Voyage Journal 7815 Day 12

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Day 12 - September 12, 2008 - Puerto Quepos, Costa Rica

By Ignacio Rojas, Naturalist

Noon Position: 09°25’ N; 084°10’ W
Weather: Clear skies, clouded in the afternoon
Noon air temperature: 30° Celsius / 86° Fahrenheit

We had an excellent morning sailing smooth calm waters in the Pacific Ocean while en route to Puerto Quepos in Costa Rica. During the early hours of the morning we spotted several groups of dolphins that approached the ship and brown boobies flying closely and plunge diving. We also spotted a humpback whale breaching, however it quickly disappeared underwater.

This morning’s lecture program started with J.J. Apestegui and “The History of Costa Rica”, a humorous account of the political adventures of this small nation, one of the most environmentally friendly countries in Central America, also know for its excellent coffee. Richard Harker continued his presentations on digital photography, exploring the more advanced features of digital cameras and how to best utilize the programs and adjustable settings.

Just before noon, we arrived to the anchorage in Puerto Quepos. The local authorities cleared the ship into the country, and soon after lunch we proceeded to disembark by Zodiac to the floating jetty where the minibuses were waiting to take us to the tours planned for our afternoon.

One of the tours was to Manuel Antonio National Park. A short ride to the north of Puerto Quepos brought us to this park located on a small peninsula off the Pacific Coast. The park is famous for its great variety of wildlife, coastal rainforest and white sandy beaches. There was an opportunity to swim and also to walk along a nature trail. We had wonderful sights of charismatic megafauna.

Among the animals we spotted was the sloth. Sloths are fairly common in the tropical forests of Central America, and are generally spotted high on the trees feeding on the tender, new shoots. However, their habits and natural camouflage can make them difficult to spot amidst the leaves and branches. Sloths move at very low speed, hence their popular name. We also saw howler monkeys, capuchin monkeys, squirrel monkeys, and a white-tailed deer.

The second tour was to visit a nearby Mangrove Forest south of Puerto Quepos. After a short drive, we boarded local boats and explored the natural channels searching for wildlife as we learned from our guides about the characteristics that make this ecosystem valuable and worth preserving. The tide was dropping as we started the tour and we could see a myriad of creatures – snails, tiger crabs, spiders, ants and termites – moving up and down the roots and trunks of these trees. We also saw land crabs along the shore. We heard the snaps of the clams closing their shells as the water’s level dropped. Our guides found two arboreal snakes, a tree boa and the tiger-eyed snake.

There was also a sighting of a very special mammal, the silky anteater, also called the pygmy anteater. This animal is the smallest representative of the group, living in the trees - as does most of the mangrove fauna. It has nocturnal habits, and unlike the other neotropical anteaters, it is the only one that actually feed on ants; the other anteaters feed mainly on termites. A group of capuchin monkeys lives in the area of the mangrove and not only were we able to see it from the boats, but a few brave and curious monkeys actually jumped on top of the boats to have a closer look at the visitors. Some of the birds we saw were the great blue heron, yellow-crowned heron and tri-colored heron.

As the day was finishing, we returned to the jetty in Puerto Quepos. White ibises and pelicans were flying on the horizon as we boarded the Zodiacs to return to the Prince Albert II and sail northwards toward our next destination: Guatemala.

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