Once upon a time the wildlife tourists perfect destination; but now? Well I was at an airport earwigging on a conversation between two wildlife nuts and one of the criticisms that came up was that “it’s over run with American bus tours” and “let’s face it, there are many other exotic locations that offer that convenient yet exciting slice of the tropics are there not?”.
“In Costa Rica you will be able to find a ‘field guide’ for whatever you passion; whether it's birds or Bird-of-Paradise flowers it will be catered for”
Well actually I don’t think so. Yes it's true this wonderful little Central American country is very popular and convenient for the average American and still a bit of a pain to get to from Europe. But let’s not forget what qualities this brings to the place. I personally rather like American tourists, it’s hard to beat their enthusiasm for the natural world albeit a little loud sometimes! Something I definitely subscribe to is the mantra ‘any fool can be uncomfortable’ and your high paying American tourist is no fool when it comes to expecting good service and comfort; unlike us Brits who will retrospectively whinge about things they find amiss.
The upshot of this is that this ‘Scotland’ sized segment of the Central American isthmus complete with its mindblowing biodiversity (arguably the most biodiverse country in the world) is all relatively accessible and well provided for. If like me you like to know what bird you are looking at sipping nectar outside your window, or wish to identify the snake that just found its way into your bath tub then you can bet in Costa Rica you will be able to find a ‘field guide’ for whatever you passion; whether its birds or Bird-of- paradise flowers it will be catered for. This I think is also partly down to the highest literacy in the Americas (25% if the Costa Rican national budget goes to education).
In a nutshell Costa Rica for me represents loads of creatures with all the creature comforts. When I’m sweating and lugging half a ton of camera gear around a tropical forest looking for that perfect shot of a Red-eyed tree frog on a Banana palm am I admitting something awful to the world by enjoying the thought of a nice shower, a long cold ‘cuba libre’ and a comfy bed at the end of it all?
I don’t think so, or maybe I’m getting older?
The heat and humidity of the tropics can get a little oppressive, but with such a diversity of altitude and a pacific as well as a Caribbean coast you can pretty much pick and choose your climate. The reason for Costa Rica being one of the worlds most bio-diverse countries for its size is partly down to the fact that within its bijou borders it boasts a huge range of habitats form Cloud Forest and mangrove swamp to crispy dry pacific woodlands and hot and steamy lowland rainforest and everything in between. So when your hide is tanned and you are feeling a little parched on the Pacific coast you can head inland and up a bit into the cloud forest to re-hydrate.
For those of you who want a bit more rough and ready adventure do not be put off by the fact you can get from one end of the country to the other easily in a day, there are plenty of undisturbed bits well off the beaten track thanks to human nature; most of us rarely venture more than a mile from where we parked the car!
I really think Costa Rica has it all, it is the perfect Biophiliacs destination with or without family and we haven’t even talked about the fact that it has more protected areas (27% of its surface) than any other country in the world and that it probably invented the word ‘eco-tourism’.
When I think of Costa Rica I think of the ‘Aribadas’, the mass nesting of Olive Ridley sea turtles; I think of Howler Monkeys and Frogs, Toucans, Volcanoes and boiling mud pits, Hammer head sharks and Jaguars and the best service and friendliest people in the world! Do not be put off by what you think you know about this place, you would be missing a big world squeezed into a tiny country.