Costa Rica – Pura Vida (the simple life)

by Ron McGinty

What would be your picture of paradise?

The country of Costa Rica with its sandy beaches, mountains, rainforest, and 380 species of birds is a pure tropical paradise. I had no idea of the exquisiteness of Costa Rica.

We began in San Jose, heading south when our driver made an unanticipated quick stop. He saw a giant sloth in a tree. I could hardly see it from the van, but the driver did.

The obvious question was, “How did you see it while driving at 55 mph on winding roads?” Well, he simply said, “It was in the same spot four days ago.”

That is how slow they move… don’t blink or you will miss it move. I started to think like Forrest Gump “Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.”

At lunch, the iguanas were everywhere as were colorful parrots and monkeys. I equate Costa Rica as a visual experience out of a Disney movie and a fantasy for photographers. A person can tour the country from the Pacific Ocean to the Caribbean in a day because it is the size of West Virginia.

We went west to Parque Manuel Antonio National. The diversity of the park is striking, it houses various species of mammals, reptiles, and birds. It is a menagerie with no barriers. It is one of the most enjoyable grounds to walk because of the dirt roads. The road ends with a stunning Caribbean Sea and a white sandy beach.

My group was searching for the Resplendent Quetzal bird which brought us to the highlands and volcanos. The temperature went from 90 F to 42 F in one day. At an altitude of 10,000 feet, it becomes sparsely inhabited because of the remoteness.

Our hotel was the Trogon Lodge located in the area known as Savegre Valley in the small town of San Gerardo de Dota. You awaken in the clouds to fresh air and to your inner rhythm of the surroundings, one with nature. I quietly meandered the trails to spot the Resplendent Quetzal, the focal point of the trip. These are beautiful blue birds with a long tail feather.

I set up my tripod and camera with my 600 mm lens. I could see it, only God could create a living thing this exquisite. The reason this specific bird is so important is it is a sacred bird of the Mayans and the Aztecs using its long feathers as plumes. Historically it is the symbol of freedom. Unfortunately, I had to buy the picture rights of the full bird from iStock/Getty Images to show the entire bird. I never was able to take a clear shot of the whole Resplendent Quetzal, because of the mazes of branches.

Seven days of birding was over my capacity to continue, my passion is more of people. I think the rest of my travel partners were shocked, I was leaving, because they were the real deal, “bird photographers.”

I was about 90 miles from San Jose. I found a young man working at our hotel and asked if Uber was there, he responded, “NO,.” Well, I paid for him to drive me to my hotel. I ended with two days to visit San Jose. See you at the hotel bar!

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