Tag Archives: Caribbean

Day 15 – Puerto Viejo II – Rescue, Recovery, Refresh

Sunday 5 March 2023 – Nearly half way through our holiday in travels around Costa Rica, and we have now finished the first of our two bags of Twinings Earl Grey tea.

For breakfast, Eric was front of house and presided over a really very good breakfast, probably the best we’ve had during our time in Costa Rica.  It set us up for an absorbing day, visiting two places, each dedicated to helping the local wildlife, each in its quite different way.

The first visit was to the Jaguar Rescue Centre. This is a temporary or permanent home for ill, injured and orphaned animals. With a focus on monkeys, sloths, other mammals, birds and reptiles, the JRC provides veterinary services, round-the-clock care and comfort to animals that would otherwise be unable to survive in the rainforest or the waters of the Caribbean. It has quite a remit, since it is obliged to accept and take care of any animal brought to it that is sick or injured. The Rescue Centre provides the veterinary services, 24-hour care, and comfort to animals; the Sanctuary is the permanent home, where the best possible conditions and care are offered to those animals that cannot be released back to nature due to their physical conditions. The Rescue Centre typically handles over 800 animals a year and has cared for over 5,000.  If I understood correctly, they are currently providing care for some 492 creatures in all.

A remarkable place, with a wonderful, caring attitude; and, because of its stock-in-trade, some sad stories of injured, ill or abused animals that can never be released back into the wild.  We took plenty of photos there, and some of them are not what you might call great wildlife photos because of the conditions that the animals have to live in – not free to return to the wild, for their own good or the greater good of other wildlife. But here they are anyway, to show you some of the range of animals currently in care.

For example, they have two wonderful scarlet macaws, which were kept (illegally) as pets and so could not survive if they were released. Wonderful creatures, but impossible to get good photos.

There are some owls, a spectacled owl

and a black-and-white owl,

who has lost an eye probably due to the superstitious belief that owls are harmful creatures, so people often throw stones at them.

There’s a very cute two-toed sloth

which actually suffers from dwarfism and so couldn’t survive naturally.

There’s an American crocodile which has lost an eye,

some slider turtles,

and a caiman

which is in the same enclosure as the turtles, but apparently has jaws too small to present a threat to them (probably all ex-pets). There was also an agouti there – nothing to do with the centre, it had just found its way in naturally and was quite happily cohabiting with the other animals.

They have spider monkeys each with their own, often sad, story.

They have Amazonian parrakeets

and they gave us our first chance to see a keel-billed toucan at close quarters.

(A beautiful creature, but, like all toucans, a nasty piece of work – they have been described as the most vicious predator in Costa Rica.)

My vote for the most beautiful animal there is

the margay.  I think it had been kept (illegally) as a pet but had escaped and slaughtered thirty of a neighbour’s chickens before eating only one of them.

On the subject of cats, it is apparently difficult to tell the difference between margay, jaguar and ocelot when they are kittens.  The very first creature brought to the centre was a young kitten which actually turned out to be an ocelot, but they initially thought it was a jaguar, hence they called the centre the Jaguar Rescue Centre, even though there are not and never have been any jaguars there.

Our other activity today was to visit the Ara Project at Manzanillo. This is a conservation programme dedicated to saving the critically-endangered great green macaw. Having found the place, which was up quite an alarming drive from the road, we had a chance to read the information boards about the work the foundation is doing, followed by an introductory chat from Marcelo,

who explained a few more details about the life cycle of the birds and the problems they face from predators (e.g. toucans, which predate the chicks, the bastards) and loss of habitat (particularly the forest almond, whose wood is extremely hard and therefore sought after for, e.g. housebuilding). When the centre was set up, there were no green macaws in the area, but now there are over 100 who come and go as they please.  The foundation have set up some nesting boxes (fashioned around plastic dustbins, actually) which provide a safe haven for the birds and make it a little easier to check up on the success of breeding.

There was some excitement even before we were taken to the viewing area as some macaws came by.

and then we went up to an elevated spot from where it was easy to see some stations set up with “snacks” for the birds to tempt them to come by.

I didn’t expect to have any problems getting some fine photos of macaws as they perched in the surrounding trees, and indeed it wasn’t difficult.

What I really wanted to achieve were some shots of the birds in flight.  This was less easy.  I could get them at a distance

but getting close-up action shots of them was very difficult.  I took around 450 images, over half of which I would immediately discard for being out of focus, poorly framed or even not including any macaws at all.  Here is a gallery of some of the less-unacceptable results (Jane maintains that the last of these is actually a photo of an angel…)

Whilst all this was going on, someone pointed out that there was actually a sizeable two-toed sloth in the trees above us, and this provided a bit of a diversion.

Jane got a real Chewbacca shot of it,

and I took some video as it (relatively speaking) sprinted about the branches.

Anyhoo, back to the macaws.  There was a nesting box visible from the viewing area

which seemed to be of passing interest to a couple of the birds, but whether it was actually in use or not I don’t know.

