Pura Vida

For the past few weeks 15minutesofgreen.com has been on hold while I have been experiencing the ‘pure life’ (Pura Vida) in Costa Rica.

This incredible land between the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean has a unique geography, rich in its variety of habitat. I travelled between humid tropical rainforests, jungle-fringed beaches and cool misty cloud forests, all teeming with spectacular wildlife.

The diverse habitats of Costa Rica

The diverse habitats of Costa Rica (from top left clockwise): the peaceful waterways of Tortuguero; Arenal volcano; the tropical foliage of Esquinas; Savegre cloud forest

Costa Rica covers less than 0.1% of the earth’s surface, yet it is home to 5% of the earth’s biodiversity. More than a quarter of this small Central American country is designated national park, biological reserve or wildlife refuge.

I can’t possibly do justice to the stunning scenery and jaw-dropping wildlife that I encountered, but I hope you will enjoy this brief snapshot of an inspirational country, which has reaped the benefits of putting conservation and the environment at the top of its list of priorities.

Fabulous flora

If you like trees, you’ll love Costa Rica. There are a lot of them (!) and the view from the top is simply breathtaking.

Monteverde forest canopy, Costa Rica

Monteverde forest canopy: mature tree crowns fill every available space in their search for sunlight

Below the dense green canopy lies a dimly lit underworld of strangler figs, bromeliads and giant ferns, bejeweled with heliconias and orchids.

Below the forest canopy, Costa Ricca

Below the canopy (from top left clockwise): the Monteverde forest; giant fern unfurling; epiphytic bromeliads; heliconia

Even outside the forests, the vegetation is vibrant and eye catching.

Fruits of Costa Rica

From top left clockwise: cashew nut; soursop fruit; guanacaste tree (Costa Rica’s national tree); plantain

Astonishing bird life

Although we could hear birds wherever we walked, they were often extremely well hidden amongst impenetrable vegetation; even the most brightly coloured species had an uncanny knack of blending in with the nearest tree trunk or branch. It usually took the eagle eyes of our expert guide, Andres, to point them out, and even then it took a while to hone in on what he could see. But it was well worth getting to grips with our binoculars on this trip!

A collared redstart foraging for insects on a mossy branch

A collared redstart foraging for insects on a mossy branch

Birds of Costa Rica

From top left clockwise: keel-billed toucan; boat-billed heron; male resplendent quetzal; blue-crowned mot mot

Humming birds in flight

There’s something rather magical about humming birds in flight … but blink and you’ll miss them

Amazing mammals

We would never have spotted the silent well-camouflaged sloths without expert help, but if we heard a rustling in the undergrowth, a little patience often revealed something furry snuffling across the forest floor …

Mammals of Costa Rica

From top left clockwise: coati; three-toed sloth; raccoon; agouti

… or swinging in the trees above us.

The monkeys of Costa Rica

The swingers (from top left clockwise): howler monkey; spider monkeys; white-throated capuchin

Leaping lizards

When it came to the reptiles and amphibians there wasn’t actually a lot of leaping going on. Most species were incredibly obliging when it came to having their photograph taken, posing sedately for their close-ups.

Green baselisk lizards, Costa Rica

We were captivated by the green baselisk lizards of Tortuguero national park, both male (left) and female (right)

Lizards, frogs and snakes of Costa Rica

From top left clockwise: jumping anole; spiney-tailed black iguana; green pit viper; moulting ameiva (whip-tailed lizard); poison dart frog

Seeing is believing

I could keep going, but you get the gist!  In Costa Rica, every person is constitutionally entitled to ‘a healthy and ecologically balanced environment’, and that’s what they appear to have. I’m not saying they’ve got it all sorted (who has?!), but the UK could certainly take a leaf (or several, as they have plenty to spare!) out of their book when it comes to protecting the natural environment and our indigenous species.

I know that I am extremely privileged to have been able to travel to such an amazing place and that such an opportunity is not available to everyone, but if you are a nature lover and it is within the realms of possibility to visit Costa Rica – GO NOW!!

My favourite links to Costa Rica:

April wonderland

Oh what a difference a month makes. Back in the UK, after inspiring green travels far afield, a walkabout in the garden reveals it has been blooming busy in my absence.

On first inspection, yellow predominates. The last of the daffodils are waving their nearly spent trumpets, clumps of wild primrose (Primula vulgaris) are holding their  faces aloft with gentle but confident beauty, and the Forsythia is full to bursting with sunny floral joy.

Forsythia brings sunshine into the garden whatever the weather with dramatic flair

Forsythia brings sunshine into the garden whatever the weather

Alice may be celebrating 150 years since her extraordinary adventures, but I wouldn’t swap her wonderland for mine …

 The herb garden is springing back into life

The herb garden is springing back into life, with chives, oregano and lemon balm already ready for use in the kitchen

The early unfoldings of tulips splash the garden with vibrant colour

The early unfoldings of tulips splash the garden with vibrant colour

The heavy-blossomed pear tree shouts the promise of a fruitful autumn harvest

The heavy-blossomed pear tree shouts the promise of a fruitful autumn harvest

Blooming aubretia softens and brightens stone walls and shady corners

Blooming aubretia softens and brightens stone walls and shady corners

The vibrant red-tipped growth of the Pieris Forest Flame reminds me to be alert for frosts

The vibrant red-tipped growth of the Pieris (Forest Flame) reminds me to remain alert for frosts

The flowering currant (Ribes sanguineum) is flowering in spectacular fashion

The flowering currant (Ribes sanguineum) is most definitely flowering

Then there is the ever-consistent hellebore. It is the plant that keeps on giving: from the first splash of colour in an otherwise grey canvas in February to the heavily nodding blooms that continue to vie for attention in the crowded borders around my pond today.

Helleborus blooms in April

A Christmas rose is not just for Christmas!

And it’s not just the flora making me smile. Before we went away, we knew that a pair of robins were making a home in a nest box nestled in the ivy opposite our kitchen window (see Watch the birdie). On our return, it was clear from the non-stop industry of the adults that incubation was over as they were already feeding their offspring.

A busy robin taking food back to the nest

A busy robin taking food back to the nest

So we’ve been keeping our eyes out for signs of the youngsters, and they have obliged in spectacular fashion, with 3 faces regularly peeping out of their increasingly cramped abode. Most broods tend to have a dominant sibling, and ours is no exception.

So what better name than ‘Alice’ as she becomes ‘curiouser and curiouser!’ about the wonderland that awaits her. In fact, her curiosity has almost resulted in fledging a little ahead of schedule.

Robin fledgling

First, she decided to get a better perspective on the world outside her nest

Robin fledging

Then she tried out her undeveloped flight feathers … and nearly fell out!

It doesn’t look like it will be long before Alice and her slightly less inquisitive siblings fledge, and as they will be unable to fly for a couple of days I shall have to go on cat alert.

So, now that I’ve got all the holiday washing out the way and we’re getting back into a regular routine, the hard work really starts. There’s lots of sowing and sorting to be done, but I can think of worse chores!

Gardening forever, housework whenever

Forget me not!

 

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