So I was up and on the road with my guide Felix by 6:30 a.m. We were headed to Curi-Cancha Reserve, which opened at 7:00 a.m. to do a little (actually a lot) of bird watching for the next 3 ½ hours.
After we checked in, Felix spotted a motmot, a beautiful multi-coloured bird, that was flitting around a nearby tree. And as luck would have it, just as I snapped a picture of the bird, an agouti found its way into the picture munching on a banana. Two for the price of one!
We then walked towards the start of the main trail, but Felix veered off towards a grove of banana trees and motioned for me to follow. Felix had spotted a troupe of white faced monkeys raiding the banana trees. We stood and watched the marauders race across the grass, grab a banana or two, race back across the grass and up a tree, gulp down the bananas and then repeat. It was quite the show. I lost count of how many monkeys were in the troupe, but there were at least ten. I kept watching one monkey that continued going back to the same perch. It was like the little guy was on autopilot. Pretty funny to watch.
After the extracurricular activities near the entrance, we finally began our hike up the hill and into the reserve. The sun was just beginning to burn off the early morning fog/clouds making it a little easier to spot the birds. Unfortunately, the morning clouds continued for the first hour of our hike so the birds were a little late in making their appearance.
As we reached the crest of the first hill, we ran into another motmot. The bird was incredibly colourful and seemed to love posing for pictures as I was able to get incredibly close without scaring it off.
Now birds are really a thing for Felix and every few minutes he was pointing out another bird and motioning me to look into the scope. Felix would spew all sorts of facts and info about the bird, show me a picture of the bird and then play the bird’s call on his phone. I mean Felix REALLY loved his birds.
We continued on up, up, up the main path through the reserve and when I say up, I mean UP. The path was really steep and any time it leveled out, I wanted to scream for joy. And as we wandered deeper into the reserve, we passed numerous strangler fig trees. These trees are enormous and have these incredible roots that extend from the mid portion of the tree surrounding and strangling a separate tree eventually killing the inner tree leaving the fig tree on the outside. The trees are incredible to see and are massive. Felix said that one of the trees was at least 350 years old. Yikes!
We continued on up yet another hill and down and around a corner continuing to scan the trees for birds. We then took another path along a river before taking yet another path ending up in a beautiful garden that had been constructed in the middle of the reserve. It was beautiful with flowers and arches and birds all over the place. We settled on a bench and took in the scene as birds flitted about in the sun.
Felix’s brain was on overload trying to identify for me each and every bird. I lots count of the number of birds and at times just gave up trying to capture a picture or two as the birds swooped in and out of the bushes.
We finally moved on heading back up the hill we had just climbed down, but this time we veered to our left and down the hill. As we walked, a guide with a group of tourists approached and told us that there was a resplendent quetzal, a northern emerald toucanet (a small toucan) and a black guan (a form of wild turkey) just up the hill in a little thicket of trees. And we should have known there was a quetzal just by looking up a the top of the hill because there was a gaggle of tourists all standing around with cameras pointed in one direction.
By the time we reached the top of the hill some of the folks had moved on. The quetzal was easy to spot as it was hanging out on a tree branch, but it was in the shade making it hard to photograph. The green toucanet was a hard to spot, but a little easier to photograph as it was sitting amongst the leaves in the sunlight.
I was having a hard time trying to get a good picture of the quetzal so I walked over to the adjacent thicket of trees where the black guan was hanging out. I watched it through my camera for a bit and then it moved ever so slightly exposing its red waddle making for a great picture. YAY!
By now everyone had left the area, leaving only me and Felix. And as luck would have it, the quetzal moved onto a higher branch allowing the sunlight to fall on its feathers. Gorgeous. We stood and watched the bird for a bit taking some pictures before finally going back down the hill and then up another hill and then up another path. Felix was on the hunt for one more bird to show me: an elegant euphoria. He told me it as a beautiful multi-coloured bird I just had to see and just when we were about to give up, Felix spotted a pair high up in a tree above our heads.
Felix was able to use his scope to zero in on the pair and they were indeed absolutely beautiful. We watched them move about from branch to branch until they flew off, but not before I was able to catch a couple of really nice photos.
By now it was approaching 11:00 and we had been hiking since 7:00. I was exhausted. We drove back to the treehouse and I said goodbye to Felix. He had been a terrific guide and showed me far more than I ever expected to see.
I ended up resting for a couple hours and then took a cab into town to go see the butterfly garden. The exhibit was divided into three regions: the lowlands, the midlands and the highlands. In addition, there was an exhibit featuring all sorts of creepy crawly things from scorpions and tarantulas to beetles and cockroaches, which is where the tour started. A young fellow from Montreal conducted the tour and it got off to a roaring start when three scorpions got loose. Fortunately, another guide came to the rescue and helped coral the scorpions.
We next moved on to the lowland region hothouse where we saw butterflies common to tropical rainforests like the blue morpho butterfly and the owl butterfly. We
then moved onto the midlands hothouse where we saw some absolutely gorgeous butterflies including the blue wave butterfly and the cracker butterfly.
We ended the walk through the highlands hothouse where we were given a container with a butterfly, which had just hatched, to release. I was given a monarch butterfly to release. When I opened the container, the butterfly flew onto a leaf and hung out there before joining other monarch flitting around the hothouse. It was quite the site.
After the visit to the butterfly garden, I ended the day with dinner at a Bon Appetite, a local restaurant serving fabulous Italian food, and where my waiter turned out to be Batak Obama’s doppelgänger. Seriously. He was the spitting image of 44.
It had been a wonderful three days in Montaverde. Tomorrow, I am off to La Fortuna, an area at the base of the Arenal Volcano and with a lot more tourists than Montaverde.