“In looking at the various ecotours and guided trips available out there to look for reptiles in Costa Rica, only Jim’s program offers the flexibility and “off-rails” experience that I was looking for. Although the hotel was great and everything was taken care of from start to end, the part I really valued was that we were free to do what we like, look for what we like, and do so at our own pace. I think everyone got to enjoy the trip as much as they like that way. Of course we found a lot of snakes! 101 exactly, by the time we left on the last day. The first eyelash viper was right outside the doors of the rooms 5 minutes after arrival, and that set the pace for the week. There was one moment where our ‘problem’ was that there were too many snakes visible at once to photograph; an eyelash viper at the base of a tree, with a parrot snake in the top branches, with a bird snake right next to it, with a snail eating snake in the lower branches. That’s the kind of experience that I was looking for. I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of the trip, and I’ve already made plans to return next year.”
Bryan D. Hughes
Here is a brief summary of Michael and my recent trip to CR. Will include the portion of our trip before meeting up with you.
We flew to CR Wednesday may 6. Stayed at Hotel Areopuerto that night. Rental car from Vamos was delivered Thursday morning and we headed out, stopping at the Rio Tarcoles croc bridge where the “usual suspects”, about 30 American crocs of varying sizes, were hanging out as usual. We proceeded south to Reptilandia reptile park near Dominical. Saw the exhibits, found one green tree ankle and got to photograph some neonate eyelash vipers.But the real excitement came when we heard that a black headed bushmaster had been found the previous Sunday on the property we were heading to one the Osa Peninsula. We also learned that Roul, the assistant at Reptilandia, was going to be our guide at the lodge on the Osa. We spent that night in Golfito on the Golfo Dulce. Next day Friday May 8 we drove to La Tarde Ecolodge near the north entrance to Corcovado NP. That afternoon, the owner Eduardo took myself, Roul, and two other local guides out to see the Bushmaster,
Which was still in the same area where it had been found the previous Sunday. Next day we went back and found it again. A grueling hike up and down hills but what a thrill. Lachesis melanocephela!!! This was the snake I dreamed of seeing on the trip. Met herpetologist Mike Boston at La Tarde and learned that between them, he and Roul had spent over thirty years in CR and this was the first melanocephela they had seen. We also found a tree snake some sock-headed snakes and a forest racer at LaTarde. After that we hooked up with another local guide and spent two days near Fi ca Kobo chocolate farm where a fee de lance was the highlight of our finds. Next we headed over to the area around Turrialba. George VanHorn from the serpentarium in Kissimmee Florida hooked us up with two people in that area. One was a guy named Andres who has a private collection of bushmasters. We got to photograph some stenophyrs and another melanocephela. Georges other friend, an
older gentleman named Don Roberto who had captured a Hercules beetle for us, which delighted Michael immensely. We next spent a night at the Costa Rican Amphibian Research Center where Brian Kubicki gave us a tour of the grounds. Unfortunately we got rained on heavily but this is perhaps THE place in CR for frogs. We only saw about seven species in a rain shortened hike, but Brian is a great guy to know and I’d highly recommend you check his place out sometime if you have the chance. It is located on the main road between Turrialba and Siquirres.
That took us to the morning of Saturday May 16, when we drove back to Alajuela and met up with the group at Hotel Areopuerto. It was a thrill to reconnect with you, mark and donna, and mike o. Michael and I had met Bryan in Arizona a few years back and it was cool to see him again. As well, it was great to meet Logan and John from Wisconsin. That first night several of us went out on the grounds at the hotel and though we didn’t find much, it was obvious the group was hardcore herpers. Next morning we headed for Arenal Lodge, where we met up with Pete, another old friend from a.previous CRHA trip remember standing in the parking lot when you were sorting out rooms and handing out keys and then hearing Logan say hey guys I think I have an eyelash viper. Sure enough, there it was in the trees right around the corner from our rooms. It was a good omen and pretty much a hint of the days to come, which were just loaded with herps. The six nights were all
amazing. If I remember right, ten snakes was the least found in any one night, and several were in the high teens or twenties. I remember that I was first to see only a handful of snakes on the trails or roads, but that notwithstanding, and despite the weeklong intermittent and sometimes seemingly incessant rain, it was awesome from start to finish. More than twenty eyelash vipers , including bunches of juveniles and on one occasion three of them in one tree. A couple of fee de lance. A nice sized red tail boa that mike o somehow spotted resting in a brush-pile. Two coral snakes, neither of which I was there for the finding. We found both of my other major targets for the trip, the hog nosed pit viper and the jumping pit viper, with the help of the lodge’s guide Miguel. Can’t say enough about that man. He is superb, skilled, friendly, enthusiastic, and seemingly tireless. I know we went to at least five different hiking spots of various difficulty, and
found snakes of them. That included some on a hike over some private property adjacent to the lodge where Miguel took us one night. That was the place we kept finding banded snakes, one of which everyone thought was a many banded coral but which we later correctly identified as a Halloween snake. The cloudy sibons were everywhere on the grounds right near the rooms. I think the group found several each night. By midweek, it was obvious we had a chance at an all time CRHA record ,and the group persisted until the record was broken. Logan John and I almost took off on a spur of the moment trip over to the guanacaste region the last night to try for the neotropical rattlesnake crotalus sinus, but better decision making prevailed and we opted to stay and the lodge and help the group break the record. The great coordinates group effort didn’t stop until the morning of our departure and we ended up with over 100 snakes!! Heading back to Alajuela the morning
of Saturday the 23rd it was a contented and tired group. Even Michael, who spent so much time and energy grilling about the rain and resultant suboptimal conditions for photography and about the difficulty of some of the hiking terrain, was satisfied. With the groups hell, he got to see and photograph a great variety and sampling of the snakes and got.some great photos. Heck he even got another Hercules beetle that Miguel found one morning.
. Overall, it was an amazing trip. Bryan Logan John and I became great friends and have plans to hero together again at various spots in the states. Reconnecting with old friends, making new ones, herps galore, the snake of a lifetime on the Osa, three lifer hits for me ( and I am not counting the costa Rican coral because I wasn’t there with the group that found it, at least seven other lifer non-hots, and heck I didn’t even mention the frogs! And of course, some stuff left on mg wish list to give me reason to come back. Will I go back to CF? Definitely, and id love to make another go round with costa Rican herping adventures. Til next time!!