Having never been to Central America before, I thought choosing one of the world’s most biologically diverse countries to visit was a pretty good starting point. We were nearly all there for the same reason: to find (and photograph) the vast assortment of wildlife that the country has to offer. Add in jungle hikes, waterfalls and treetop walks, it made for a truly unforgettable experience. After the ominous Arenal Volcano, Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve and beaches of Manuel Antonio, the Esquinas Lodge was yet another change of landscape and ecosystem, and for me the highlight of the trip. Set in the Piedras Blancas National Park, the lodge and grounds are in primary rainforest, in a relatively untouched corner of the country. The sheer diversity of wildlife here was amazing.
As with the other sites on this trip we spent two nights at the Esquinas Lodge, and the many trails that led from our doorstep snaked around the site which gave us ample opportunities to take in this true rainforest experience. Hikes led by our leader Erik were the order of each day, and while the birds and larger animals we all very impressive, it was the variety of frogs which caught my attention.
Read more: Jungle Jaunts
Read more: Costa Rica, Garden of Eden
A Forest of Frogs
We had brief encounters with these little guys in the week previous (namely Tortugero National Park) but it was here where they came out in force. I counted 12 different species of frog and toad during these two days alone, although I probably missed a few! How Erik and a local guide spotted some of these species was remarkable. Photographing the various species of frog was surprisingly easy (once Erik had spotted them for us!), and armed with a macro lens and a few torches we were ready to go. As many of the frogs are most active during the night, this was the prime time to find them. Using a direct flash isn’t great as it can damage their eyes, but a torch or two can still produce some great results. Most abundant was the Red-Eyed Tree frog – an iconic animal for this country and quite a poser too!
The meals were held in the thatched main building but this didn’t stop wildlife coming to find us – sharing breakfast with a couple of toucans on the first morning was a surprise, as everyone dropped their cutlery and grabbed their cameras. The two nights were over soon enough and we were onto our next location – the Savegre Cloud Forest to search for the elusive Quetzal. Costa Rica has been a leading ecotourism destination for long time and has developed its national parks in an admirably sustainable way. You’re not going to find yourself completely isolated from civilization, but if it’s abundance of wildlife you are after then you won’t find a better place.