As my husband and I have been traveling around Costa Rica, like homeless gypsy wanderers, we have witnessed many things that will forever be seared into our memories. Monkeys and sloths crossing the road, 6-foot pit vipers trying to kill us, a pod of 300 dolphins surrounding our boat, tourists being robbed by a pack of rambunctious raccoons, 30 mammoth crocodiles piled up on the shore of a river, spiders the size of our heads…I could go on and on.
The animal encounters we get to witness are mind-blowing. The diversity of the wildlife in this country truly is remarkable and we rarely have to leave our house to meet a new animal. A few days ago I was once again reminded of the incredible animals that exist in this portion of the country, as I had three up-close, lifetime bucket list experiences, within a 24-hour-period.
My 24-hours of Costa Rican ecstasy began with a bumpy afternoon beach drive on our favorite beach: Playa Linda. The roads in Costa Rica are a special kind of horrible, but this is not always a bad thing. The potholes and multiple river crossings force you to slow down and enjoy the scenery. Creeping along at 5mph, as Andy dodges potholes with his expert driving skills, I happen to notice a large, furry blob clinging to a palm tree. We pull over and admire an adult sloth in the midst of an afternoon slumber.
Sloths are only found in Central and South America, so it is a treat to see one in the wild. Although there are many sloths in Costa Rica, they can be hard to spot as they rarely move and have impressive camouflage. We are lucky to spot one with our bare eyes, this has only happened to us a handful of times in our travels around this country. Seeing a sloth in an animal rescue center is one thing, but seeing one in the wild is a majestic and humbling reminder that Mother Nature is one spectacular broad.
Still riding my sloth high from the day before, I greet the next morning as the cloud forest rolls through our valley of jungle, with my steaming mug of potent Costa Rican coffee. Just as I take my first sip I hear a ferocious racket in the sky. 16 rare Scarlet Macaws, who mate for life, are doing a fly-by of their favorite tree. Like a gang, they shriek and holler at the family of green Mealy parrots inhabiting their perch, letting them know who is boss of this wall of jungle.
Scarlet Macaws only exist in a few small sections of this country, and we are lucky enough to live in one of these areas. We have witnessed a family of 9 flying by before, but seeing 16 at one time is truly a spectacular and unique event, even for this part of Costa Rica.
Just when I think it cannot get better, a troop of 50 rare squirrel monkeys invade our yard without warning. They trickle in, swarming the trees like an undercover squat team, and begin to fly through our treetops. Squirrel monkeys are the smallest monkeys in Costa Rica, they are about the size of a squirrel and typically weight only 1.5 pounds. Here is a video I caught of them crossing through our own personal monkey highway:
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Squirrel monkeys in Costa Rica: MONKEY CROSSING!
The chirping squirrel monkeys swarm the foliage, jumping from branch to branch, squeaking back and forth to each other, as they forage the trees for birds nests to raid.
A family of Fiery-billed Aracari Toucans keeps a close watch on their competitors. This squirrel monkey family is their direct competition for food, as they both feed on eggs and nestlings of smaller birds.
Suddenly there is a dramatic commotion in the trees, and an aggressive squirrel monkey confronts a toucan. They are similar in size and have an intense standoff over a nest. The monkey is squeaking aggressively while the toucan tries to stand his ground…but the monkey wins and violently shoves the toucan out of the tree. Sadly I did not get the monkey/toucan fight on video, but was able to capture this video of the pair right before their confrontation:
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Squirrel monkey and a Toucan sharing a tree in Costa Rica
These 24 hours of incredible animal encounters will always be a part of me, an event I can revisit time and time again in my mind. A napping beach sloth, 16 scarlet macaws soaring overhead, and a troop of 50 squirrel monkeys passing through the monkey highway in our yard, pausing only to shove a toucan out of a tree. I truly don't know of another place on the planet where these 3 phenomenal experiences can happen in the wild, within a 24-hour-period.
We are so blessed to live in such a place. Pura Vida. Peace. Gracias. OneLove. Namaste. And Audios Bitchachos.
Osa Mountain Village is a secluded jungle paradise, tucked into the mountains above the entrance to the rugged, unexplored Osa Peninsula. Half the species in the entire nation of Costa Rica can be found in this small section of the country, which is only 35 miles long and 20 miles wide.
The Osa Peninsula is one of the most thriving, diverse regions of Central America and has even been referred to as the most biologically intense place on Earth. After living here for five months, we have witnessed this first hand.
