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Being outdoors in Costa Rica can get you as wet as this three-toed sloth (Bradypus variegatus), minus the algae in your fur ;)

[b]Red-eyed tree frogs, howler monkeys, spectacled caimans, poison dart frogs, toucans, coatis and great green macaws. Ever since an early age the name of 'Costa Rica' conjured up images of a magical land. Pouring over my parents copy of ‘The Atlas of World Wildlife’ I read about remote tropical rainforest some 9000 km away, exotic critters and pristine wilderness. Needless to say this destination was high on my bucket list and it was [insert positive superlative here] to be able to visit the rich coast in January of this year.

Costa Rica is a truly spectacular country with great wildlife opportunities, very friendly and genuine people, easy travelling, a well-developed infrastructure (except San José: pedestrians beware!), and seemingly more Italian restaurants then in any other country outside of Italy. It might sounds weird, but life in the countryside strongly reminded me of Romania. The small farming villages dotting the landscape – albeit with a lusher and greener vegetation – have the same atmosphere and people seem to have the same way of life. All good stuff.

On the downside I arrived feeling already ill, despite downing lots of exotic over the counter drugs acquired in the USA on our stopover. I will spare you the graphic details, but energy levels where pretty low… It was a very very frustrating experience to not being able to give a 100% photography wise, despite multiple poison dart frog species prancing around. Luckily, a local GP provided me with a well-aimed syringe injection in the buttocks… and onwards I went once more :)

The abundance and diversity of plant- and wildlife is simply overwhelming. It is just wonderful to be a naturalist and observe creatures you never saw before. This was my first photography trip to tropical (rain)forests and that brought its own challenges. Being from the Netherlands – where we both have plenty of rain and forest, but not combined – it was refreshing to learn a whole new skill set of observing and photography techniques. I really enjoyed the low light capabilities and weather sealed properties of my Canon 5D MK III, but it was often still a challenge to get a clear shot of your subject in between the dense vegetation. Preparation is key and among my sources I like to recommend the e-book ‘The Guide to Tropical Nature Photography’ by Gregory Basco and Glenn Bartley. Very useful insights, although the layout was a bit too distracting for my taste.

The absolute highlight for me (in terms of both experience and photography) was going into the jungle at night, which I did whenever I had the chance. Not only can you see different species, like Fer-de-Lance (Bothrops asper), Mouse opoussum (Marmosa spec.), loads of amphibians, insects, spiders, bats and did I mention loads of amphibians already? But your immersed in a whole new world of sights and sounds. It was great to experiment with a setup that consisted of my tripod, a 100mm lens and multiple modified flashlights.

On a different note: having been a well-developed holiday destination for several decades, means that sometimes you have to look a little harder for that remote rainforest and pristine wilderness I mentioned earlier. A logical consequence, but consider this naivety on my side. Seeing seventy year olds going by using walking frames – though inspiring in a way – somewhat dampened my sense of adventure :) Some parts (like Monteverde & Manual Antonia for example) can feel completely overrun by tourists, even though wildlife viewing opportunities are still very good. It all depends on what you want to gain from the experience of course, but I preferred the quieter lowlands of north-eastern Costa Rica (with both primary and secondary rainforest) and the impressive delta of Tortuguero (which can be very busy too, but we were outside sea turtle nesting season).

This is a country I really felt at home in. With over 25% of Costa Rica designated as protected area, there is plenty more to see and I’m definitely looking forward to return. Pura vida!

A 1:1 female golden orb-weaver (Nephila clavipes). Canon 5D MKIII, Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 USM Macro, 1/500, f/2.8, iso 100, handheld.
A 1:1 female golden orb-weaver (Nephila clavipes). Canon 5D MKIII, Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 USM Macro, 1/500, f/2.8, iso 100, handheld.

A female purple-throated mountain-gem (Lampornis calolaema) at a feeder. Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM, 1/1000, f/2.8, iso 3200, handheld.
A female purple-throated mountain-gem (Lampornis calolaema) at a feeder. Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM, 1/1000, f/2.8, iso 3200, handheld.

A male red-eyed leaf frog (Agalychnis callidryas). Canon 5D MKIII, Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 USM Macro, 1/80, f/2.8, iso 1000, handheld.
A male red-eyed leaf frog (Agalychnis callidryas). Canon 5D MKIII, Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 USM Macro, 1/80, f/2.8, iso 1000, handheld.

