As pointed out in the description of my first trip to Costa Rica the small country is a nature’s treasure and home of 5 % of the world’s biodiversity covering 12 of the 30 life zones on earth. More than 900 species of birds, around 200 species of amphibians, 216 kinds of mammals and many reptiles such as snakes, crocodiles, iguanas, lizards and turtles live in an area of the size of Denmark (or Virginia in the US). The flora offers 1000 kinds of orchids, countless species of other tropical flower plants, ferns and trees. 25% of Costa Rica’s total landmass including 26 national parks build the largest percentage of protected areas in the world. For more details please read the informations here.
The amazing and abundant variety of tropical wildlife and flora we could see and photograph on our first visit in 2017 generated the plan of a second 10days trip scheduled for April 2018 in order to explore different areas of the country. Since we had focused on the Atlantic Lowland Rainforest, Atlantic Slope Cloud Forest and Talamanca Cloud Forest in 2017, the second trip was primarily directed to the Pacific side including the coast :
From San Jose´we went to our lodge on the Central Pacific Coast where we focused on macro flash photography of Red-eyed tree frogs, snakes, spiders and more. Green iguanas, baselinks and several kinds of birds could be seen around the lodges, too. On 2 boat safaris on the Tarcoles River we photographed a variety of egrets and herons, kingfishers, roseate spoonbills, pelicans, boatbills, oshreys, mot mots and many other waterfowl and wading birds that can be found on the river banks and in the mangroves. The river is not only home to around 50 species of birds but also the habitat of one of the world’s largest crocodile population with about 25 American crocodiles living per square kilometer and amounting to around 2000 crocs in the area. Though the Rio Grande de Tarcoles therefore is a main tourist attraction it is ironically known as the country’s dirtiest and most polluted basin considering the fact that it carries 67% of sewage, untreated organic and industrial wastes of over 50% of the country’s population.The river measures 111 kilometres (69 mi) and originates on the southern slopes of the Cordillera Central volcanic range. It flows in a south-westerly direction to the Gulf of Nicoya. That said, it is significant for the country’s residents, as nearly 60% of Costa Rica’s total population lives along its basins.
We then departed for a destination further down the South Pacific coast that offered us a good opportunity to capture the coastal landscape around sunset. We were also hoping to photograph Costa Rica Squirrel Monkeys that live in the woods nearby the lodge. Though we saw them they were mostly hidden pretty far away in the canopy so the chances for good shots were limited. On a day trip we went to the nearby Manuel Antonio National Park which is Costa Rica’s smallest NP, founded in 1972. It’s a tourist attraction and pretty crowded at times but a good place to photograph White-faced capuchin monkeys, sloths, and Crab-eating raccoons. We also spent some time to photograph a pair of Pygmy Owls nesting in a palm tree near the entrance.
Afterwards we headed toward the misty highlands of the Talamanca Mountain Range to a beautiful location we’ve had been on the first trip in 2017, too. We photographed some nice rushing cloud forest river landscapes just down the road and spent the next full day photographing woodpeckers, tanagers, and hummingbirds in a multi flash setting
Our last stop was the Quetzal lodge in the Pacific Cloud Forest where we had also been before. As the name of the location may indicate, this is the place to look for the Resplendent Quetzal in the woods nearby, – the Holy Grail for neotropical bird photographers. We had photographed this beautiful bird in 2017, too. However, the quetzal was pretty far away and not sitting in a perfect position against a busy background. Therefore my hope for a better chance was an important and decisive factor to revisit the place. Beyond that we spent the day photographing the amazing Fiery-throated Hummingbird as well as other hummingbird species again such as the Green Violet-ear, Magnificent Hummingbird and Volcano Hummingbird. We also got the opportunity to shoot macros of a viper snake.
As to the equipment, I basically took the same gear as on my first trip in 2017- including a stable tripod with gimbal head and ball head, a flash (Speedlite 600 EX) with Better Beamer extension and off-camera holder. The 200-400mm/f 4.0 + Ext or 600mm/f4.0 (+1,4x Ext III) mounted on the Canon 5DsR, 5D Mark IV or 1-Dx Mark II was used for photographing small birds at the settings but also for shooting birdlife on the river banks of the Tarcoles River and in the mangroves. The monopod was useful for supporting those combinations on the boat safaris. For some motifs such as BIF, the Canon 7D Mark II + 100-400 II was a good and flexible choice, too. I used the 100mm /f 2.8 IS macro lens + Ring Flash ML-3 or off -camera Speedlite 600 EX for close ups. For landscapes I mostly chose the 24-70mm/f2.8 and 70-200mm/f2.8 IS II on the 5D Mark IV or 5DsR.