Wednesday, March 02, 2016

Costa Rica part 1

The first night after we arrived in Costa Rica we stayed at Villa San Ignacio on the outskirts of San Jose. There wasn't much in the neighbourhood, but the hotel itself was nice and had large grounds with flowers and birds. It is the dry season and has been a dry winter so things aren't as lush as I expected. And San Jose isn't a really wet part of the country anyway.


We've been busy paragliding so we haven't been out looking at wildlife, but we've still seen quite a few birds and a few other creatures. Our paragliding guide is quite interested in birds and carries a birding guide and a spotting scope so when we do see something he usually knows what it is.

Eating breakfast in the hotel restaurant we noticed a couple of birds in the tree next to us. It turned out they had a well camouflaged nest that they appeared to be working on. I think they were Rufous-naped wrens.

Rufous-naped Wren

Our first two days of flying were at Jaco. We hadn't flown for a few months so we headed for the beach when we first arrived so we could sort out our gear and do a little kiting.

The launch at Jaco is quite nice and has a huge landing zone - perfect for our first few flights. The only downside is the fine red dust that coats everything, including you! A Double-striped Thick-knee (bird) was nesting in the corner of the landing zone field. It was well camouflaged but it still seemed like a strange place to nest! In other climates birds sit on the nest to keep the eggs warm. Here, in the open sun, it was probably sitting on the nest to keep it from overheating.

Double-striped Thick-knee

One of the treats flying at Jaco was seeing (and hearing!) Scarlet Macaws. Such bright colors. They were always in pairs since they mate for life. The flying conditions weren't great - we had a few short flights due to sinking out, but we managed to scratch for some longer flights (40 min).

We stayed at Grampa Ninjas paragliding guesthouse. The owner died recently and the place is in flux but it is a beautiful house up on a hill with a view out to the ocean. There were lots of birds around, many that I didn’t get a good enough look at to identify such as hummingbirds and parakeets. I usually rely on identifying from my photographs. I did find a Costa Rica birds app and although it’s not the most user friendly app, it’s better than nothing.

Great Kiskadee

We also had toads and iguanas around the guesthouse.

Cane/Marine toad


Our one wildlife stop was the bridge over the Tarcoles River. Salt water crocodiles (not alligators) congregate on the sandy shore under the bridge. There were six on land and another 8 or so in the water.



Of course there are lots of spiders and insects too. Here is one impressive one (about 3 inches long including legs)


Our third day we went to Caldera. Normally this is a great soaring site, but the weather hasn't been cooperating lately, possibly due to El Nino. The owner is Swiss and he has a great facility with a nicely groomed launch and a restaurant overlooking it. I suspect it reflects European flying sites.

The forecast was good for this day, but it turned out to be more parawaiting than flying. At first the wind was the wrong direction and too strong, and then when it finally turned to a reasonable direction, it got too light. We launched but it was a quick sled ride to the beach for most people. I managed to make about six passes and stay up for about five minutes before running for the beach. And that was probably pushing it for me, trying to stay close to the hill to get maximum lift I brushed the tops of the trees with my feet and when I finally ran for the beach I didn't have as much height over the power lines as I would have liked :-(

I can't say I've fallen in love with Costa Rica yet. The part of the coast we're on is quite developed and the tourist towns are not very attractive. I'm sure the national parks are great, but we haven't seen them yet. We wanted to go somewhere warm, but the heat has been tough hanging around at launch and landing sites, most of which don't have shade. But compared to Saskatchewan winter, we don't have much to complain about!

For more photos, see all 23 as a slideshow or overview

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