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Published: October 22nd 2017
Geo: 9.38945, -84.1347
"Pura vida!" This is the multipurpose phrase we have learned here in Costa Rica, which literally translated means “pure life.” It's like saying “Life is good!” and comes in handy to end a conversation, to wish someone well, or to say in place of “Cheese!” before a photograph is taken. And it's just what life seems to feel like down here—pure.
We headed out to the locally famous Manuel Antonio National Park today along the Central Pacific Coast. And thanks to Edgar's thoughtful planning by having box lunches prepared for us, we were able to spend 6 hours at the beach, instead of the scheduled 3. Upon entering the park through a mouth in the rainforest, we walked along a dirt road past several nature enthusiasts. Many had set up spotting scopes to peer deeper into the forest for magnified views of spiders or sloths, and it clearly illustrated to us how abundant the biodiversity is inside the rainforest.
Ours was the first group to arrive at the beach for the day, so after stashing our stuff on picnic tables, we headed out to the surf. (Edgar guarded our lunches against the thieving Capuchin monkeys he said would be
arriving any time.) Most of the students swam in the warm waves while Sean and I strolled barefoot along the sand. We found dozens of little hermit crabs scuttling off in quite a hurry to get to who knows where. They wore such a variety of decorated shells—snail-shaped and spiraled, painted in orange and brown and pink like little pieces of jewelry.
Later, Edgar led a few of us on two hikes through the park, tunneling through the dense forest to circumvent Cathedral Point. We enjoyed several elevated viewpoints of the islas verdes and the sweeping vistas of the Pacific Ocean. The sky and sea stretched before us in overcast tones of grays and greens and blues that I didn't even mind the humidity clinging to my skin. At one of the points, we were lucky enough to glimpse a chameleon, who of course blended perfectly with his green environment.
Perhaps the highlight of our visit to the park, besides playing in the waves, was laughing at the families of Capuchins who swung effortlessly through the trees. Mischievous males rummaged through the garbage to find plastic cups for playthings, and lunched on the occasional prized banana. Moms leaped from trunk to
trunk as their wide-eyed babies hung on for dear life. Was it their human-like facial expressions that captivated us so? Their brows furrowed in perplexity or their eyebrows lifted in surprise? Their opposable thumbs or bipedal posture? Or their sheer acrobatic skills that rendered us envious? I could have sat on that warm beach and photographed them all day long.
But our critter viewing wasn't over yet. On our hike out of the park, Edgar spoke in rapid Spanish via cellphone to a fellow guide, who directed him to where a viper had been spotted on a certain tree limb. And sure enough, by the time we got there, the snake was still there, folded upon himself in all his scaly yellow reptilian splendor. Although we were glad for the sighting, I was equally glad he lay at a safe distance, as static as a picture. Before we reached the bus, we also spied several beautiful golden orb spiders, and even two orange-backed Squirrel monkeys. It was an unforgettable day!
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