think I watched them for almost an hour.

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Those babies need to hold on tight.

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The dad emerged from a tree beside me.

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I walked a little farther down the road and watch a group of Howler Monkeys raid the fruit off a tree.

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Their agility is remarkable.

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This fellow stood parallel to the ground, thanks to a very strong tail.

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As I walked back to the lodge, this little fellow hung about 2 meters above me, enjoying some fruit (unfortunately, he was directly into the sun).

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One way to make a few hours fly by. And then it was all over …

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THE SOUNDS OF THE COSTA RICAN JUNGLE

The one thing that we got use to quickly at Lapa Rios was the sleeping. You learn quickly that early to bed is a must, because like it or not, early to rise was in the cards. By 8:30pm it was pitch black. Which is why they suggested that you bring a flashlight as you walk along the path – the lighting is dim. Getting to sleep was not an issue, as it is dark, dark, dark and you didn’t want to leave your light on as it attracted insects.

Lying in your bed, you could hear a hundred different sounds. Hit the play button here for a sample. Of course, there is always the exception. The cicada has to be the loudest, most annoying insect alive. It was like hearing fingernails down a blackboard if one was around.

A cicada (pronounced /sɪˈkɑːdə/ or pronounced /sɪˈkeɪdə/) is an insect of the order Hemiptera, suborder Auchenorrhyncha, in the superfamily Cicadoidea, with large eyes wide apart on the head and usually transparent, well-veined wings. There are about 2,500 species of cicada around the world, and many remain unclassified. Cicadas live in temperate to tropical climates where they are among the most widely recognized of all insects, mainly due to their large size and remarkable acoustic talents. Cicadas are sometimes colloquially called “locusts”,[1] although they are unrelated to true locusts, which are a kind of grasshopper. They are also known as “jar flies”. Cicadas are related to leafhoppers and spittlebugs. In parts of the southern Appalachian Mountains in the United States, they are known as “dry flies” because of the dry shell that they leave behind.

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Enjoy the Cicada.

The jungle starts to wake up around 5AM. Enjoy the sounds of the jungle, the ‘whoo whoo whoo’ is the deep call of the howler monkeys. I loved the early morning chirps and sounds of the birds, a pretty cool way to wake up.

And of course, a pretty amazing sunrise.

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THE OSA and MANY MONKEYS

Our favourite jungle hike was the Osa trail, with tons of wildlife and 3 different types of monkeys. Our first encounter was a small family of Spider Monkeys who swung above us (60m up) and seem very interested in our movement. The guide explained that of all the monkeys, the Spider Monkey is the most aggressive. The male spent many moments shaking the trees to signal that he didn’t want us around. The previous day another family told us all about their encounter with the Spider Monkeys who warned them off by throwing feces (LOL). We were lucky.

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The elevation changes on the trail were significant, you would often be looking down 60 meters or more as the jungle sloped down. This made for a few great encounters. We came across this Squirrel Monkey as he made his way through the jungle canopy. He was at eye level to us, but about 20 meters up a tree. Fun to watch him meander on his way.

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Further along the trail we came across a White Capuchin Monkey, which the guide explained is one of the most famous monkeys – often seen in movies. Also very smart.

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He was all by himself. The guide suggested that his ‘tribe’ was around so I climbed off the trail, up a little hill and sure enough, there they were. About 30 of them, hanging around and playing in a huge tree, relaxing during the hottest part of the day.

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Amazing to watch.

THE MONKEY THAT GOT AWAY

We were walking back to our lodge from lunch. My camera was in my backpack (a big no-no), but I wasn’t really thinking that I would see anything that I had not already shot on the walk back. Ayden stopped and pointed up, there was a beautiful Macaw in full view. He wanted me to take a shot.

I pulled out my camera (with 70-200mm attached) and all of a sudden not 2 feet up from my head was a rustling. We stepped apart (Ayden down the path – me up the path) and barrelling down the tree came this Howler Monkey not inches from us.

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He stopped at the railing. I was stepping back (a bit surprised). He paused. He looked at me. He looked at Ayden. Then barrelled across the path and I just held down the shoot (without aiming). Why are they blurry? Because the lens won’t focus that close – below 1.4m – as it is a telephoto. He was almost on top of us.

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He whipped up another tree and stopped for a look back.

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THE MONKEYS of COSTA RICA

What would a trip to the jungle be without a post on the monkeys? Lapa Rios has 4 type of monkeys and they are a highlight.  With a jungle canopy of 80 to 100 meters, as I mentioned in a previous post, they are difficult to photograph as you are shooting up into the sun. But with patience, you will see the right shot. On our second day (and first big hike), this was my best shot, a Spider Monkey. Pretty bad. But it is all about patience.

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I found myself just watching them, until the guide called us away or it was time to head down the path. They are truly amazing creatures, swinging from tree to tree in huge groups, making what looked like 10 meter jumps from tree to tree. While walking down to the beach, we witnessed our first big jump. A group of Spider Monkeys were working their way through the canopy above us (60-80 meters) and I got these shots.

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No fear.

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The coolest thing was that the mother jumped with a baby on her back.

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We also got out first glimpse of a Howler Monkey, hanging out. We would hear lots of Howler Monkeys over the coming 10 days. Like nothing I have ever heard.

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BIODIVERSITY AND COLOR

Costa Rica claiming 25% of the worlds biology is not hard to swallow after you stroll through the jungle. In Canada, we have many different flowers, insects and mammals. But their coloring is much more subdued. Not so in the jungle, on the trip we saw all range of color – from bright colors to metallic.

Everyone knows about the beautiful parrots, macaws and like. There were beautiful birds everywhere. The key thing about spotting something in the jungle is not as much your eyes as your ears. I spotted all of these birds by their sound as they flew in and rustled the branches, or with the case of one bird pair … as they ate fruit and drop the rinds to the ground, through the jungle canopy.

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A dragonfly with fluorescent wing tips, just like in Avatar.

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I don’t remember all of the names (I have a laminated card in my office somewhere) .. but below are a few more colorful jungle inhabitants. The fiery billed Aracari.

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The vultures wing span had to be 8 feet. They just floated over us, day after day.

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A poison dart frog.

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The 8 foot Boa that spent the entire time we were there hanging out in the restaurant. In this shot, he was looking down on the men’s toilet ….

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I spotted this Parrot hanging out eating fruit over our room.

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As we hiked, we got lucky. The Trogon is not easy to see.

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Your room was properly protected with screens. But they always find their way in. This grasshopper was the purest of green.

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You don’t see metallic green bugs in Canada. It was about 10’ off the path and I just couldn’t stop marveling at the color.

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This dung beetle is brightly colored for a reason. Touch it and enjoy a noxious reward.

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Amazing.