This tiny country is bordered to the west by the Pacific Ocean and east by the Caribbean Sea, as well as Nicaragua to the north and Panama to the south. It is home to a rich variety of flora and fauna yet only has 0.03% of the world’s landmass, which is estimated to contain 5% of the world’s biodiversity with an incredible 10% of the worlds bird species. With smiling people, sunny beaches, simmering volcanoes, humid jungles and misty mountain tops its no wonder it has become such a popular wildlife destination. With many activities related to ecotourism, including trekking, flora, fauna, birdwatching and nature photography, as well as easy travel, wonderful lodges and an ever growing band of excellent guides who can show you the wildlife, this is one country everyone should visit at least once. The New Economics Foundation (NEF) ranked Costa Rica as the happiest nation in the world, as well as the “greenest” country in the world. A fantastic accolade that sets Costa Rica as a role model that other country’s are desperately trying to follow. With no army it is very safe to visit, and excellent infrastructure makes traveling around very easy. For the adventurous Costa Rica also comprises several islands. The Cocos Islands which are a national park approx (24 square kilometres or 9.3 square miles) and 80km (300 mi) from Puntarenas. These islands stands out mostly because of the fantastic diving opportunities, although for birdwatchers 3 species of birds are endemic making the challenge of getting to these remote islands all the more enticing.
Hotspots & Wildlife:
Monteverde: This cloud forest reserve is rightly famous as one of the places that the fabulous Resplendent Quetzal can be seen. This iconic bird nests in the moist, moss laden forests and is high on the list to see of many birdwatchers. In the breeding season the call of the Three-wattled Bellbird can be heard up to 5km away, while forest streams can hold the spectacular Sunbittern as well as a great variety of rare and endemic dragonflies. Chiriqui Quail-Doves inhabit the understory while hummingbird feeders near the entrance to the reserve are a great attraction often with up to 6 or 7 species including the endemic Coppery-headed Emerald, the flashy Violet Sabrewing and the delicate looking Magenta-throated Woodstar. A lot of the mammals are elusive but with luck you could come across the beautiful Ocelot, Tayra or a Peccary. Butterflies, Reptiles, Amphibians and even orchids are all numerous so there is no end of delightful things to look for.
Carara National Park: One of the most popular national parks because of its easy access from arriving passenger ships, and just a couple of hours from the capitol San Jose, it allows a good introduction to tropical forest birding and the possibilities of a few interesting mammals. A couple of trails make it possible to see birds such as Scarlet Macaw, Great Tinamou, Northern Royal Flycatcher and the delightful Orange-collared Manakins at their dance grounds (lek). Mammals can include White-faced Capuchin monkeys, Central American Agouti, and sometimes Ocelot or Oncilla. Several species of tiny Poison-Dart Frogs can be found among the leaf litter, huge Helicopter Damselflies flutter through the forest and nearby from the Tarcoles road bridge you can watch enormous Central American Crocodiles. A boat trip on the Tarcoles River will get you close to Boat-billed Herons, American Pygmy Kingfisher and a variety of waterbirds.
Sarapiqui Area: The most famous birdwatching and wildlife area here is the La Selva Biological Station. It encompasses 1,536 ha of low-land tropical rain forest and is owned and operated by the Organization for Tropical Studies (OTS). With hundreds of scientists studying every aspect of nature it is probably one of the most studied areas in the world. It is estimated that La Selva contains over 500,000 species, with more than half of these about 300,000 being insect species. Over half the reserve is characterized by primary forest and the wet tropical climate makes everywhere look lush and green. The reserve is home to a wide range of wildlife and with 5,000 species of vascular plants and more than 700 species of tree it is a must place to visit for any naturalist. Large predators such as Jaguar and Puma exist but are rarely seen, but it is fairly easy to find Collared Peccary or Hoffmann’s Two-toed Sloth. The reserve is said to have recorded 467 species of birds many of which are rare or seldom seen. Great Green Macaws regularly fly over and species such as Snowy Cotinga, Rufous Motmot, Bare-necked Umbrellabird, Pied Puffbird, Purple-throated Fruitcrow, Agami Heron and Red-capped Manakin are all possible. Endemic species of dragonfly can be found beside hundreds of butterflies including the impressive Blue Morpho. There are many other sites nearby where Spectacled Owl, Fasciated Tiger-Heron and Sungrebe can be sought and just 30 minutes drive you can visit the Cope’s Reserve where Honduran White Bats, Crested Owl and many other species can be seen.
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SPECIES of interest
Unspotted Saw-whet Owl
Great Green Macaw
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