We arrived in Costa Rica towards the end of January and since then, we have been living next to a beach on the Pacific, at the edge of the jungle. Costa Rica is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world and, with few humans for miles around, we are very safe from Covid, although less safe from all the scorpions and venomous snakes! We loved our time in Italy but in the end had to leave because of the disastrous Brexit which puts a limit on how long we can stay in Europe. We searched for a place which was both relatively safe from Covid and with its borders open. Also, we preferred to be warm if at all possible – a rather counter-intuitive move since we had to give away all our winter gear and try to kit out for the tropics from Brindisi’s Decathlon which was replete with skiwear and thermals and strangely devoid of tropical wear. We arrived during the dry season (mid-November to April), yet it has very unusually been raining some nights, and when it rains, the noise is intense…we cannot even hear each other talk.
We are volunteering for a charity, Fundación Saimiri, which protects monkeys and their habitat. The charity’s current focus is the spider monkey, which is officially ‘endangered’ for a few reasons, mainly deforestation by landowners for the purpose of crop growing or cattle raising, but also because they are hunted and eaten by indigenous ethnic groups. We are living with the president of the charity and helping her in whichever way we can…sometimes fundraising, sometimes just looking after her son so that she has time herself to work. The president and her lovely family are so inspiring to live off grid and sacrifice comforts in order to protect the magnificent monkeys. It has been a real honour to help them where we can.
During the night, there is a sonorous chorus of animals which is so soothing, we sleep right through all the sounds they make. It’s strange how the electrical buzz of a fridge or a fan can keep us awake, yet the sounds of nature just help us to sleep. At sunrise, we awake to the sight and sounds of beautiful birds and howler monkeys all around us…just incredible, something we don’t think we will ever get used to. It feels like we are living inside a David Attenborough documentary. It all sounds like a dream come true, but only if the dream includes huge bugs crawling everywhere in your home all the time, treating us 24/7 as an ‘all you can eat’ exotic European buffet. Costa Rica has 750,000 species of insects, and sometimes it feels they are all in our casita. We have learned to turn out the lights at 6pm to avoid an open invitation to the buffet, and we then survive the evening with our red lit headlamps (which seem to attract our favourite bug: the firefly), go to sleep at 9pm and get up with the sun at around 5am.
Some of our delightful bugs…a day never goes by without shrieks of horror, especially when they land on us in the dark. A cockroach even once landed in our food. At least we have not yet encountered a blue scorpion.
Apart from howler monkeys, all the other Costa Rica based monkey species have paid us visits including these beautiful spider and white faced monkeys.
Daily Lives After Work
We have made the most of being only 50 metres from the beach. We swim every day in the warm, almost hot, Pacific Ocean. In the process we are becoming much healthier, losing weight from all the amazing pasta, pizza, taralli and olive oil we had gulped down in Italy. Even in the ocean, the wildlife documentary continues, as we watch in awe and from incredibly near at the white ibis and at the pelicans who dive into the water from a great height to nab their prey.
These leaf-cutting ants work day and night to carry leaves to their nest – they compost the leaves to cultivate a fungus which they eat. They have been doing this for 23 million years: neither the ants nor the fungus can survive without the other. However, a scene which could be imagined only in horror movies, has recently become common: another fungus called Cordyceps has been injecting itself into the ants and controlling their minds to leave the nest and wander off to a spot where they die miserably as the fungus sprouts out of the ants’ bodies.
We watch in wonder too at the thousands of hermit crabs which carry makeshift homes on their backs and, when we approach, roll into them to look exactly like pebbles. A couple of other amazing things about these creatures: the only time they change other than to move home is to copulate, and also, if their shell is too small for them, they have the crazy ability to shrink in size.
We don’t work on weekends, so we have spent our time in nearby slices of paradise. An area called La Tarde, where the BBC recently encamped to track ocelots, is most famous for its population of venomous frogs and snakes and we were thrilled to see a few of them and so many other amazing creatures:
We will probably stay in Central America for the next few months before returning to the UK to get our vaccinations. We’ll update this blog again before we leave. Hasta luego, see you soon!
P.S. Ask someone in Costa Rica anything…How are you, how’s the weather, how’s life…the answer is always Pura Vida. It means so many things: Let’s all smile, have no regrets and be happy for what we have. Everything is great. Enjoy life. Love nature and live a simple natural life.