PERSONAL TRIPS
©2005 Matthew Dodder. All rights reserved.



Costa Rica 07-14-05 to 07-29-05
(Section 0: Introduction)

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Section 0 Introduction
Section 1 Day 1-3 (arrival in San Jose, Rancho Naturalista)
Section 2 Day 4-6 (Racho Naturalista, Savegre Lodge)
Section 3 Day 7-9 (Tarcol Lodge and Carara, Monteverde area)
Section 4 Day 10-12 (Monteverde area, Selva Verde Lodge and La Selva OTS)
Section 5 Day 13-15 (Selva Verde Lodge and La Selva OTS, return to San Jose)


Introduction

Since I was a boy I have wanted to see the Resplendent Quetzal. It was on my first trip to Mexico, in 1971, that I first learned about this nearly mythological bird. With boyish wonder, I read that it had been worshipped as a god by the ancient Mayans and that it had been a crime (punishable by death) to harm one. It was a 4-foot long specter of emerald and shocking crimson that flashed through the dangling jungle vines like a brilliant laser in a darkened wood. Only the Mayan king was allowed to wear the bird's emerald plumes on his crown... Like an extinct thing from the past and yet very much alive, it possessed a singularity that only a few animals can. I read also about the difficulty of viewing one of these jungle dwelling animals, because of its secretive nature and the fact that its days were in fact quite gone. It had become so rare... As I traveled with my parents through the Yucatan Peninsula, I heard stories here and there, from people who had seen a Quetzal at some point in their lives. Each told their tale with a kind of hush--the way people speak about other great mysteries, as if they couldn't quite believe the story themselves. My 8-year-old mind was positively aflame with images and dreams, and all the scattered pieces of a lifetime quest had been placed before me. "One way or another", I thought, "before I die, I will see one of these mysterious birds!" Some thirty-four years later, after several failed attempts to get myself in an area where the bird could be viewed, I meticulously plotted a course through the Costa Rican forests in search of a dream, with my wife Cricket and her parents, Kaz and Aiko.

Above: we began in San Jose, making a clockwise journey. Often, we had to pass though San Jose to reach the next destination so our actual route ended up looking more like a star.

In preparation for the trip I poured over my copy of "A Guide to the Birds of Costa Rica" by F. Gary Stiles and Alexander Skutch, a book I quickly discovered has been designated the book to have. Each guide we hired, as well as some of our drivers, were intimately familiar with the work--so much in fact that if a bird appeared, they could tell us on which page (and exactly where on the page) the bird's image could be found! I also uploaded three cds of Costa Rican bird songs on my iPod and cross referenced them alphabetically, by family groupings and by forest types. Every free moment I had, I listened and tried to learn the sounds. I was definitely prepared for anything that might show up, or so I thought. With more than 830 avian species calling Costa Rica their home, an area roughly the size of North Carolina, the identification challenge is equal to that of the entire North American continent! We had our work cut out for us. This alone should have been ample intimidation, but the number of unfamiliar bird families, heavy rain and dense jungle cover also gave us pause.

I began charting our course by searching for trip reports online, mostly from the large birding organizations. I hoped to replicate one of their tours at half the cost, and succeeded, but we would likely have a smaller trip list as a consequence. Oh, well... After deciding on a general route, I made arrangements for lodging through Costa Rica Gateway to stay at the following spots. All of them are destinations for birders and frequently visited by both VENT and Field guides. Our guides and transportation were included in our final cost, and each would be for our private group of four.

Hotel Bougainvillea, San Jose (1 night)
Rancho Naturalista (2 nights)

Savegre Mountain Lodge (2 nights)
Tarcol Lodge, near Carara National Park(3 nights)
Trapp Family Lodge, near Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve (3 nights)
Selva Verde Lodge, near La Selva OTS (3 nights)
Hotel Bougainvillea, San Jose (1 night)


Go to the NEXT SECTION of this report....

Or choose a different section:
Section 0 Introduction
Section 1 Day 1-3 (arrival in San Jose, Rancho Naturalista)
Section 2 Day 4-6 (Racho Naturalista, Savegre Lodge)
Section 3 Day 7-9 (Tarcol Lodge and Carara, Monteverde area)
Section 4 Day 10-12 (Monteverde area, Selva Verde Lodge and La Selva OTS)
Section 5 Day 13-15 (Selva Verde Lodge and La Selva OTS, return to San Jose)