Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Where the Wild Things Are: Amazing Animal Watching Vacations Part 4

Wouldn't you rather be here right now?
Photo by RAMDOM X at Wikimedia
Need to get away? Want to go somewhere that is both adventurous and relaxing, exotic yet relatively easy to get to? Want to see monkeys, dolphins, toucans, and iguanas in the wild? Imagine a place with long sandy beaches, a mountain view, a tropical rainforest and so many wild animals you’ll forget you’re not at a zoo... until you realize how close they really are. That place actually exists, and it is Manuel Antonio National Park in Costa Rica.

Manuel Antonio is Costa Rica’s most visited national park, and for good reason. Located on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica, the park includes 682 hectares of beautiful beaches and lush rainforest laced with maintained trails as well as a large protected ocean reserve. It is relatively easy to get to (more on travel below) and there are a number of hotels within walking distance of the beach and park entrance.

Coatis are close relatives of raccoons, and like
raccoons, they can be pretty bold if they think
you might have food. Photo by Matt Magolan.

These white-faced capuchins are plotting to
take your snacks. Photo by Matt Magolan.
If you love animals (and if you’re reading this, I know you do), you will find yourself in a wild wonderland. White-faced capuchins run along the branches and squirrel monkeys leap through the air. Howler monkeys and countless colorful songbirds chorus in the mornings. You can search for sloths and iguanas in the trees. You can even see animals you may not have heard of, like agoutis and coatis. You can see all these animals and more from amazingly close-up. But whatever you do, don’t try to touch or feed the animals – Many of them (the white-faced capuchins in particular) have become very bold and may aggressively steal your food. A friend of mine had a granola bar grabbed right from her hand by an angry little capuchin – I don’t think she ever felt quite the same about monkeys after that.

Manuel Antonio National Park is one of the few
places in the world where you can still see an
endangered squirrel monkey. Photo by
Matt Magolan.

There are also efforts underway to responsibly manage the ecosystems of the Manuel Antonio region. The National Park limits the number of park visitors to no more than 600 per day on weekdays and 800 per day on weekends. Also, conservation projects such as the Titi Conservation Alliance and Saving Mono Tití are working hard to preserve the habitats necessary for the survival of the vulnerable squirrel monkey (mono tití in Spanish). Both of these groups are working hard to plant tens of thousands of native Costa Rican trees from Manuel Antonio eastward, where small populations of squirrel monkeys are isolated from one another by palm plantations and large resorts. When the total population of squirrel monkeys in the Manuel Antonio area is estimated under 2,000 individuals, maintaining group contact is critical to preventing inbreeding. Despite the considerable efforts and successes of groups like these, development, hunting and the pet trade still threaten this species.

Travel to Manuel Antonio is relatively simple (as international travel goes). Once you make it to San José, the capital city of Costa Rica, you can either hop on a 20 minute flight by Sansa Airlines or a 3.5 hour bus ride from the Coca Cola bus terminal. If you are feeling even more adventurous, you can rent a car to drive yourself, but be prepared to get lost, drive difficult terrain (make sure to get a 4X4) and navigate some of the most ruthless traffic you’ll ever drive in. Comparatively, the plush, air-conditioned bus is much more relaxing.

So if you are looking for a vacation idea, Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica is an animal lover’s paradise. For more information or to plan your own trip, check out some of these resources:

1) The official Manuel Antonio website
2) Go Visit Costa Rica
3) Lonely Planet
4) The Lonely Planet Costa Rica travel guide

1 comment:

  1. I really love the blog post. It proved to be very helpful to me and I am sure to all the commenters here! It's always nice When you can not only be informed, but also engaged! Having this wild animals is impressive may be they maintain properly their habitat.

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