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: