Tag Archives: Puerto Viejo

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 14 – Puerto Viejo I – many, many wildlife photos!

Saturday 4 March 2023 – From the goodness of my heart, not to mention the paucity of material, yesterday I spared you from a write-up containing hosts of wildlife photos. Today? Not so much. Adopting the (alleged) mantra of Australian foreplay, all I can say is “brace yourself, Sheila”.

We weren”t condemned to too early a start, but  still an 0600 alarm was needed to get us up, breakfasted courtesy of victuals delivered early to our veranda, and out in time to meet someone called Tino outside a restaurant called Maxi’s in a place called Manzanillo, some 30 minutes’ drive away.  We made it with a few moments to spare and Tino was already there waiting for us.

As has become the norm for this holiday visit, I really had no idea what to expect from a “morning wildlife walk” – how long? how arduous? what footwear? which camera lens? Tino led us up a couple of streets, and already there were birds we hadn’t seen before.

Then he led us into a garden, which, if it wasn’t his, certainly housed his shed (built for him, he said, by a Nicaraguan carpenter)

which contained many pairs of very well-used wellies.  He selected pairs for us and we moved out into the garden, which, if you’re into plants, was an absolute treasure trove of botanical fascination.  Even I found some of it interesting.

Miguel in Tortuguero was fond of the “in front of your nose” game. Tino’s schtick was to point out something and ask “do you know what that is?”.  My proud moment of the day was identifying the Frigate Bird. I think everything else was new to me, but once we were in the garden, Jane kept up with him really quite well, because she’s into that stuff.  There was all sorts of stuff in it – jackfruit trees, star fruit trees (both sour and sweet), miracle bushes (sucking the seeds of which will make the sour star fruit taste sweet), the tree which gives the achiote food colouring,

cotton trees, all sorts of fascinating things. Oh, and a sloth.

Just as I was beginning to wonder if we were in for a botanical tour, Tino led us out again and, wandering past a stream, showed that he, too, had a great eye for seeing things. Can you spot the animal in this picture?

I couldn’t, but there it is.

A Blue Heron.  Nearby was a juvenile.

We walked a little along the beach, which had a significant component of black sand, from volcanic activity.  It also had an unusual feature. Tino produced a magnet

and then dopped it into the sand, after which it looked like this.

There’s a significant iron component in the black sand, so it sticks to the magnet. Further along the beach we saw a Wimbrel, going about its business.

We then came to the Manzanillo Nature Park, which is the point that I realised that we would be doing  more conventional wildlife walk.  By the way in, there were several land crabs outside their holes,

a hermit crab

and, in the distance, a howler monkey.

Jane commented that it was rare to see a single howler, and Tino said that this was an older male who had been dominant but had been challenged by a younger male, lost and been pushed out.  Looking more closely, you can see this in his face.

Tino cautioned us against touching anything, on the basis that there might be any one of three things that could do you harm: spiky plants;

bullet ants, roughly one inch long, the bite from which is apparently agonising for anything from eight to 24 hours;

and snakes. This was another Eyelash Palm Pitviper.

Over nearly five hours we walked seven miles around this nature park, with Tino taking us into private areas because he had an arrangement with some of its land owners, so we saw a whole host of wildlife, both animal and vegetable, courtesy of his sharp eyes.

For example, there’s a fruit called the blue cheese fruit, which Tino cut in half with his machete so we could smell – and, yes, it smells like blue cheese.

We saw plenty of frogs, all tiny, and other amphibians.

We saw many insects.

One insect that we didn’t see, but could hardly avoid hearing, was the cicada.


Some of the trees are amazing, like the walking palm, which can travel as much as a metre in a year, putting out new roots in the necessary direction as it seeks the sunshine

and the strangler fig, which had enveloped a tree, taken nutrients from it and killed it such that it rotted away leaving a hollow space inside

(and this was the view from inside, looking up – you can see holes where the original tree’s twin trunks once poked through).

A question about the age of the strangler fig gave us a biological and philosophical insight that I suppose should be obvious, but wasn’t.  Trees in Europe, where there are seasons, develop rings as the growth stops and starts each year, so you can age a tree by counting rings. Here in Costa Rica the distinction between the seasons is wet or dry; the trees grow continuously and therefore don’t exhibit rings, but are rather consistent in appearance from the centre, with a surround of a different shade, from the tree bark. Tino estimated, though, that the strangler fig had been there for over 200 years.

There’s a lovely fungus called the wine glass mushroom

and Jane had an encounter with a Golden Orb Spider,

whose thread is stronger than Kevlar; research is ongoing to find ways of synthesising the silk cost-effectively in suitable quantity and of consistent thread diameter, for applications in medicine (artificial ligaments and tendons, nerve repair) and the military (biofabrics, bullet-proof clothing).

There was also a magnificent pair of Large Forest Floor Millipedes.

These two have just mated.  The female is underneath; it takes about three days for the male’s sperm to take effect and so he basically rides the female for that time to prevent other males having a go.

We also came across several leaf-cutter ant cities.  This was, I think, the largest.

Because you’ve avidly read these pages up to this point (you have, haven’t you?), you’ll know how tiny these ants are.  It’s utterly astonishing that animals that small can be responsible for building something this large.

We finally arrived at the Manzanillo Mirador

which is not forbidding Sir from pointing, but is actually named after the lady who first made the area her home.  It offers a fine ocean view

which many punters were enjoying for what they assumed was its natural purpose, which is, of course, as a backdrop for selfies.  They were completely oblivious to the fact that in the bushes right behind them sat a male Brown Basilisk Lizard

and his missus.

The final scene in our long, hot but absorbing walk was this.

There are at least six howler monkeys in this picture. I would have walked right under it and never seen a thing, which demonstrates the value you get from having an expert guide like Tino along to make sure you get value out of activities like this. I’ve barely skimmed the surface of all of the insights he gave us into the plants and animals that surrounded us.

However, we’d been toiling around the nature park for five hours, so It Was Time For The Bar, I Think.  Fortunately, Maxi’s is something of a local phenomenon

so we awarded ourselves beer and lunch

before heading back, past some typically colourful properties

to relax in our nice villa for the rest of the day.

Tomorrow brings – goodness me! – more wildlife interaction, though of a more programmatic nature than today’s general rambling. So please join me to find out what it was we saw.