We may live up a pot-hole ridden mountain road that can swallow up a car...and yes, that may keep us from getting to the beach as often as we'd like...but luckily we don't have to leave our house to have incredible, up-close animal encounters. We truly are the minority and a Planet-of-the-Apes-situation is a real possibility around here.
Each time we open our door, we have no idea what animal awaits us on the other side. Some are cute, some are fancy, some are creepy, and some are deadly. It's like a game of 'What's behind door #1?' So let me take you on a photo tour of the interesting wildlife we have met and captured on film, right outside our front door.
This is a day in our life at Osa Mountain Village:
...some fancy-pants Costa Rican grasshoppers can make anyone's day brighter...
A cute, little guy eating a fresh, healthy salad for dinner. Farm-to-belly is the new farm-to-table.
Incase you missed the memo, neon is in this season.
A redneck lizard. He likes cheap beer, farmers tans and pick-up trucks.
A Black-mandibled Toucan playing hide and seek.
Is that a banana on your face, or are you just happy to see me?
A Fiery-billed Aracari, a member of the toucan family, perched on a tree in our yard.
A microscopic bright blue bird who occasionally visits us, called a Blue Dacnis.
Another occasional visitor: a Golden-hooded Tanager.
Two Scarlet Macaws, who mate for life, sharing a tree with two Black-mandibled Toucans.
This guy patrols our house at night, keeping us safe from rodent robbers.
It makes sense that Costa Rica, the land of butterflies, would also be the land of caterpillars.
This one will soon grow up to become the famous Blue Morpho butterfly.
Some of the caterpillars here are fuzzy, furry, and...poisonous. Despite how cuddly they look, keep your hands to yourself.
This bright, patriotic caterpillar fits in well in Costa Rica.
And of course, where there are beautiful caterpillars, there will be beautiful butterflies:
Even the moths in Costa Rica are vibrant and fancy, all dressed up in their Sunday best:
But of all the animals in Costa Rica, a monkey sighting is always at the top of my list of favorites.
A troop of 15 rare squirrel monkeys passing through our yard is a moment I will never forget.
And we always love our howler monkey visits, as their booming howls shake the walls of our house and make our dog bark each morning at 4am.
But...let's not forget that when you live in the jungle, it's not all monkeys, butterflies and fancy grasshoppers. There are also creepy, venomous creatures slithering around outside.
A bird-eating puffer snake on our deck.
A golden-orb spider.
The highly adorable, but highly toxic, green and black poison dart frog.
And to wind up our animal tour, a beautiful poisonous cane toad hiding outside our front door. Just don't tell our dog Sophie, as she has become addicted to their hallucinogenic secretions...
(Again...who, me?? You simply must be mistaken. Look at this cute face, I am an angel.)
I have learned many life lessons in the last year, as my husband Andy and I have traveled around Costa Rica, without a plan, chasing dreams that are hard to catch. Here is a collection of my favorites:
1) I've learned simplicity is freedom, and freedom is happiness. Not receiving junk mail, or mail at all, removes so much clutter from our lives. Going without things we used to take for granted makes us realize we need less than we thought. Less stuff, less stress. I don't need a dishwasher, or washer and dryer. Instead we do the dishes by hand, immediately after using them. It's just simpler, easier. We hang our clothes to dry outside. We don't have cable, we don't have flatscreen TV's, we don't have smart phones. I've learned that all you need is less.
2) I've learned that I was addicted to television. I always had it on at my house, ALWAYS. I liked the background noise. Even when nothing interesting was on, I would spend hours in front of the TV, like a brain-washed zombie. Removing the option of a TV has been the best medicine for a rich life.
3) I've learned it's better to count your blessings instead of your blemishes. I've learned it's pointless to complain about things you can't control. I've learned that people in the states seem to truly enjoy complaining about the weather. OMG, it's SOOO hot! (and this is after months of complaining about how cold it was) Give me a break, try being in a mosquito-infested, 99-degree, stuffy beach shack with no air flow, with 100% humidity, where you literally never stop sweating for one second, and then talk to me about hot. (Oops...did I just complain about the weather?)
4) I've learned that "fear of missing out" is a real thing, as our friends and families go on with their lives back home. We may be living it up in Costa Rica, having the time of our lives, but we're also haunted by missing important milestones and life events: weddings, funerals, babies, birthdays, business ventures...moments and opportunities we can never get back.
