I got 8 more butterflies today and at least one a “lifer” or new one for me, but identifying and processing hundreds of photos is just too much to share those today and the birds were just a very few! It is quite windy here this time of year.
So for today’s post, the easy way out, a handful of vistas from the hotel, many from my room and most of these are untouched straight out of the camera to facilitate my limited time for this post today! 🙂 One shot of last night’s sunset from my room just for the email announcement, and then all in a slide show that follows . . .
You could use this day to start 2023 with a pop, or possibly several hundred. 🙂 But instead of driving your family crazy, think about how the packing material could be used to make art. For an amazing example, check out the work of professional artist Bradley Hart (bradleyhart.ca). 🙂
Or better yet, see this cool YouTube Video on making art from bubble wrap . . .
And I’ll share a few others of the many strange and silly “special days” during the rest of this year – maybe one a month – just for fun or to bring a smile. Doing something different makes one smile and live longer! 🙂 So look for another silly national day here on this blog during each month this year! 🙂
As much as I love traveling around Costa Rica with my camera, I am slowing down a little this year for multiple reasons, mainly health and money! 🙂 I’ve lived a long and exciting life already, mostly as a high-energy person, ready at all times for the next adventure! But with much less energy after cancer radiation treatments and having three pretty serious falls last year on trips, I must “start acting my age” in some respects. 🙂
Plus, my savings have been cut back a good bit with all the cancer treatments and I’m beginning to feel the tightness of money more, so fewer trips and shorter trips is part of my plan for this year with enough “wiggle room” to add a day trip at the last minute when I feel the need. 🙂 Like the 2-night trip this week just added to nearby Xandari Resort . . .
Here’s My 2023 Travel Plans
2 nights – Xandari Costa Rica Resort, Alajuela, my #1 best location for butterflies and one of the best for flowers! It’s this week! And you can see photos from 5 previous visits by browsing through my Costa Rica Trips Galleries, 2022, 2020 (twice), 2019 & 2018. 🙂 I will be giving the resort gifts of two copies of one of my newest photo books, Butterflies! The Hidden Art of Xandari for them to add to the only complete library of all Charlie Doggett photo books!
4 nights – Tortuga Lodge & Gardens, Tortuguero National Park.This will be my 4th trip to Tortuguero NP but my first time to this Lodge which is a sister lodge to the Monteverde Lodge and Gardens I visited in 2019 and considered a little nicer than the more rustic lodges I’ve visited here before, Turtle Beach Lodge in 2019 and Laguna Lodge in 2016 and with Caravan Tours in 2010. Tortuguero is often called “The Amazon of Costa Rica” with most nature hikes by boat and an amazing amount of wildlife from an occasional Jaguar to almost every tropical bird! 🙂
5 nights – Maquenque EcoLodge & Reserve, Boca Tapada. I sometimes call this my favorite lodge because of the large number of birds and other wildlife I’ve photographed there in the past and because they have treehouse rooms from which I’ve photographed both birds and monkeys in the nearby trees. But for the first time there I’m staying in a ground level cabin, one on the lake which may give me different wildlife photos from my room and I will be in less danger of falling down the 50 metal steps going up to the treehouse room. 🙂 You can see the photos of my 3 previous visits there by browsing through my Costa Rica Trips Galleries, or directly to 2022, 2020, & 2019. 🙂
5 Nights – Esquinas Rainforest Lodgewhich I’ve visited only one other time, also in the rainy season with one of my largest collections of bird photos in a 2018 visit when I was the only guest most of my days there. It is a small, quiet jungle retreat in the rainforests of Piedras Blancas National Park on the opposite side of that park from the more touristy Playa Cativo Lodge I visited last July, also for my birthday! This year is will be my 83rd birthday! 🙂 This is run by Austrians in conjunction with their university-related rainforest research station there. Being the rainy season, it will definitely not be crowded and I could be the only guest again! That would be okay with me! 🙂
6 nights – Hotel Banana Azul, Puerto Viejo, Limón, South Caribe. This is my annual Caribbean Beach vacation, staying always in “The Howler Suite” room overlooking the rainforest property and beach where I get great sunrise photos each morning plus lots of butterflies and birds and other wildlife including Sloths. It is my most relaxing place to visit and I have no pressure to do anything, plus the food is good and I can walk to most places, though they have their own tour company to take me further if I want explore afar and of course to and from the Limón Aeropuerto. I always fly there as I will also to Esquinas in July, near Golfito. My only 2 flying trips this year. Walter will drive me everywhere else I go this year. You can see my photos of 5 previous visits to Banana Azul by browsing through my Costa Rica Trips Galleries, or go directly to 2022, 2021, 2019, 2018, & 2017.
