Tag Archives: La Sirena

Day 25 – Final flights of Angel’s and more (sodden) wildlife

Wednesday 15 March 2023 – Against all my expectations, the night in the bunks proved to be a great deal less unpleasant than I had been expecting. OK, the occasional disturbance came as someone used a flashlight to see themselves to the loo, and for about an hour there was a very annoying snorer in, I think, the neighbouring bunk. But, that aside, both Jane and I awoke feeling, if not fully refreshed, then at least not completely enervated by the whole business. Whilst I’d been backing up photos at lunchtime yesterday, Jane had attempted a nap and said that the bunk area was very hot; but by the night, it was a tolerable temperature – although no bedclothes were needed.

So, up at 0430, and ready to leave at 0500 with Angel. We were, unsurprisingly, not the only ones embarking on an outing, and the soundtrack as everyone got ready was supplemented by Howler Monkeys in the nearby trees.

Almost immediately we were on to something; the news spread that there was an actual Tapir to be seen, a juvenile Tapir crossing one of the rivers. Angel got us there in time to see it emerge from the waters.

Then, just as I was preparing to take some video

the Tapir shot off into the forest – spooked, we think, by a crocodile nearby. (The eagle-eyed among you will have spotted the croc beside the log in the first two photos above.)

Remarkably, the general excitement of actually seeing an actual Tapir (not that we were that fussed, as we’d seen loads of them, well, four, anyway, a couple of weeks before) was exceeded shortly after, since there was an adult still feeding nearby. My first view of it wasn’t all that encouraging, photographically speaking

(usual problem – vegetation getting in the way), but there were some people really quite close (you can see them in the background here)

and so I was able to scurry round and join one of those “blimey, here’s something interesting” groups of punters all trying to get their photos. Everyone – even the French guys – kept really quiet, and the animal seemed completely unconcerned.

I even managed some video.

Not that we were desperate to see another Tapir (hah! hark at us!), but it was quite something to have one grazing so close by. Later on, since we’re talking Tapirs here, we saw this:

evidence that Tapirs also strip and eat the bark off some trees.

We headed off to the shore once again, where we saw a Tiger Heron,

which stubbornly refused to turn to face us so we could more clearly see the stripes that give it its name, and also a Tricoloured Heron

which (of course) had buggered off before I got to see it, but Angel captured this shot for us on Jane’s phone.

One of the things we really wanted to get was a properly framed photo of a Scarlet Macaw. Angel obligingly found a tree where a couple were perched. The higher one was hiding behind a twig, and just as I found the lower one, it decided to leave, so all I got was this.

We’ve seen (and heard!) plenty of Scarlet Macaws, but still haven’t nailed the perfect portrait.

The only other thing we saw during the morning was a female Curassow

but generally the early morning start had been rewarding for our time of communion with a Tapir. So – breakfast time, and we had to “check out” of the Rangers’ Station, meaning clear any of our stuff from the sleeping area. We kept the wellies and the lockers until it was time to leave, thank goodness.

The breakfast break gave us a couple of photo opportunities. The first was the array of guides’ spotter scopes, looking highly reminiscent of walking palm trees.

The second was a chance sighting – at distance, as it crossed what used to be the airstrip – of a creature I’d never heard of:

a Tayra. If you see one, you can weaselly see that it’s stoatally different from anything we might see in the UK.

Thank you. Thank you for listening to one of the oldest known jokes in the English Language.

So, everyone set out again on the last of the guided tours associated with an overnight in La Sirena.

We came across a pool with a couple of groups looking at something. This was another “need the guides to spot the creature” scene. Your task, should you accept it, is to spot the wildlife in either of these scenes.

Here they are: two caiman.

How do these guys spot this stuff?

The next major encounter was one of my (many) sources of photographic frustration. We had the perfect vantage point to see a troop of Squirrel Monkeys as they went by. Jane captured this video (which appears to show one of the monkeys plummeting ground-wards at the very end – but apparently they are so light that such falls are unlikely to hurt them)

(the clicking sound you can hear in this video is me trying to get a decent shot) and what I came away with was this shot of mother and baby.

My frustration? I was so excited about actually being able to see them (rather than just seeing the foliage thrashing about) that I forgot to check which end I was at of my zoom lens. Of course, I was at the wrong end. If I’d been paying proper attention to the photography, I’d have got some closer and better images. Ho, hum.

