Position: 9° 30’ N and 84° 10’ W
Weather: Bright blue sky with cotton-wool clouds, warm temperatures and high humidity.
This morning we saw Costa Ricas’s other face, and the view from the Prince Albert II was a coastline of forested hills steaming under a hot sun. After an early breakfast, we disembarked and brought an abundance of sunglasses, sun-hats and sunscreen along with our backpacks and cameras. It was the first time we had used the Zodiacs on this voyage and things went very smoothly, despite moderate sea swells that kept Zodiac positions, in relation to pier and ship, in an exciting flux.
Quepos was a picturesque, little, sea-level village with four main streets, brightly coloured plank houses, a school, a church, a soccer field and a population of 14,000. As the bus climbed up the steep sides of the bay on the way to Manuel Antonio National Park, our guide pointed out the blue and green cables stretched high across the roads that functioned as wildlife corridors for arboreal animals such as sloth and monkeys.
The park only allows 600 visitors at a time within its boundaries, but there were far fewer during our visit. Once in the park we drove through lush forest to a gorgeous white sand beach where Abbe pointed out a two-toed sloth hanging in a tree. A couple of us went swimming in the lapiz-coloured bay. After doing a bit of beachcombing, paddling in the waves and photographing—hermit crabs, iguanas and each other—we ambled back along the road, while our guide pointed out wildlife.
Some of the animal highlights were a three-toed sloth, howler monkeys, an eyelash viper, a bullfrog, a hummingbird in its nest and lesser white-lined bats. Among the plants and insects, flowering Heliconia sp., yellow bamboo (not indigenous to Costa Rica), Blue Morpho butterflies, a very dangerous looking palm with a trunk covered in long spines (Bactris gasipaes) and a number of succulent bromeliads.
The early breakfast (if one was up early enough to get it) meant we were all ready for a tall cool drink and lunch when we got back to the ship. The sun and exercise gave us an appetite.
In the afternoon we had an entertaining and informative briefing on swimming, snorkeling and kayaking in preparation for the island Granito de Oro that we are visiting tomorrow. This was followed by a beautifully illustrated lecture by Robin Aiello on the shapes, sizes, colours and sex-changing characteristics of tropical fish we hope to see tomorrow. Her description of a fish’s top three questions in life, “Who is likely to eat me? What can I eat next? And when do I get to do the wild thing?” might be a new set of rules to live by.
In the evening, our recap was illustrated by some close-up photographs taken at the park, and included a summary of tropical forest plants by Toby, an illustration of convergent evolution by Robin A. and an in-depth description of the ecosystem that is a sloth by J.J.