I guess this is the best shot of the session from my point of view – the nearest to what I’d visualised as possible and which also shows why they are called green macaws.


That was it for Parrots Of The Caribbean, and it was time to go.  Also, it had started to rain (actually, we’d been lucky with the weather today – it rained for much of it, but not while we were out).

It was time for a late lunch/early dinner, and Jane had spotted a restaurant near the Ara Project called El Refugio (Facebook page here).  It was there I noticed another characteristic of the Caribbean area of Costa Rica:

cats.  This was the only area of the country that we’d so far seen where there were cats; everywhere else it was dog-only.  That’s not to say that the restaurant was cat-only

as two examples of the local tamelife came to inspect our meals.  Their luck was out, but ours was in – the food there was very good indeed.

The journey back to our villa was therefore in twilight, which was a bit daunting,

as the local cyclists, of which there were very many, it being a Sunday, don’t seem to think it necessary to have lights on their bikes. Still, we made it without knocking any of them over, at least as far as we could tell in the half-light, and that was it for the day.

The morrow sees us move on to our next port of call, which is shaping up to showcase a very different aspect of Costa Rican life, so do please come back to these pages to see where we ended up next.



Day 13 – Tortuguero to Puerto Viejo. No Wildlife Photos!

Friday 3 March 2023 – A couple of things I didn’t know about elephants:

  1. That there are some in Costa Rica
  2. How they got up the stairs to the room above ours

We were scheduled to leave Tortuga Lodge today. Reverse engineering our time of boarding the boat that got us here in the first place leads inescapably to the conclusion that said boat would have to leave the Lodge at 0830.  Counting back from that for the routine of getting up, packing, checking out, getting breakfast and so forth means that we’d set the alarm for 0630, which is borderline relaxed for us when travelling.

The elephants, however, were clearly operating to an earlier schedule, thundering about in the room upstairs, so sleeping much beyond 5am turned out to be impossible,  Amazingly, by the time we’d got up and packed, they had mysteriously vanished – not a sign of elephant dung to be seen or smelt.

The net of this is that we had a relaxed, if slightly tired, start to the day – it was raining quite heavily, and someone told us that the Tortuguero dry season is when it is slightly less rainy than the wet season so we’d obviously been lucky with the weather.  The process of getting here was played out in reverse – arriving at the  Caño Blanco embarcadero soon after 10am in glorious sunshine once more and disembarking, followed swiftly by our bags. As with everything else to do with the Lodge, it was cheery, well-organised and efficient.

Our hire car was where we left it, apparently undamaged, so we queued up to pay the $2 to spend a penny each and the $12 for parking the car there beside a handy guide to Costa Rican Spanish.

Kind of explains why the travel firm who made our arrangements is called Pura Aventura, eh?

A town called Puerto Viejo was our next (old) port of call, and the journey there was unremarkable in that the Costa Rica road system didn’t traduce us too badly. We had to grind along Route 32 a bit more and then turned off, driving past apparently endless banana plantations.

Pura Aventura had recommended a restaurant called Las Olas in a town called Cahuita, and we thought we could also use the break to pick up essential supplies. As soon as we drove into Cahuita and found the restaurant, the Caribbean vibe of the area became clear.

Even the palm trees were laid back in their approach to growth.

We had a good lunch. I ordered a tuna steak, which was the largest I have ever addressed with a knife and fork – it was the size of the entire dinner plate, and was delicious.

We identified two supermarkets in the town which might serve our needs.  They both proved surprising, but the first particularly shocking.  It stocked tonic – but not gin! There were all kinds of other spirits on the shelf behind the (Asian) cashier, but he simply stared at us when we tried to explain what gin was.  It seemed he’d never come across gin and tonic before.

So we hastened to the other supermarket. The (also Asian) cashier there didn’t know what gin was, either, but at least there was some on the shelves behind him, so we could do the English-abroad thing of pointing at an item and speaking loudly and slowly.

So, stocks of gin, tonic and peanuts refreshed. Phew!

Cahuita has a definite Caribbean vibe

and it was clear, as we drove to Puerto Viejo, that the area’s style was going to be very different from what we’d experienced thus far in Costa Rica.  We had about 10 miles of laid-back driving to get to Villas Piña, and completed that with no further incident beyond the discovery that the speed bumps in this part of Costa Rica hunt in packs of three, which can come as a bit of a surprise when you only expect the two that seems to be standard elsewhere.

Villas Piña is a very well-organised establishment – half a dozen identical well-equipped villas, with large rooms with kitchen and a nice veranda to relax on.

It’s run by Sharon and Eric. Sharon efficiently showed us how things worked and generally sorted us out, and this allowed us to settle in for the rest of the day. The morrow holds (yet) another morning wildlife walk.  But it’s laid-back, relaxed, Caribbean wildlife, so we don’t start until half past seven in the morning.  The only known items are the rendezvous point and the name of the chap we’re to  meet – I really didn’t know what else to expect, but wasn’t going to get caught short on the lens front again. So, tune in again soon to find out exactly how that worked out.