A camouflaged walking-leaf katydid (Mimetica mortuifolia). Canon 5D MKIII, Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 USM Macro, 1/250, f/2.8, iso 400, tripod, flashlight.
A camouflaged walking-leaf katydid (Mimetica mortuifolia). Canon 5D MKIII, Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 USM Macro, 1/250, f/2.8, iso 400, tripod, flashlight.

A red-faced Dragonlet (Erythrodiplax fusca)? Canon 5D MKIII, Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 USM Macro, 1/30, f/7.1, iso 100, handheld.
A red-faced Dragonlet (Erythrodiplax fusca)? Canon 5D MKIII, Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 USM Macro, 1/30, f/7.1, iso 100, handheld.

A wax-tail hopper (Pterodictya reticularis) feeding on sap. Canon 5D MKIII, Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 USM Macro, 1/80, f/2.8, iso 250, tripod, flashlight.
A wax-tail hopper (Pterodictya reticularis) feeding on sap. Canon 5D MKIII, Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 USM Macro, 1/80, f/2.8, iso 250, tripod, flashlight.

Dreamy life in the undergrowth. Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 L USM, 1/320, f/5.6, iso 640, tripod.
Dreamy life in the undergrowth. Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 L USM, 1/320, f/5.6, iso 640, tripod.

Posing red-eyed leaf frog (Agalychnis callidryas) on Heliconia. Canon 5D MKIII, Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 USM Macro, 1/100, f/2.8, iso 200, handheld.
Posing red-eyed leaf frog (Agalychnis callidryas) on Heliconia. Canon 5D MKIII, Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 USM Macro, 1/100, f/2.8, iso 200, handheld.

An female anhinga (Anhinga anhinga) in breeding plumage. Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 L USM, 1/320, f/5.6, iso 1000, handheld from boat.
An female anhinga (Anhinga anhinga) in breeding plumage. Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 L USM, 1/320, f/5.6, iso 1000, handheld from boat.

Seed pod of a Mucuna sp. Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 L USM, 1/250, f/5.6, iso 3200, handheld.
Seed pod of a Mucuna sp. Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 L USM, 1/250, f/5.6, iso 3200, handheld.

Impressive spiny-backed orbweaver (Gasteracantha cancriformis). Canon 5D MKIII, Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 USM Macro, 1/320, f/8, iso 2500, handheld.
Impressive spiny-backed orbweaver (Gasteracantha cancriformis). Canon 5D MKIII, Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 USM Macro, 1/320, f/8, iso 2500, handheld.

Detail of a fern. Canon 5D MKIII, Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 USM Macro, 1/80, f/2.8, iso 320, handheld.
Detail of a fern. Canon 5D MKIII, Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 USM Macro, 1/80, f/2.8, iso 320, handheld.

Little blue heron (Egretta caerulea). Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 L USM, 1/200, f/5.6, iso 3200, handheld from boat.
Little blue heron (Egretta caerulea). Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 L USM, 1/200, f/5.6, iso 3200, handheld from boat.

A toltec fruit-eating bat (Artibeus toltecus). Canon 5D MKIII, Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 USM Macro, 1/160, f/2.8, iso 3200, handheld, flashlight.
A toltec fruit-eating bat (Artibeus toltecus). Canon 5D MKIII, Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 USM Macro, 1/160, f/2.8, iso 3200, handheld, flashlight.

An elegant brown vine snake (Oxybelis aeneus). Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 L USM, 1/320, f/5.6, iso 500, handheld.
An elegant brown vine snake (Oxybelis aeneus). Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 L USM, 1/320, f/5.6, iso 500, handheld.

A beautiful green and black poison dart frog (Dendrobates auratus). Canon 5D MKIII, Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 USM Macro, 1/80, f/2.8, iso 3200, handheld.
A beautiful green and black poison dart frog (Dendrobates auratus). Canon 5D MKIII, Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 USM Macro, 1/80, f/2.8, iso 3200, handheld.

A "blue jeans" color morph (Oophaga pumilio) in a bromelia. Canon 5D MKIII, Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 USM Macro, 1/500, f/2.8, iso 1000, handheld.
A "blue jeans" color morph (Oophaga pumilio) in a bromelia. Canon 5D MKIII, Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 USM Macro, 1/500, f/2.8, iso 1000, handheld.

A hunting little blue heron (Egretta caerulea). Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 L USM, 1/320, f/6.3, iso 500, handheld from boat.
A hunting little blue heron (Egretta caerulea). Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 L USM, 1/320, f/6.3, iso 500, handheld from boat.

Fire-red Summer Tanager (Piranga rubra). Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 L USM, 1/200, f/5.6, iso 3200, tripod.
Fire-red Summer Tanager (Piranga rubra). Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 L USM, 1/200, f/5.6, iso 3200, tripod.

