If you’re heading for a vacation rental home near Manuel Antonio National Park in Costa Rica, you’re in for an incredible nature adventure. In addition to iguanas, toucans, coatimundis and more, there are 3 species of monkeys indigenous to the park.
Manuel Antonio National Park
When the park boundaries were established in 1972 no one bothered to tell the Howler, Red-backed squirrel and Capuchin monkeys, so they continued to follow their established foraging routes beyond the park limits. Not all but many of Manuel Antonio’s vacation rental homes are located within these natural foraging routes known locally as the “Monkey Corridor.” However, staying in one of these vacation rental homes carries with it a big responsibility. It may seem cute, funny or thrilling to hand feed the monkeys, yet it’s extremely damaging to them in many ways.
One of the many attractions to Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica is the abundant wildlife particularly its primates – capuchin, howler and the endangered Red-backed squirrel monkey. Having Manuel Antonio National Park in such close proximity to many vacation rental homes gives vacationers the added thrill of seeing wildlife in their own backyard.
Unfortunately out of ignorance, indifference or for a photo opportunity many tourists feed the monkeys. However, they’re not fully to blame. Although local hotels are completely aware of the dangers, a few still encourage feeding monkeys to attract more clients. When tourists see others doing it they assume it’s acceptable. But feeding the monkeys is so detrimental to their health and survival it can have catastrophic consequences.
Sloths are tropical mammals that live in Central and South America. They use their long claws to hang onto branches while they feast on the leaves that other animals can’t reach. Unfortunately for the sloth, their long claws — 3 to 4 inches (8 to 10 centimeters) — make walking on the ground difficult, so they spend most of their time in the tall trees they call home.
There are two categories of sloths. The two-toed sloth is slightly bigger than the three-toed sloth, though they share many of the same features. They are about the size of a medium-sized dog at around 23 to 27 inches (58 to 68 cm) and 17.5 to 18.75 pounds (about 8 kilograms).
Sloths live, feed, mate, and reproduce near the upper levels of the forest canopy. The three-toed sloth only eats leaves from trees and lianas but may feed on 50 individual trees of up to thirty species. They can live as long as 9 to 11 years.
It is not uncommon to see a sloth around Manuel Antonio. Here is a short video for you to enjoy and share.
If you’re on your way to Costa Rica be prepared to be dazzled by Mother Nature because she’ll command your attention, get you out of your head and for brief magical moments, she’ll wrap you in her wonder and make you a part of it all.
For instance, imagine an iridescent blue butterfly the size of an open paperback book, a monkey that howls louder than a coyote and a tree sloth so slow it grows moss. Stay tuned for more about them in future articles but for now let’s talk about the quirky Green Basilisk, nicknamed the Jesus Christ Lizard because of its ability to walk on water. Technically they run on water. But wait, add another wacky element. At several of the Manuel Antonio vacation rental homes – these lizards perform this feat in the swimming pools.
Green Basilisks have long fringed toes on their hind feet. When threatened by iguanas or other perceived predators they stand on their hind legs and run across bodies of water using their tails for balance. They spread their toes wide and run slapping their feet hard against the surface of the water, creating a pocket of air between their soles and the water, which keeps them from sinking. The trick is they have to sustain a speed of 5 feet per second, otherwise, gravity wins and they have to resort to their excellent swimming skills.
How do they do that? Having lived in Manuel Antonio for many years, I’ve seen my share of Jesus Christ Lizards. Recently, I spotted two males by our pool. The males are easy to identify by the distinctive high crests on their heads and backs. These crests serve to impress the ladies. I approached the first mail cautiously for a closer look. He quickly jumped in the pool and did his Jesus Christ thing. I had one of those “duh” moments and ran back for my video camera hoping the second male would still be there.
No worries. When I returned Jesus Christ lizard #2 stood at the edge of our pool about 20 feet beyond but before I could get any closer he jumped into the water on his hind legs and bolted for the other side. I’ll be better prepared next time. Watch the National Geographic video here.
Manuel Antonio is a perfect eco-vacation destination when you need to get away from stress, traffic and punching a time clock. There’s an abundance of costa rica vacation villas nestled into the rain forest. Their close proximity to Manuel Antonio National Park has the added benefit of frequent wildlife sightings for vacationers.
Imagine lying by the pool reading your book and witnessing a lizard walk on water! If that doesn’t make you forget your worries and laugh, it’s too late, you’re headed for a dirt nap.
I’m so grateful to be living in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica and grateful to be able to share one of its magical moments with you. Paradise Awaits!
Red-backed Squirrel Monkey, Saimiri oerstedii cilrinellus, Mono Titi
Distribution: Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica only.
Status and Habitat: This is the most threatened monkey in all of Central America. It is restricted to secondary growth of humid, Pacific slope forest. This subspecies has a gray face. Populations are protected in Manuel Antonio.
Habits: Large feeding groups of Red-backed Squirrel Monkeys create a flurry and are hard to miss. They forage by investigating every leaf, nook and cranny. Groups are active from shortly before dawn to dusk, with variable rest breaks during the day. They are often accompanied by mixed-species flocks of birds including Double-toothed Kites and Tawny-winged Woodcreepers, which hunt flying insects flushed out by the monkeys (Bronski and Scott, 1998). This species is arboreal, traveling with speed and agility at all levels of slender trees and lianas. Group size is normally 10-35. Females give birth to single young after a 7-month gestation. Births are usually during the wet season.
Calls: This monkey makes a variety of low-intensity calls including twitters, trills and chucks, and occasionally, louder yaps and squeals.
If you’re an animal-lover looking for an over-the-top nature experience, spend some time in a vacation rental home near Manuel Antonio National Park in Costa Rica just a 10-minute drive from the town of Quepos on the Pacific coast. Iguanas, birds, sloths and many other animals can be found in this park known as the “Jewel of Costa Rica,” but its biggest draw is its 3 species of monkeys, the Mantled Howler, Red-backed Squirrel and White-faced Capuchin.