Searching for Wildlife
Animals in the forests are predominantly nocturnal. When they are active in the daytime, they are usually elusive and on the watch for predators. Birds are easier to spot in clearings or secondary forests than they are in primary forests.
The best way to see wildlife anywhere is to hire a local guide. Guides have an uncanny ability to spot, smell, hear, or track animals that you would never see otherwise, including sloths, snakes, lizards, spiders, and birds. Guides are also useful for setting up telescopes and taking great pictures using your phone.
By the way, if it's been raining a lot and the trails are muddy, a good pair of rubber boots comes in handy. These are usually provided by the lodges or at the sites, where necessary.
Here are a few helpful hints:
- Listen. Pay attention to rustling in the leaves; whether it's monkeys up above or pizotes on the ground, you're most likely to hear an animal before seeing one.
- Keep quiet. Noise will scare off animals and prevent you from hearing their movements and calls.
- Don't try too hard. Soften your focus and allow your peripheral vision to take over. This way you can catch glimpses of motion and then focus in on the prey.
- Bring binoculars. It's also a good idea to practice a little first to get the hang of them. It would be a shame to be fiddling around and staring into space while everyone else in your group oohs and aahs over a quetzal.
- Dress appropriately. You'll have a hard time focusing your binoculars if you're busy swatting mosquitoes. Light, long pants and long-sleeved shirts are your best bet. Comfortable hiking boots are a real boon, except where heavy rubber boots are necessary. Avoid loud colors; the better you blend in with your surroundings, the better your chances are of spotting wildlife.
- Be patient. The jungle isn't on a schedule. However, your best shots at seeing forest fauna are in the very early morning and late afternoon hours.
- Read up. Familiarize yourself with what you're most likely to see. Most lodges and hotels have a copy of A Guide to the Birds of Costa Rica and other wildlife field guides, although it's always best to have your own. A good all-around book to use is Carrol Henderson's The Field Guide to the Wildlife of Costa Rica.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.