Tiny Oophaga pumilio between the leaf litter. Canon 5D MKIII, Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 USM Macro, 1/80, f/2.8, iso 2000, handheld
Tiny Oophaga pumilio between the leaf litter. Canon 5D MKIII, Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 USM Macro, 1/80, f/2.8, iso 2000, handheld

Gorgeous red-eyed leaf frog (Agalychnis callidryas). Canon 5D MKIII, Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 USM Macro, 1/80, f/2.8, iso 500, handheld.
Gorgeous red-eyed leaf frog (Agalychnis callidryas). Canon 5D MKIII, Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 USM Macro, 1/80, f/2.8, iso 500, handheld.

A beautiful but very venomous pit viper (Bothriechis schlegelii). Canon 5D MKIII, Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 USM Macro, 1/100, f/2.8, iso 3200, handheld.
A beautiful but very venomous pit viper (Bothriechis schlegelii). Canon 5D MKIII, Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 USM Macro, 1/100, f/2.8, iso 3200, handheld.

A buff-throated saltator (Saltator maximus). Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 L USM, 1/200, f/5.6, iso 3200, tripod.
A buff-throated saltator (Saltator maximus). Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 L USM, 1/200, f/5.6, iso 3200, tripod.

An adult black-faced solitaire (Myadestes melanops). Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM, 1/160, f/2.8, iso 1000, handheld.
An adult black-faced solitaire (Myadestes melanops). Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM, 1/160, f/2.8, iso 1000, handheld.

A yellow-crowned night heron (Nyctanassa violacea) grooming. Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 L USM, 1/250, f/5.6, iso 3200, handheld from boat.
A yellow-crowned night heron (Nyctanassa violacea) grooming. Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 L USM, 1/250, f/5.6, iso 3200, handheld from boat.

A bromelia up in the canopy. Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 L USM, 1/320, f/5.6, iso 400, handheld.
A bromelia up in the canopy. Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 L USM, 1/320, f/5.6, iso 400, handheld.

Respect the bullet ant (Paraponera clavata)!  Canon 5D MKIII, Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 USM Macro, 1/80, f/2.8, iso 320, tripod, flashlight.
Respect the bullet ant (Paraponera clavata)! Canon 5D MKIII, Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 USM Macro, 1/80, f/2.8, iso 320, tripod, flashlight.

Getting a glimpse of a riverside wren (Cantorchilus semibadius). Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 L USM, 1/200, f/5.6, iso 3200, handheld.
Getting a glimpse of a riverside wren (Cantorchilus semibadius). Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 L USM, 1/200, f/5.6, iso 3200, handheld.

Lime green colored bromelia's. Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 USM Macro, 1/80, f/2.8, iso 250, handheld.
Lime green colored bromelia's. Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 USM Macro, 1/80, f/2.8, iso 250, handheld.

Detail of a wolf spider sp.? Canon 5D MKIII, Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 USM Macro, 1/100, f/2.8, iso 3200, tripod, flashlight.
Detail of a wolf spider sp.? Canon 5D MKIII, Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 USM Macro, 1/100, f/2.8, iso 3200, tripod, flashlight.

Tiny ghost glass frog (Sachatamia ilex). Canon 5D MKIII, Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 USM Macro, 1/80, f/2.8, iso 1250, tripod, flashlights.
Tiny ghost glass frog (Sachatamia ilex). Canon 5D MKIII, Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 USM Macro, 1/80, f/2.8, iso 1250, tripod, flashlights.

Chestnut-mandibled toucan (Ramphastos ambiguus). Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 L USM, 1/160, f/5.6, iso 3200, tripod.
Chestnut-mandibled toucan (Ramphastos ambiguus). Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 L USM, 1/160, f/5.6, iso 3200, tripod.

A yellow-crowned night heron (Nyctanassa violacea). Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 L USM, 1/320, f/5.6, iso 1250, handheld from boat.
A yellow-crowned night heron (Nyctanassa violacea). Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 L USM, 1/320, f/5.6, iso 1250, handheld from boat.

A beautiful colored bromelia. Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 L USM, 1/320, f/5.6, iso 250, handheld.
A beautiful colored bromelia. Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 L USM, 1/320, f/5.6, iso 250, handheld.

Bright green Jesus Christ lizard (Basiliscus plumifrons). Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 L USM, 1/200, f/5.6, iso 3200, handheld from boat.
Bright green Jesus Christ lizard (Basiliscus plumifrons). Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 L USM, 1/200, f/5.6, iso 3200, handheld from boat.

