Wonderful Wildlife in Costa Rica
Who doesn’t want a photo of a cute little critter from their gap year? Ideally, a close up of one that your friends have never seen before, right?
Well, Costa Rica is one of the most biodiverse places in the world, home to a few creatures that can’t be found anywhere else, no matter how hard you look.
The Central American country’s tropical climate and abundance of greenery have made it a breeding ground, quite literally, for some of the world’s cutest animals. Here’s what to look out for if you’re heading that way on your gap year.
1. White Headed Capuchin Monkey
These guys certainly don’t need any help in the cuteness department. All wide-eyed and pocket-sized, most backpackers usually meet these creatures with a greeting of ‘aww’.
The white headed capuchin has all the furry features of a regular monkey but has a small button nose and glassy eyes framed in a face of white fur. If you’re thinking that you’ve seen such a face before and you’re a Friends fans, you’d be right. Ross’s pet monkey, Marcel, is indeed a capuchin, giving us one more reason to love them.
Native to South and Central America, capuchins stick to lowland forests and can be found in Costa Rica’s national parks. If you venture northwest to Guanacaste Province you can take tours of the stunning Santa Rosa National Park and perhaps spot this furry friend. In the northeast, La Selva is the place to go – stay in one of the park’s eco lodges and you could meet a Marcel of your own.
This is one for the cat lovers. Although slightly more wild and part of the leopard family, the ocelot is still one cool cat and is often referred to as the dwarf leopard, aka cute and cuddly, right? Despite the svelte patterned coat and rounded ears, these guys are ravenous hunters of the forests and can even clamber up trees to find their feast.
Another native to Costa Rica’s rich and lush forests, you’ll need to venture to one of the country’s national parks with a guide to catch a glimpse of this feisty feline. La Paz Waterfall Gardens in Vara Blanca is a wildlife preserve and home to the country’s most famous waterfalls, as well as the ocelot. TIL Nerve impulses travel through the human body at speeds of up to 250mph, faster than a Formula 1 racing car. The fastest transmissions use a lot of energy, so are reserved for neurons which need to send urgent information, like to tell your brain you are burning your fingers.
3. Three-toed sloth
If it has ‘sloth’ in the name you know it has to be a cutie. Doe-eyed and sleepy looking, sloths often look how we feel and indeed they do spend most of their time sleeping. Known as the slowest mammal in the world, the three-toed variety is so lazy that algae grows on its furry coat living it with a slightly green tinge.
Given the clue in the name, this type of sloth has three toes on one foot. This is slightly different to your mainstream sloth, which has three toes on one and two toes on the other.
Upon the wild shores of Costa Rica it can be found literally hanging out among the treetops just hanging. This fascinating creature spends most of its life dangling upside down, sleeping, eating and even giving birth from a topsy-turvy angle.
One place to catch a glimpse of one is at the Sloth Sanctuary in Cahuita on Costa Rica’s coastline or at the Manuel Antonio National Park.
4. Chestnut-Mandibled Toucan
It may not be a cuddly one but toucans, with their multi-coloured cartoon-like appearance are awesome.
These brilliant birds roam the Costa Rican forests in flocks of up to 12. With a beak of bright yellow and deep maroon hues, along with feathers of silky black, they are easy to spot among the trees but their chorus of song is often heard before they’re seen.
The chestnut-mandibled is the second largest species of toucan in the world and its vibrant appearance sums up everything to love about exotic Costa Rica. To hear the cries and catch a glimpse, visit the Turrialba Volcano National Park or the Tortuguero National Park, it’s where they hang out.
5. Sea Turtles
A major must-see for anyone visiting Costa Rica’s crystal bays is the sea turtle. Five of the seven species can be found here; leatherbacks, green, olive ridley, loggerhead and hawksbill are all endangered or threatened and being cared for by many of the country’s conservation camps.
The different varieties vary in size but all spend their lives roaming the oceans and nesting upon tropical shorelines. Females can be spotted coming ashore when its time to lay their eggs and after three months those baby turtles hatch and make their way to the ocean – an incredible phenomena.
Travellers can volunteer at conservation centres like The Ostional National Wildlife Refuge and witness it for themselves.