6 Nights – Hotel Savegre Lodge & Reserve, San Gerardo de Dota. And this year I will spend Christmas in another favorite lodge, in the most beautiful mountains with the 5th purest/cleanest river in the entire world – Rio Savegre! And the best place in Costa Rica to photograph the Resplendent Quetzal birds along with many others! Plus terrific food, rooms and hiking trails! See my photos from there on my 2021 Visit, plus I was in the same hotel in 2009 (smaller then) and I have visited two other lodges in San Gerardo de Dota. Mariam’s Quetzales Cabins in 2015 and Trogon Lodge in 2014, all good experiences!
So fewer trips this year, but each one comes at a time I will emotionally need it and all in places I’ve been before and really love! I’m the luckiest guy in the world to get to spend my final years living like this in the most beautiful nature places in the world! Nothing could be better for my 83rd year of life!
A SPECIAL BLOG POST FOR MY SUBSCRIBERS CONSIDERING A MOVE TO COSTA RICA!
Occasionally someone will ask me such things as “Are you glad you moved to Costa Rica?” or “If you had it to do over, would you do it again?” or “Do you miss the States?” or “When are you coming home?” or “Have you ever wished you had moved to a different country?” or “If you had it to do over again, what would you do differently?”
The short answer to all but the last question is that I absolutely love Costa Rica and have never once missed the United States nor doubted it was the right thing for me! And I have not gone back, having no reason so far. Anyone who reads my blog regularly knows why this is true for me and that Costa Rica is a perfect fit for my love of nature. But before I tell you the one thing I think I did incorrectly, a quick summary of what I did correctly . . .
What I Did Correctly Before My Move Here
If you go back to the beginning of this blog in June 2014 you will see that I was pretty meticulous about the details of a move to another country and fortunately I had had the experience once before when I moved to The Gambia, West Africa for 3 years. I followed all the websites’ and individuals’ suggestion of doing my “due diligence” (a popular phrase then) which simply meant lots of research on living retired in Costa Rica and the details of doing it legally, successfully and learning what it would take for me to be happy here, etc. ad infinitum! I did that! (Except not thoroughly enough with the language part!)
Plus I traveled here 4 times before moving and checked out other countries online and in the case of Panama, visited them 3 times (a reasonable option). Plus my last trip here before moving was to take the “Live in Costa Rica Tour” sandwiched on either side of a two-day conference by ARCRon all the details of a move here, residency options, legal stuff, both private & public medical services, shipping stuff here, getting a lawyer to help, etc. And on that same trip I hired a local lawyer who specialized in expat residency and began my residency application which was made easier with still some time still left in the states so I could personally secure all the needed legal documents that would have been much more difficult trying to get from here!
So, Then What Would I Do Differently?
Just one thing!I would have made learning to speak Spanish fluently my JOB ONE!Though I had two brief classes in Nashville, I was a slow learner and not using it there, so to accomplish that . . .
I should not have made finding a place to live the first task, as I did, but I should have enrolled in an Immersion Spanish Language School for the first 4-6 months (in another town since there is not one in Atenas) where they provide a cheap rent living with a Tico family that speaks only Spanish plus daily language classes and local tours in Spanish. Younger people might accomplish this in 3 months to some degree but a slower-learning old man like me needs more time and I’m just guessing on the 4-6 months. I tried one of these immersion schools for one week in Feb. 2020, just before Covid hit us big here, and it was very helpful, just not for a long enough time. It would be harder now while paying higher rent for my more permanent housing. But I’m going to talk to them again and may try additional weeks periodically with follow-up classes on Zoom or Skype. My current teacher is not moving me forward fast enough and nor is Duolingo! I’m ready for a change in my language learning! 🙂 I will report on any change made and what progress if any I make. 🙂
So, my only regret about being “Retired in Costa Rica” is that I am still not fluent in Spanish – though I am immensely better than when I arrived here! 🙂 I speak more Spanish than maybe many of the other American expats (some don’t even try.) I do great in restaurants and traveling 🙂 and okay in the supermercado and other shopping, but I could do better and cannot handle much over the phone. Taxistas help me, so I am better there than on the public buses and the free public medicine that I should be using more is one place I can’t manage with my slow, simple Spanish – that and some casual conversations, especially with strangers, though it helps when a marketer calls on the phone that I can honestly say “Lo siento, no hablo español.” 🙂 Stay tuned for updates!
So what I’m saying is that if I had learned to speak Spanish fluently that first year, the rest of my 8 years would have been so much easier and more fulfilling!
That’s what I would have done differently!