Silhouette of a butterfly sitting on a leaf. Canon 5D MKIII, Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 USM Macro, 1/80, f/2.8, iso 3200, handheld.
Silhouette of a butterfly sitting on a leaf. Canon 5D MKIII, Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 USM Macro, 1/80, f/2.8, iso 3200, handheld.

Gotcha: a pale-billed woodpecker (Campephilus guatemalensis). Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 L USM, 1/125, f/5.6, iso 3200, handheld.
Gotcha: a pale-billed woodpecker (Campephilus guatemalensis). Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 L USM, 1/125, f/5.6, iso 3200, handheld.

Detail of a tree fern in the cloud forest. Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM, 1/160, f/2.8, iso 2500, tripod.
Detail of a tree fern in the cloud forest. Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM, 1/160, f/2.8, iso 2500, tripod.

Transparant ghost glass frog (Sachatamia ilex). Canon 5D MKIII, Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 USM Macro, 1/100, f/2.8, iso 3200, tripod, flashlights.
Transparant ghost glass frog (Sachatamia ilex). Canon 5D MKIII, Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 USM Macro, 1/100, f/2.8, iso 3200, tripod, flashlights.

Posing chestnut-mandibled toucan (Ramphastos ambiguus). Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 L USM, 1/250, f/5.6, iso 3200, handheld.
Posing chestnut-mandibled toucan (Ramphastos ambiguus). Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 L USM, 1/250, f/5.6, iso 3200, handheld.

A white-headed capuchin (Cebus capucinus) along the river. Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 L USM, 1/250, f/5.6, iso 3200, handheld from boat.
A white-headed capuchin (Cebus capucinus) along the river. Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 L USM, 1/250, f/5.6, iso 3200, handheld from boat.

Yellow-spotted milliped (Harpaphe haydeniana) and friends. Canon 5D MKIII, Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 USM Macro, 1/80, f/2.8, iso 640, handheld
Yellow-spotted milliped (Harpaphe haydeniana) and friends. Canon 5D MKIII, Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 USM Macro, 1/80, f/2.8, iso 640, handheld

Glimpse of a rufous motmot (Baryphthengus martii).  Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 L USM, 1/320, f/8, iso 3200, handheld.
Glimpse of a rufous motmot (Baryphthengus martii). Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 L USM, 1/320, f/8, iso 3200, handheld.

A juvenile red webbed treefrog (Hypsiboas rufitelus) hiding in the night. Canon 5D MKIII, Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 USM Macro, 1/320, f/2.8, iso 3200, handheld, flashlight.
A juvenile red webbed treefrog (Hypsiboas rufitelus) hiding in the night. Canon 5D MKIII, Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 USM Macro, 1/320, f/2.8, iso 3200, handheld, flashlight.

Portrait of a black river turtle (Rhinoclemmys funerea). Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 L USM, 1/320, f/5.6, iso 250, handheld from boat.
Portrait of a black river turtle (Rhinoclemmys funerea). Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 L USM, 1/320, f/5.6, iso 250, handheld from boat.

Hidden tarantula (Theraphosidae sp.). Canon 5D MKIII, Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 USM Macro, 1/80, f/2.8, iso 2000, handheld, flashlight.
Hidden tarantula (Theraphosidae sp.). Canon 5D MKIII, Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 USM Macro, 1/80, f/2.8, iso 2000, handheld, flashlight.

A male green iguana (Iguana iguana). Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 L USM, 1/160, f/2.8, iso 250, handheld.
A male green iguana (Iguana iguana). Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 L USM, 1/160, f/2.8, iso 250, handheld.

Juvenile purple gallinule (Porphyrio martinicus). Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 L USM, 1/320, f/5.6, iso 2000, handheld from boat.
Juvenile purple gallinule (Porphyrio martinicus). Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 L USM, 1/320, f/5.6, iso 2000, handheld from boat.

A spinytal iguana (Ctenosaura similis) doing peekaboo. Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 L USM, 1/125, f/5.6, iso 3200, handheld.
A spinytal iguana (Ctenosaura similis) doing peekaboo. Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 L USM, 1/125, f/5.6, iso 3200, handheld.

A cheeky red-eyed leaf frog (Agalychnis callidryas) on Heliconia. Canon 5D MKIII, Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 USM Macro, 1/100, f/2.8, iso 200, handheld.
A cheeky red-eyed leaf frog (Agalychnis callidryas) on Heliconia. Canon 5D MKIII, Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 USM Macro, 1/100, f/2.8, iso 200, handheld.
 


New photos: Costa Rica