Actually, the rest of the morning was fairly quiet, photographically speaking. It was also hot (I estimate at least 30°C, but then I might be exaggerating, here) and very, very, very, humid. My favoured clothing for this kind of activity comes from Rohan, and the shirts (all right, officer, I’ll come clean, shirt) I’d been wearing for the preceding days had been brilliant at wicking away the perspiration that pores out of me at these temperatures. But this particular morning was too humid and the general sweatiness of the whole thing was getting to me.


Once again, the guide-being-able-to-spot-stuff thing gave us a fascinating several minutes. If you don’t like snakes, look away now.

This was a Tropical Bird-eating Snake, some two-and-a-half metres long (a guess, I didn’t ask it).

and it was doing some very snaky things in its search for, I guess, birds to eat. I’ve cobbled together some video that Jane, Angel and his scope and I took.

Altogether very fascinating, and we spent quite a bit of time watching this creature being both sinister and spellbinding.

As we trudged along in an increasingly sodden state, I did take a couple of shots of further sylvan boskiness.

We were grateful for the Rangers’ work using local materials to create steps to help us poor stumbling, sweaty punters through the muddy bits.

We saw a few more creatures worth noting as we headed back to the Rangers’ Station:

Female Slaty-tailed Trogon

and we did see the busiest Leaf Cutter Ant trail <Clarkson mode ON> in the world <Clarkson mode OFF> (and this is actual speed, not speeded up)

and then we arrived back at the Rangers’ Station, where people were preparing to leave to catch a boat to wherever.

We walked to the reception point where we’d signed in, blimey, was it only yesterday? and there was a lot of milling about as we waited for about an hour for our group to be called.

Eventually it was our turn to walk along the beach

to re-run the Dunkirk thing again.

Our boat journey was not back to our original embarkation point, but on to Drake Bay, where we were assured that lunch was awaiting us. We were given instructions to follow a chap in red shorts who would lead us to the restaurant, which was good in theory, but he was a sprightly young thing who leapt off up the not-inconsiderable slope of the track to this restaurant, not giving a fig for his rôle as interim tour guide, and leaving us weary, sweaty punters well in his wake. Bastard. Anyway, we found the restaurant, and had a hasty lunch and eventually a “taxi” (4×4 pickup truck, thankfully with our suitcases from El Remanso on board) arrived to take us – along roads that reminded us uncomfortably of the Nicoya Peninsula – to our next stop.

Our next stop was a place called Tranquilo Lodge. After a bit of working out where the actual entrance was, we got a very pleasant insight into what awaited us. Bear in mind that we were both tired, hot and (in my case appallingly) sweaty after an intense 36 hours in the Corcovado National Park; bear also in mind that the place styles itself Corcovado’s Best Hotel; so the delightful welcome we got from Christophe and Sebastien, who own and run Tranquilo, really lifted our spirits as well as us and our baggage. The route to our room was up a very steep hill and we got a ride in Tranquilo’s lovely new golf buggy and Sebastien explained how everything worked and suggested that we should come to the bar to watch the sunset over a glass of something. He also provided some exceedingly important resources

so we were able to settle in to our room, with its splendid deck

before heading up for that sundowner.

We have four whole days here, with practically nothing to do except decompress. The last 48 hours have been wonderful (cold shower excepted); the four weeks that preceded it have been excellent; but it’s now time for us to relax and enjoy what looks like splendid accommodation.

I shall rhapsodise about Tranquilo in a future post. But, because there’s not a lot on our agenda for the next four days, I don’t know when I shall pen further deathless prose for your enjoyment. Check back in in a few days and see how things develop, won’t you?

Day 24, Part 3 – Second flight of Angel’s

Tuesday 14 March 2023, 1400 – I took the opportunity during our 90-minute lunchbreak to back up the photos we’d taken that morning and to recharge phone and camera in preparation for whatever wonders the afternoon had in store.

Almost immediately we hit the forest, Angel did his stop-and-point thing and even I managed fairly quickly to see what it was he was indicating – a Lineated Woodpecker. And the resulting image demonstrates elegantly why I always recommend to photographers that they shoot in RAW. If you shoot just JPEG, you’ll get something like this:

But with the extra detail available in a RAW image, you can get this:

We came across a Tinamou nest and its beautifully-coloured eggs –

I’m amazed that a coatimundi or peccary hadn’t made a meal out of it, frankly – and we saw a couple of Crested Guan at fairly close quarters, entirely unfazed by groups of punters, which meant they sat still for their close-ups, thus saving me some angst just in case I needed some for later.

