Friday, October 2, 2015

Costa Rica Day 5: Curi-cancha Wildlife Refuge

We squeezed in one more full day of hiking before leaving Santa Elena. We had asked several locals on where to go, and overwhelming the answer was Curi-cancha Reserve.

The reserve is partly lowland forest, but if you climb up, it technically transitions to a cloud forest. It was nothing like Santa Elena reserve – it was much drier. Animal-lovers come here because the lack of enveloping mist and fog makes the animals much easier to see.

Strangler fig wrapping itself around a host tree

Giant Rhino beetle

It's a "birdwatcher's paradise," and one of the few places you can go to see the resplendent quetzal, now sadly endangered. It's known as one of the world's most beautiful birds.  Our guide told us to keep our expectations low, that he knew of travelers who had come to Costa Rica multiple times for a glimpse of it, and had never gotten lucky.

You may have heard of the quetzal. Maybe it sounds familiar as the "quetzalcoatl" from your history books. It means "feathered serpent," and was named for how the males look as they fly across the sky with their long emerald tailfeathers rippling behind.

Their tail feathers used to be exchanged as currency, and interestingly enough, the Guatemalan dollar is called the "Quetzal" (and has one flying in the corner). Montezuma's headdress was also made with the long feathers of the quetzal.

We actually managed to see one through our guide's impressive telescope! I'm guessing it was a juvenile male, because its tailfeathers were kind of short.

iPhone + telescope picture. Not the best quality, BUT HEY we saw a quetzal!

We also saw other animals too – coati, agouti (which look like giant chinchillas), a blue-crowned motmot, a keel-billed toucan, and...hummingbirds. There were a bunch of hummingbird feeders in an area of the reserve. Our guide commented that it wasn't the right thing to do, but as it's private property, it was not his decision to make. Apparently hummingbirds are only in the Americas, which I didn't know – and explained the swaths of people taking pictures and recording videos like crazy.

"Don King" caterpillar

A view of the cloud forest at higher elevation.

Inside a strangler fig. The host tree has long died and decomposed to nothing.

Capuchin monkey!

Glasswing butterfly, pretending to be dead

If you like animals (especially birds) and not tourists, I recommend coming to this place.

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