Wildlife, Adventure Abound on Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast

Day 24, 2024 Grand World Voyage

Friday, Jan. 26, 2024; Quepos, Costa Rica.

I’m beginning to understand how people get into birding. For me, it would be the challenge of finding – and taking great photographs of – as many birds as possible. Of course, I would have to learn about each kind of bird, and its habitat, and how the male looks different than the female, etc. And at that point I would give up. I wrote about it during my safari last year.

So today I just enjoyed seeing birds and taking photos that are mostly in focus. Throw in a few crocodiles and a monkey hidden in the trees, and it was a fun day spent on the central Pacific coast of Costa Rica.

Quepos’ marina is full of shiny white fishing boats, testament to the central Costa Rican port’s fame as a top destination for big game sport fishing. The Zuiderdam is the first Holland America ship and the largest ship of any cruise line to call on this port. The Windstar, with its 140 passengers, anchored near us and shared the tender dock.

Our morning started early, as our travel agency’s all-day tour met at 6:45 a.m. in order to get an early tender to shore. We traveled by bus about an hour north along the Pan American highway (Alaska to Argentina) to reach the Tarcoles River and Guacalillo Estuary. I was glad to see the Jungle Crocodile Safari’s small boats provided welcome shade from the relentless sun.

I immediately saw a bird hidden in the bushy shadows of the shoreline and then a large crocodile lazing on the opposite shore. We moved slowly along the river as our guides used laser pointers to highlight birds, crocodiles and iguanas that blended into the mangrove forests and muddy riverbanks.

Cattle Egret
Yellow-crowned Night Heron
Bare-throated Tiger Heron
Roseate Spoonbill
Snowy Egret

As this is one of the largest colonies of American crocodiles in Central America, there was no shortage of sightings.

It is illegal in Costa Rica to feed the crocodiles, but that didn’t stop another tour operator from taunting, at the least, young ones into jumping for a treat. I’m guessing they’ve been trained with illegal food when no tourist cameras are around to document the act.

A rustling noise in the trees alerted us to the presence of at least one Panamanian white-faced capuchin (monkey to me), which I barely caught through the 1200mm zoom lens of my camera. (It’s a good compromise between weight, price and super zoom — for more details see the link above.)

After enjoying some of the best pineapple I’ve ever had back at the boat dock (and the restroom facilities), we headed south for a gondola ride through the jungle canopy.

The Rainbow Adventures Aerial Tram ride was reminiscent of the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway near Caines, Australia. However, unlike that ride above the forest canopy, this gondola travel through a cut in the trees, much like a ski lift. So I never had the feeling of hovering over the forest or of traveling through the trees. Still, it was amazing to see the tall trees and small waterfalls along the creek below.

After a typical local lunch buffet of white rice, black beans, chicken and pork dishes and some salads I passed on (avoiding uncooked produce), we returned to the ship for its mid-afternoon departure. As we walked to the tender port, dozens of iguanas stuck their heads out of the rocks along the waterfront to see us off.

Black Spiny-tailed Iguana

Yesterday was Elaine’s birthday, and our cabin stewards surprised her with a towel cake adorned with chocolate “icing” and paper “candles.” The captain sent a birthday cupcake to the room and the dining room stewards presented a birthday dessert at dinner. She begged off the birthday song, as we plan a celebration dinner next week after Eloise recovers from a head cold.

As if that wasn’t enough celebration, the Lido buffet featured a mini cake extravaganza at lunch.