Bruce in kayak.

"We specialize in small group travel, which minimizes environmental impact, increases safety standards and allows for personalized, enriching and authentic experiences."

— Bruce Smith, founder and owner, Seascape Kayak Tours Inc.

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Tambor Tropical WildlifeMarch 19th, 2009

Word from Bruce is that El Espiritu del Mar is going along swimmingly. The group set off Tuesday morning, and by now have experienced two of their four camping nights. I’ll paddle in and join them for their final night in their base camp on Playa Quesera. Meanwhile, I promised to share some exciting developments in the natural world from our base at the Hotel Tambor Tropical.

The mangos are ripe right now on the Nicoya Peninsula. This is a harbinger of much activity. Like, right now, in front of our apartment at the hotel, a local climber dude with a huge machete, no shoes on and no fear of heights is 40 feet up in the top of a tree and large fruits are falling all around on the ground. It also means that animals of all sorts are more active.

Every day in Costa Rica brings new and unexpected sightings of amphibians, reptiles, birds or mammals. Yesterday, for example, I led a couple from New York on a hike in Curú Wildlife Refuge, which is about 25 minutes from Tambor. In addition to seeing Howler, White-faced Capuchin and Spider monkeys all vying for the mangos in the reserve, we came upon two of my favorite mammals, the agouti (like a wild guinea pig or hamster) and the white-nosed coati (cousin to the raccoon, with longer snout); both of these are shown on our photo gallery in the Pacific Costa Rica Nature section. We also identified a total of 17 bird species just on one walk.  

What Bruce and I find just as exciting as going to Reserva Curú are the many opportunities to see wildlife right here on our doorstep at the Hotel Tambor Tropical, or on the nearby Rio Panica, which Bruce describes in detail in his blog entry of March 15. For example, when the members of El Espiritu del Mar, the yoga and kayaking trip, arrived at Tambor Tropical, it was an auspicious beginning. A large green iguana, a beautiful species rarely seen on the hotel property, chose the moment of the group’s arrival to show itself on the grounds, to the delight of photographers and newly converted lizard lovers alike. 

Green Iguana

Green iguanas can be as large as 6.5 feet long and make their homes in trees along rivers and streams. They are slow moving, are not poisonous and will not bite unless given no other choice. Although not considered endangered, they are hunted for their meat, and thus are becoming more and more scarce in populated areas. We learned from Juan Carlos, the manager here at Tambor Tropical, that this particular individual probably grew up in the hotel’s gardens, as he was seen quite a bit here when small. But becoming more self conscious as a teenager, he left the area, probably to spend more time right beside the river, and is only spotted on special occasions now that he is an adult.

One of the bird species most coveted by avian enthusiasts visiting Costa Rica is the trogon. While we don’t have the most famous member of the Trogonidae family, the Resplendent Quetzal, here on the Nicoya Peninsula, we do see the black-headed trogon, with its bright yellow belly, and beautiful long squared-off tail. It’s easiest to find this trogon by first tuning in to its distinctive call, described by Stiles and Skutch in A Guide to the Birds of Costa Rica as "a rapid, rattling series of clear, barking notes that accelerates into a chuckling trill that falls in pitch." (That’s true, but I guess you sort of have to hear it for yourself before that description really makes sense.) A few days ago, while packing for the yoga/paddling trip, Bruce and I heard that unmistakable call just in front of our apartment, and ran out to see not one but two pairs of black-headed trogons flitting and perching in the mangos and palms for several spectacular minutes. We never figured out if they were protecting a juvenile or competing with resident flycatchers for food or territory. Whatever their objective, we were thrilled to see and hear them so close to home.

Black-headed trogon

I’ll close with a slightly more humorous animal story: Tambor Tropical’s hotel manager, Juan Carlos, and Bruce have discovered they have a lot in common. Two of the things that unite them are a love of wildlife and a passion for paddling. So it didn’t take long for the two to establish a tradition of having their weekly meetings on the water, planning around high tide in order to kayak up the Rio Panica. Last week’s meeting was going along rather smoothly when they came around a bend in the river and discovered a member of the wild kingdom that they would never have expected to find on a river in Costa Rica. 

Water Buffalo

A huge water buffalo, who’d possibly never seen a kayak, displayed all sorts of quizzical expressions for several minutes before making it clear he would not allow their passage up the river. When they came back to tell me they encountered this beast, not at all endemic, much less indigenous to this area, I thought they were pulling my leg. However, they explained that a nearby resort "imported" the big bovine some years ago to be part of a zoo that never materialized. The moral: when in Costa Rica, always expect the unexpected.

Pura vida,




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