Published: June 14th 2012June 2nd 2012
The only thing I had planned for our last full day in Costa Rica was driving to San Jose to stay the night before the early flight home. When I woke up I was anxious to do something. Poor Sophie… she never really had any time to relax. She is a great sport though and was completely on board with driving down to Manuel Antonio and give it another try. Excited to get going we hustled through breakfast and back to the room to pack our things. With all of the souvenirs I was surprise that I was able to zip up my suitcase, I only take a carryon refusing to check a bag. We loaded up our suitcases into the SUV, checked out and were on our way.
The first stop was at the River Tarcoles to see the crocodiles that lounge underneath of the bridge. We drove passed the bridge to park in the available parking on the far side of the bridge, as we did Sophie said doubtfully “I don’t see any crocodiles.” Neither did I but there were people standing on the bridge looking down so I grabbed my camera and we made our
way out. Walking up we started laughing and counting them aloud. There were at least a dozen big crocodiles in the water. I would say the largest was right around 18 feet long. The funniest thing I heard while on the bridge was a girl say “go down there, I’ll take your picture.” There wasn’t much action, and I had what I had come for, so we made our way back to the vehicle and back on the road.
On our way to Jaco there are signs for a stop called Neo Fauna that advertised a butterfly farm, snakes, and frogs. I asked Sophie if she thought we should stop, “yep.” So we did, we pulled off of the highway and drove the couple of kilometers to the exhibit. Upon arrival we were greeted by one of the guides, I think I remember that his name was Marko, so that is what I’ll call him. Marko asked us into a small office that had laminated color photos showing some of the different frogs, snakes, and butterflies on display here. He also let us know that the place is a conservation project. For instance there was an orphan
monkey in the lobby that they were nursing until it is old enough, the hope being to release it. As we went along on the tour, there were many examples of this.
The first exhibits were of frogs and snakes. Marko gave us the rundown of how to identify poisonous versus non-poisonous snakes. He let us hold a few of the non-poisonous variety and was full of information on all of them. The frogs were absolutely my favorite part, but I was really keen on young boa constrictor who was really angry about being disturbed and was puffing up his entire body and hissing at us. He even struck at his cage once… my kind of snake. We had done really well with identifying the snakes as poisonous and non-poisonous when Marko through us a curve ball. Some brilliant little snake, called a mimic snake, had the markings of a viper and when threatened forced air into its head to give it the look of one as well. I missed that one…. Genius little bastard. After the snakes and frogs we moved onto the butterflies.
The butterfly farm was home to all kinds of
butterflies we could see hovering over our heads. Owl butterflies, blue morphos, tiger butterflies, and several others that I couldn’t tell what they were. Some were camouflaged, others were brightly colored. Marko showed us and told us about the process from a caterpillar, to a cocoon, to a butterfly. There were all kinds of cocoons, each one different and marked. There were even newly hatched butterflies out and drying their new wings.
Next came the frog breeding experiment. My favorite frog in Costa Rica is the red eyed tree frog. They are awesome. Marko opened the cage and showed us what a sleeping one looks like, just a green bump on a leaf. The bunch up like a transformer to hide their colors when they sleep. It is incredible. He reached in and grabbed the male, placing him on a leaf for me to photograph. The little guy wanted to jump off and around though. I picked him up, they are so skinny and light, he felt so fragile in my hand. As I was working away one jumped onto Sophie and she urged me to get a photo as she squealed with delight. Frogs back in
their cages we moved onto the turtles. Marko had three of them, one really colorful painted turtle. The was also another monkey being kept that was trying to beg some food from us, even though the little glutton was still orange from mango he had just eaten. The final part of the tour was a room where Marko showed us tadpoles from successful breeding of frogs, mice and rats to feed the snakes, and a few other rescue animals, which included a parakeet with a mending wing.
At the end of the tour we tipped Marko and donated some money to Cesar, the baby orphan monkey. Marko asked us if we wanted a picture with him. I was pretty surprised when Sophie agreed, but she was eager to hold the little guy who was clinging to here arm and crawling around between the two of them. Next it was my turn and he was really fun to hold, squirmy little guy, he stayed on my arms and got cozy against my chest like he had posed for pictures before. He became a bit nervous and squirmy again when a vehicle pulled up and three Americans got out
asking if this was the zip line tour. The girls loved the monkey and started fawning over him, which made him even more nervous. He started nibbling on my finger tips, not hard, much like a puppy playing. The girls asked if they could hold him so I extended him and he hesitantly left my arm, looking back cautiously as if to make sure it was okay. Cute little guy. We thanked Marko again and were back on the little winding dirt road that led us here.
The experience was well worth it. I thought it was one of the best things we did. We learned so much and were able to touch and see all of these beautiful creatures in an environment that was looking to help protect, educate and preserve. We decided that with this little side trip that we no longer needed to go to Manuel Antonio, so instead we headed into Jaco to go eat at Taco Bar.
Sophie had picked this place out days ago from the Lonely Planet guide, which typically has really great choices. The problem was that I think word had gotten out. The women that
we ordered from were American, I think everyone at place, besides Sophie was American, the food was good, but a bit high in price for what I got I felt. The best thing about it were the swings. Instead of barstools there were swings, ropes raised up to beams above our head and we sat in swings around the main bar. I had two good tacos, and topped them from the salad/salsa bar in the center. Everything was good, the place was clean, I was just turned off by the lack of authenticity. I could see the exact same concept being successful anywhere in southern California. It was worth visiting, but if I had the opportunity to do it over I would have done something different.
With lunch out of the way we made out way to the Maxi Pali, or Maxi Pad as I kept referring to it. This place is the Walmart of Costa Rica and I wanted to see what it was like. Everything was a little bit different, but it still had the same general feel. We picked up an ice cream and a water and were on the road to San Jose.
We made it to San Jose without incident and even found our hotel… too late to turn. No place to U turn and no exits that allowed us to cross, we drove about five kilometers out of our way just to make it back to the same place. This was really the first time I had been frustrated with the roadways after a week here. Not so bad, I didn’t think, but Sophie decided that she was not going to talk to me any more because of a fear that I might direct my frustration at her. (Have I mentioned what a joy I am to travel with yet?) You’ll all be happy to know that we found the hotel and checked in after I found the correct road. We stayed at the Hampton Inn near the airport, the place was great; the hotel offered free wifi and international phone calls. Sophie called home while I searched for somewhere to eat. I was craving pizza. After I found a place and had a shower we went out for our last dinner together in Costa Rica.
There was a great little place, La Fabbrica, not
too far up the road that had great brick oven pizza. We enjoyed a couple of drinks with dinner, the place was only locals so we had to do the entire thing in Spanish, my kind of place. There was an retro soda shop next door so we went for ice cream after dinner. Our flight was leaving early in the am so we made it back to the room to close out our last day in Costa Rica. It was Saturday night, but I felt content in all that we had accomplished on this trip. I didn’t need to go out and see what the local nightlife was all about.
There are more photos below