We saw something new – a Scarlet-rumped Cacique (female, unfortunately – the male has wonderful orange decoration around the eyes, apparently) –

and something not new – a three-toed sloth, which Jane swears is smiling

but I’m buggered if I can see that. Never mind.

Then things got quite a lot more interesting quite quickly. The first sight was of the fourth kind of Monkey found in Costa Rica, the Squirrel Monkey. We’ve seen Howlers and Capucin and Spider Monkeys; and we’d seen in the distance the movements in the trees that signified Squirrel Monkeys coming through. But I finally got a clear sight of one of these small creatures (only about 25cm from head to bum) and I almost got a sharp photo, too.

Then The Word Got Out of something important to see and we scurried off in the direction indicated and – lo and behold! –

I got my Anteater shot, after all. I even got some video of it, too.

It had breached a termites’ nest and the termites were understandably less than happy about that so they went after it. This is why it is scratching and trying to use the tree to rub the attackers off.

Soon after that, I got my very first Potoo. OK, it was only a Common Potoo, but I’d never seen one before, so it wasn’t common for me.

This was another demonstration of the value of a long lens and a big sensor, as I was using, as opposed to a phone-and-scope setup. Angel managed to get this shot on Jane’s phone:

slightly larger, yes, but with chromatic aberration defects to detract from the overall quality.

We got another demonstration of the skill of guides. There are two birds in this scene, and I couldn’t see them for ages.

Yes, there they are:

male and female Yellow-Crested Night Herons.

We followed the river to the shore, where a Urania Fulgens moth obligingly stopped for a rest so I could take a photo;

and the beach had a dead tree on it with an extraordinary root system.

We saw Black Hawk Up,

and, as we neared the Ranger Station at the end of our tour, a Costa Rica take on the Monkey Puzzle Tree.

It was, in the end, a very satisfying day, despite the frustrations I felt at points along the way about my inability to (a) see things and (b) get photos of them.

Once back at the station, we had a shower. It was a cold shower. Jane reckons that that was exactly what she needed after five and a half hours and seven and a half miles in the sweaty forest. I reckoned it was fucking torture, and something I never want to do again.

Dinner was served from 6pm and we took the opportunity to go early, mainly because – guess what? – tomorrow’s start would be an early one. The facilities at the station are basic but well-organised; Jane got the top bunk and I got the bottom bunk, and we settled down for what we expected to be a poor night’s sleep, given that there are several other people in bunks in the same area

and we had to be up and ready to go out at 0500 the next day.

The next exciting episode will cover the night’s sleep and the following day’s action-packed, erm, action – come back in a day or so to find out how it all panned out.

Day 24, Part 1: Cor! Covado

Tuesday 14 March 2023 – I don’t think that I ever, in all my 42 years in Corporate life, had to get up at 0330 and wait, in fear and trepidation that the taxi wouldn’t show up to whisk me off to wherever. But that’s what this particular Monday morning held for us. It never happens in business, therefore we must be on holiday travelling. The plan was to catch a boat to La Sirena, where we could spend a couple of days in the wildlife reserve that is the Corcovado National Park, an ecosystem that is reputed to house some 5% of the world’s total biodiversity.  Our mission, which we appear to have accepted, was, unsurprisingly, to see what we could see and what photos we could get of this huge biodiversity. But it required this early start.

The combined efforts of the agency looking after this particular segment of our trip and the concierge team at El Remanso, however, seemed to be on the same page, and Luis (the El Remanso chap who had picked us up in Puerto Jiménez) arrived at 0415 bearing breakfast wraps.  He would have picked up our bags from our room, too, but in an excess of caution I’d brought them along in case we needed sudden and swift access to them.  The agency had sent a pickup truck and so we rode the bumpy trail back to Puerto Jiménez. The idea was that we should take just an overnight supply of essentials to La Sirena and our suitcases would go on to meet us once we’d left the National Park.  Since my backpack was full of all my camera gear, this meant that Jane had take on a minimal change of clothing and toiletries for us both.

It was at this point that my visualisation of the journey to the National Park proved really wide of the mark.

I had fondly imagined that the reason for the early start was so we could go to this port (Puerto Jiménez, after all, would appear to have ambitions of portliness), where we would be catching a day-trippers’ boat of some size to get us to a disembarkation point near to “La Sirena”, where there is a ranger’s station at which we would spend the night,

Not quite.

