Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Quetzals and Kinkajous

What's this cute thing? Read on and find out.
If you stay long enough in Costa Rica as a tourist (three months for most visas), you take a mandatory vacation out of the country for at least 72 hours to renew your visa. Most people choose either Panama or Nicaragua, and Bocas del Toro in Panama seems to be the most popular spot. Being budget-conscious and curious about the mountainous Pacific side of Panama, we opted for the Chiriqui province. We had an excellent time, saw plenty of birds, and the scenery was beautiful.

We spent our first two nights in a very comfortable guest lodge, Hostal Elvita, in Cerro Punta. The family who runs it is incredibly nice, and we had a fun game of Monopoly with one of the girls.
Part of the garden at Hostal Elvita.
Cerro Punta is full of beautiful flowers.
Above and below, other landscapes in Cerro Punta.

It was cloudy or raining much of the time (5 meters per year of rain in this region!), which contributed to the lush colors of the countryside. Most of the region is deforested due to agriculture or cattle ranching, but the agriculture is small-scale for the most part rather than huge monoculture farms.
Sr. Lucinio Serrano Morales, 89, who still runs his agricultural
business in Cerro Punta down the road from here
View from the road in Guadalupe
The cloud forest attracts some tourism (mostly birders in search of the resplendent quetzal), so hopefully that is helping with forest conservation efforts. This part of Panama also hosts part of the binational Parque Internacional La Amistad (spanning into Costa Rica), which we visited on one of our mornings. We didn't see the quetzals there, but the next morning, we took a guided tour to the area between La Amistad and Volcan Baru and saw three, including this male at and near his nest, feeding a chick that was too small/far to photograph.
We enjoyed that area so much that we decided to stay in one of the cabins there, belonging to Los Quetzales lodge. What a neat building! Two stories, circular structure, spiral staircase, gaslights, and overall fantastic atmosphere. The photo doesn't do it justice.
While we were there, we also got a nighttime visit from an animal we've always wanted to see: the kinkajou. Two kinkajous, in fact. One of which is featured at the top of this entry.
If they seem too close to us and our cabin, it's because they are. Unfortunately, some guests feed the kinkajous at night (we didn't--they came because they thought there might be food around). We were still guiltily glad to get such a good look at them. They're possibly the cutest mammals we've ever seen.

Another neat thing about the Chiriqui province: loads of hummingbirds wherever there are feeders. The feeders at our cabin were constantly full of fighting, zipping, sipping hummingbirds of at least 5 species including Violet sabrewing (bully of the group), White-throated mountain gem, Magnificent hummingbird, Green violet-ear, Magenta-throated woodstar, and more (only several of which are shown here).

We're back in Costa Rica now, and from the results of our poll, it looks like food and continued posts about wildlife are the top preferences. We'll post on food soon, but all the neat things we should have photographed, like traditional Bribri meals, unfortunately didn't occur to us at the time, so it might be a little more text-heavy.


  1. looks amazing! love the cabin!

  2. I found your blog when I was looking for more information on the Kekoldi Bird Banding...I'm hoping to be a volunteer there starting in August and would love to get in contact. Maybe you could share some words of wisdom?

  3. slbartlett--yes, let's get in touch; we'll be happy to tell you about our time, trying to think of a way to non-publicly post our emails. How about finding me on Facebook if you're on it: Emily Dahl in the Brandeis network. Current profile pic: girl with monkey on shoulder.