5) I've learned that wherever you go, there you are. When we sold our house and belongings, and moved to Costa Rica, we were each dropped in front of a full-length mirror, the universe demanding we stand there, naked and vulnerable, staring at ourselves until we could learn to unconditionally love the person staring back at us. And we're still learning. We get it wrong more days than we get it right. I've learned problems don't melt away, they don't stay only in one country, your problems are a part of you. They follow you like your shadow, you cannot run from them.
6) I've learned that under the stress of living in a foreign country you don't speak the native language of, every flaw is magnified. You see a person in their rawest, most real and ugly moments. I've learned that marriage means loving someone, even when they are being completely unlovable. I've learned that true love stands by each other on good days, and stands even closer on bad days.
7) I've learned how deeply I love my husband and that there is no one else in the world I would rather be on this crazy life adventure with. I've learned that we have each others backs, no matter what. I've learned what a good, strong person he is and I admire his courage on this journey as nothing seems to scare him and he always remains calm and level-headed…(while I freak out).
8) I've learned that your wealth or status doesn't make you who you are, but your kindness, character, and how you treat people does. I've learned that kindness begins with me, and kindness begins with you. I've learned that if you truly loved yourself, you could never hurt another. I've learned that a smile can be understood in any language and that kindness goes a long way.
9) I've learned that money doesn't make people happy. Some of the richest souls I have met on this journey have next to nothing. I've learned that if you live your life like money is all that matters, you're doing it wrong. If you want to feel rich, then count everything in your life that money can't buy. I've learned there are people so poor the only thing they have is money.
10) I've learned that not every day is all beaches, sunsets and monkeys. Some days are hard, some days are harder, as moments of culture shock and feelings of being homesick still creep up on us at unexpected times. But every morning is a chance to start over and try again, and that truly is a gift. Every day is an adventure and I've learned that today is a good day to have a good day.
Costa Rica is like an onion…layer after layer is peeled away, revealing new depths you were unaware of, leaving your eyes stinging with tears due to the magnitude of the immense beauty that surrounds you.
Costa Rica is like a person…a long-lost lover. A mysterious, complex soul, brimming with life and constantly leaving you in awe and wonder. Reeling you in, you fall deeper and deeper into mindless, consuming love with this piece of Earth.
Costa Rica is many things to many people. This country truly is the most breathtaking sanctuary I have ever laid foot on. I know when we leave here we will long for this place in our cells, our bones. The soul of Costa Rica will be permanently intertwined with ours.
A week ago we discovered our new favorite Costa Rican beach. Playa Linda, which means lovely or pretty beach, more than lives up to it's name. It is a secret, hidden gem, with no signs and just a small dirt road entrance.
Driving down the quaint, bumpy beach road we remark over the manicured rows of palm trees upon palm trees, creating hundreds of perfect hammock spots and plenty of cool shade to lounge in.
Finding an ideal spot, we claim a section of palms and sand, and set up our beach camp for the day.
If anyone needs me, this is where I'll be…
The volcanic sand is packed and firm, the beach goes on for miles, without a single soul in sight. Perfect beach-walking conditions, our beach therapy awaits. Untouched and pristine, this piece of beach is majestic and breathtaking. It is easy to get lost, seconds slip into hours, and it becomes difficult to remember what year it is.
Time ceases to exist. No worries, no hurries, and no problems.
Shiny, white objects glow under the piercing sun, as they lay half buried in the sand. Little gifts from the ocean, deposited on shore for the first person who happens to come upon their brilliance. 10 whole sand dollars, my priceless beach loot for the day.
Shadows dance across the sand as I collect my last sand dollar, I turn toward the sky to admire a ribbon of pelicans strung above the palm trees, like Costa Rican Christmas lights.
After a soothing beach walk we lounge in our hammocks and admire a Tico man fishing for his dinner. If you want to fish in Costa Rica, all you need is a piece of fishing line and a spool. Fishing poles are overrated. Why complicate life?
(Fish for dinner, not compliments...)
Mesmerized by the vibrant blue sky and the whispy clouds, this is so much better than any movie on any flatscreen TV. Lounging on the deserted sand, under the shade of our sunbrella, the clouds dance across the sky and melt into the horizon.
We are full of gratitude for another unforgettable beach day of falling in love, happy coconuts, and only our footprints in the sand…
Kari Pinkerton Silcox
It would be a tragedy to die, having never really lived. Which is why my husband Andy and I quit our jobs, sold our house and decided to chase our dreams. We moved to Costa Rica without a plan, and this is the story of our adventure.