What actually happened was nearer how I imagine the retreat from Dunkirk must have been, but without the military uniforms and the threat of enemy fire.

We were deposited near something that could only just about be graced with the the title “beach”, where it was clear that many other people were expecting to go on a similar journey to ours.

The soundtrack was amazing, courtesy of some parrots in the trees.

Fortunately there was someone there (apparently the daughter of the local  owner of some (all?) of the boats) who knew what was supposed to happen and therefore managed to develop some kind of order from the apparent chaos.  At least we had a decent sunrise to watch whilst we waited to see what happened next.

The lump on the horizon to the left of the rising sun is apparently Volcán Barú in Panama, which is normally hidden by clouds

The organiser lady put us in contact with a chap who calls himself Hossway, though for some reason he spells it Joshua, who had been given the mission to look after us until we met the guide who would lead us in La Sirena, even though he wouldn’t be travelling on the same boat as us.


After a while there was a concerted rush to the water’s edge as a small flotilla of small boats started to head into shore.  We’d noticed that a lot of people had taken their footwear off, so we did the same, just in case, and wondered whether the Tevas we were wearing were going to be the most sensible option.   We, along with a goodly number of Francophones, scrambled aboard what we hoped was the right boat and after a while it set off in what seemed to be roughly the right direction.  Other boats were doing the same thing, which gave a little confidence.

The Pura Aventura materials had talked about a fast and bumpy boat ride on a small boat

and that’s what we got – 90 minutes of very bumpily rounding the southern tip of the Osa Pensinsula (at one stage we could have waved to Luis at El Remanso, had he been watching out for us). We passed a couple of interesting sights en route: a magnificent storm cloud

which fortunately wasn’t targeting us; and a rock which is home to the Costa Rican supply of Brown Boobies

whose nests were being looked at, I imagine with greedy eyes, by Frigate Birds (with the white beaks).

We also Had A Moment when someone spotted some dolphins and so the boat did a couple of slow circles whilst everybody gurgled with pleasure and took photos of the patch of sea where there’d been a fin just milliseconds before.

Eventually we arrived at what we knew was going to be a “wet landing”.  Ours wasn’t too wet as it happened, but it could well have been.  The boat and shore crew can have their hands full keeping control of the boats.

So, there were were, on a stony beach, a bunch of people at least two of whom were wondering what the hell was going to happen next, again with an extraordinary background soundtrack.

We linked up with Joshua and he led us half a mile along the beach to a “welcome” station, where one’s bags are checked for contraband such as food or single-use plastic bottles.  (We came to an agreement with the chap there that he would ignore the small plastic bottle I mentioned that I had with me, provided I promised to take it away with me – slightly embarrassing moment.) There’s a check-in book which we also wrote our details in.

And then we three set off on the mile-long walk to La Sirena’s Ranger Station.  At one stage, Joshua cautioned us not to brush against this acacia bush

as it provides a home to fire ants (they live in the hollow thorny-looking structures), who earn the right to live inside the plant by fiercely defending it against any attacks.  Apparently, their bite is pretty uncomfortable; but we weren’t afflicted.

We saw some kind of hawk on the walk (sorry, don’t know what sort, may be a Grey Hawk)

and also passed a tree which Joshua called the Tourist Tree

because it peels in the sunlight.  Ho, ho.

So the first exciting installment of the morning came to an end as we arrived, around 0800, at the La Sirena Ranger Station.

As well as being where the National Park Rangers base themselves, it does a healthy sideline in supporting tourism in Corcovado.  All tours in the National Park are guided, and the guides also use the station as a base.  There are sleeping facilities

(more of that later), a dining room and a kiosk.

The kiosk is where you can rent a towel, a pair of rubber boots and a locker, all of which Jane and I did – my camera backpack weighs 30lb and I was buggered if I was going to (a) lug it around on a wildlife tour or (b) leave it lying about.  You are obliged to take your shoes off before going on to the station,

so we left our Tevas on the rack, donned boots and were introduced to the chap who would be our private guide for the next day and a half – Angel.

We were due to undertake four guided walks with Angel – two today and two tomorrow.  He proved to be an excellent guide and we saw Lots Of Stuff.  Now that I’ve set the scene, I’ll describe the walks (the “Flights of Angel’s”) in separate posts; I hope you’ll come back to read how they all went and how successful were my attempts to capture the local wildlife.