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Search for Birds and Spiders

Destination: Monteverde

We had a wonderful breakfast this morning at Vista Verde Lodge. The big warm meal was just what I needed to sustain me through the next two hours of walking around in the rain! Yes, just as we got to the Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve for a bird watching tour, it began to come down. Luckily, we had rain gear and a wonderful guide, Johnny Perez, who showed us a lot of the flora, however, bird watching is tricky in the rain.

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Since it was raining about eighty percent of the time, we did not see too many birds, though we did hear a lot of them including a quetzal (the national bird of Guatemala). Once when the rain slowed down, Johnny was able to find us a big three-waddled bellbird. A handsome bird named for the three long black pieces of skin that hang off its face. Though we saw few birds, our guide pointed out a number of insects and plants. In all, it was a fun, though wet, walk through the rainforest.

When we were done, it was time to go back and check out of our room at the Vista Verde Lodge. After a warm shower and a friendly farewell to our host and hostess, we went in search of our next lodge.

Located near the center of Santa Elena, Monteverde Lodge and Gardens is a full-service lodge which has been described by others as "elegantly rustic." I agree. The service was impeccable from the moment we checked in. With gardens, walking paths, a large beautiful dining room, a Jacuzzi, and large comfortable rooms equipped with coffee maker, sitting area, double beds and private bathrooms, I was happy we had saved this stay for the last.

After checking in and taking a short nap, Rayna and I went out. El Marquez is a great seafood restaurant in Santa Elena. Their ceviche, shrimp wanton soup, and shrimp fried rice were delicious.

Around five we went to the Monteverde Wildlife Refuge for a night walk. These are popular throughout the area, because so many creatures become active at dusk and remain so throughout the night. With many trails, the refuge was a great place for a walk via flashlight and our guide knew right where all the good stuff was! We saw a couple sloths still sleeping, as well as a tarantula, a huge leaf-cutter ant colony, many fig trees (with the crazy trunks), and even a green pit viper!

In addition to the noteworthy sightings, the walk itself was really fun. It was a beautiful night with a light breeze that blew all the mosquitoes away. Our guide told us we should obviously use our flashlights to see, but we were also encouraged to look for any creatures stirring. So, of course, everyone (including myself) thinks they are going to be the one to make an incredible find that the guide missed. More than once I was left behind because I was sure I saw some large furry animal high up in the canopy. I never did, but it was great fun looking.

After a couple hours, we got back to the lodge. Dinner was spectacular. I had a mixed salad and for an entree, pork loin stuffed with raisins, peanuts, and onion, served with peanut puree and brandy sauce. It was a delightful combination of flavors which was complemented by the service and atmosphere.

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