We woke to the sounds of Howler Monkeys and Toucans just before our alarm. We quickly got ready, packed for the hike and went to have some breakfast.
After breakfast, our guide Freiman, was back perfectly on-time at 8am. We drove down to Cahuita in our car and took a Taxi to the other entrance of the park. A short ride and a park fee later, we were on our way. Freiman was awesome again, same as last night, sharing his extensive knowledge of the lands, the flora and the fauna while spotting things we definitely would have missed every few minutes. The day started with some Howler Monkeys at the entrance, and some lizard and birds which he pointed out for us.
Eventually we got to a boardwalk section where he suddenly spotted a baby sloth climbing up the support of the walkway. The little guy had made it all the way to the top but was confused that the post stopped. He was waving his arms defensively as we carefully approached.
Getting a nearby ranger (it is illegal to touch a sloth!), operation “rescue the baby sloth” got on the way. The ranger and guide worked to grab him from behind, so that he could be placed on the tree quickly. I was permitted to help by forcing the little guy to release his foot claws. The plan went awry though, when we realised that the baby sloth moved a LOT faster than an adult, and it was able to swipe at my hand. I managed to get it out of the way just in time to prevent my hand from being impaled to the post. Second attempt included a distraction manoeuvre, with success. The little guy was on a tree trunk at the same height, able to move up the tree himself.
Importantly we took no videos or photos of the action to ensure that no one gets the idea to touch a sloth on their own.
It turns out that sloth frequently fall, and usually just climb back into the tree. Their whole body is adapted to deal with the fall. The only problem for this baby was that he had fallen into the water – so he quickly grabbed onto the nearest tree – being a support of the boardwalk.
All three of us – our guide included – were elated by the experience.
The rest of the walk was fantastic too – we saw an abundance of animals, most of which we would have missed on our own. Manja took just under 1000 pictures, the selection of the best is below.
My main take-aways, from the volume of information which we were provided with over the 5 hours, were:
- Howler monkeys howl to tell other monkeys where they move, so that the groups can avoid territorial confrontations.
- Nest-making bats cut coconut tree leaves and other ferns to create themselves a temporary cave.
- Venomous snakes in Costa Rica are tiny. Fully grown they are about 1 m and the thickness of my thumb. They also sit on leaves, not just branches.
- Racoons move in groups with a female and kids, because the males have a tendency to kill the young.
- The white sand on the Volcanic island is usually due to coral in the area.
- Soldier ants are fucking vicious: they use special poison to immobilise their prey and tear it apart alive. But they are also known as cleaner ants, because they come by your house and take out all other insects or lizards before moving on. Including wasp nests! They also don’t build long-term nests, instead they find an empty space and come together to form a “ball” with soldiers outside and each layer being comprised of the next most vulnerable. Amazing!
- The local version of a bark-shedding tree does so because it can do photosynthesis on its fresh bark, regularly dropping all leaves when necessary. This is also how they stop other plants growing on them.
- Germany does not have dragonflies, only libellia – the difference is how their wings can be folded when they land!
- Hermit crabs can get up to 35 years old, but only if they have houses to grow into. There is a housing shortage for hermit crabs as tourists keep taking shells from beaches, meaning many die younger.
- The strangler fig literally grows on another tree until it is strong enough to stand on its own, then kills the host tree.
There was a plethora of other information, and I’m sure much will come back randomly.
If you do decide to go to Costa Rica, and you are going to Cahuita, I cannot recommend Freiman highly enough. He has a Facebook group too: https://www.facebook.com/Wildlifetourcahuita/
After this fantastic tour we dropped Freiman off and drove back to our accommodation to clean ourselves up before heading out for dinner. When we returned we processed photos and wrote this blog before dropping into bed exhausted but super happy.