The monkey time
We picked Costa Rica because Eric wanted to see monkeys. When we met to build this trip around the Galapagos cruise the conversation kept getting directed back to monkeys. Monkeys monkeys monkeys.
So we broke down and told Eric about this beach on Costa Rica’s Pacific coast where the monkeys race from the treeline to the beach to steal people’s food. Six months later Manuel Antonio ended up being the first stop on our tour.
Manuel Antonio: We Got Your Monkeys Right Here
Our first monkey sighting was a lone howler croaking his disapproval from the treetops as we entered the butterfly farm that first morning. Walking down to the beach later in the day we were puzzled by signs tacked to trees claiming sponsorship of monkey bridges – kids and elementary-school classes in the US were sending money to Manuel Antonio to support the monkeys, but I couldn’t figure out where the money was going. There weren’t any bridges that I could see, just telephone and electrical wires above the road.
Okay, so some of those wires were actually ropes put there to help the endangered squirrel monkeys make it to the water without being run over or electrocuted. The bridges are maintained by Kids Saving the Rainforest, a non-profit founded by 9-year-old girls to educate humans and assist monkeys.
On our way back uphill from the beach we came across a troop of white-faced capuchins crossing the road to raid a stand of plantain and fruit trees.
Manuel Antonio National Park
The main draw of this part of Costa Rica is the national park, 1680 acres of forest and beach set aside in 1972 as a buffer from all the hotel and condo development sprouting around Manuel Antonio.
While Alberto was very helpful in identifying birds and plants, we were able to spot the capuchin monkeys on our own. We happened upon about a dozen of the little guys crossing over the footpath to reach the beach and steal lunches from the local sunbathers.
The monkeys aren’t the only story at the national park – plenty of unusual birds, land animals and plants make the park their home. I scratched out a list as we walked: yellow-crested night heron, brown pelican, Tennessee warbler, bats, agouti, greenback heron, crested flycatcher, osprey, jesus lizard.
Soon after our encounter with the monkey troop Cindy spotted a lump of fur high in the treetops. Alberto’s telescope revealed a two-toed sloth napping on a branch. We lined up for scope-assisted photos.
Hygiene is important. This guy looked awful compared to the two-toed. Algae had tinted his fur green, and we speculated on the self-respect levels among the sloth family.
A few days later we’d discover that algae’s not the only thing along for the slow ride on one of these creatures.
The pool bar
We’d seen plenty of capuchins and been berated by howlers but missed the endangered red-backed squirrel monkeys entirely. Undaunted, Melanie snuck out early on our last morning at La Mariposa and tracked down a family of squirrel monkeys headed for the beach and breakfast.