Okay, maybe one other little thing that was not a problem when I first moved, but recently my small Credit Union in the states that I’ve been a member of for 45 years has had difficulties getting a new debit card to me quick enough or wiring money, where a larger international bank would be better equipped to serve me overseas. And I have to have a U.S. bank because my pension checks require that for auto-deposit. I’m still managing and have shifted some of my savings to my Costa Rica bank, but that is one other little detail that one considering a move here needs to straighten out, preferably before the move! 🙂
And by the way, the U.S. Social Security is more accommodating than my other pension sources, as they deposit directly into my Costa Rica Bank Account. And it was easy! I just went to the U.S. Embassy’s SS Window in San Jose and they took care of it immediately with that very next check arriving here! 🙂 Plus that became my “proof of income” for the residency application. 🙂
It seems to be taking me longer to complete my trip galleries – just a slow old man! 🙂
But one reason was that it is slow identifying 32 species of butterflies (several new to me), 29 species of birds (1 lifer), and 13 species of other wildlife with lots of nice frog shots this time! These trip galleries are my main photo galleries to which I link for photos in the bird, butterfly and other subject galleries. If you are considering different lodges in Costa Rica as a visitor or one who lives here and travels like me, these trip galleries are a good source of real information about what you can see in a particular place. Enjoy!
And this will be the last of my Arenal posts for a while, realizing I’ve done more than 3 weeks worth! And this final post will be considered the weirdest one by some or what I used to call “Leaves and Nature Things” and now refer to as “Designed by Nature” or “Nature as Art” which is also my photography brand. I debated about naming each photo and then decided to let your imagination flow! 🙂 I will give physical identities to most items when I get them in my gallery – but for now, watch the slide show as a fairy tale! But first an image for the email! 🙂
You may remember that I posted a photo of this poinsettia in my garden before Christmas last month (Dec. 18) with only 3 large red petals. Well, those tiny ones near the center kept growing, and I believe they will even more!
It was my indoor potted poinsettia for Christmas ’21 that I planted in the garden last January and someone told me that those potted ones would never bloom again when put in a garden. Well, maybe some don’t, but this one did! 🙂 And it just keeps blooming with a smaller flower coming in beneath this larger bloom, that I’ve been told are actually leaves that turn red. Just another fun experience with flowers and a garden! 🙂 One of those “little things” in nature that a retired old man finds joy in – while “Retired in Costa Rica!” 🙂
And I’m not finished sharing photos from my Christmas trip to Arenal Volcano National Park, but I may continue to throw in an occasional “local” blog post to keep Atenas in the news! 🙂
For more flowers, check out my Flora & Forest GALLERIES! And stay tuned for more butterflies+ from Arenal!
This was my fourth time to visit Arenal Observatory Lodge (link to lodge website) and the second time as my annual “Christmas Getaway!” The first two days we had a lot of rain & wind unlike the other Christmas visit and I thought it was not going to be a good place for Christmas this year, but then Christmas Day was a bright blue-sky, sunshiny day and we had a mixture of weather my remaining 4 nights there, and though I initially thought I didn’t see as much wildlife, I actually did pretty good with 27 species of birds and more butterflies and “other wildlife” than before! So – No big toucans or monkeys! I had a lot of other wildlife and some of my best frog photos plus more butterflies! 🙂
Also, I had less energy than on the previous trips here (cancer recovery is slow) and I scheduled no early-morning guided bird walk like usual, so to have 27 birds on my own is okay! 🙂 And I will be sharing those bird and butterfly photos in future days on this blog when I finally get them organized.
So . . . YES!I continue to rate Arenal Observatory Lodge as one of the best places in Costa Rica for birds and for my nature fix AND also for the lodge services with an excellent room and gourmet food, surrounded by one of the largest rainforests in the country! And yes, it is not cheap, but worth what you pay in my opinion. Superb guides, the best of other services, plus the best maintained wilderness trails that are featured below in this post, a birding tower, a big waterfall, and more birds, butterflies and trails than almost anywhere else! So yes – I will return to Arenal Observatory Lodge! But next time I’m going in May again, for the beautiful sunsets over the lake every night, and maybe monkeys then! 🙂 I think the sun moves further south this time of year, putting the sunset behind the mountains, but in May, it’s right over the lake! 🙂
Below is a Gallery of some rainforest trails at Arenal Observatory, then links to the photo galleries of my other 3 previous visits with a comparison of birds and other wildlife photographed. 🙂
From the top of a volcano to the mangroves at the ocean’s edge and even in the tiny garden behind my casita, I’ve daily photographed nature for 8 years here and called that photography “Nature as Art!” and shared it in this blog. 🙂
I like this Collins Online Dictionary definition:
Nature is all the animals, plants, and other things in the world that are not made by people, and all the events and processes that are not caused by people.
Thus in nature I worship God and find my peace & inspiration from Him, the creator of it all!
Each year I find it difficult to select only 12 photos from the year and I first tried to come up with 12 “categories” of nature to make sure I selected a variety, but that became as cumbersome as trying to have a “photo-a-month.” So I decided to just stick with “12 favorites,” even if more than 12 are favorites! 🙂
So, however labeled, here’s 12 photos I made in 2022!
Happy New Year and Pura vida! 🙂
To the nearly 500 email subscribers: I hope you read on for the other 11 favorite photos . . .
Assuming they let non-members in to the Goodreads pages, see what they prepared for me as My Year in Books on their website. Fun stats! In short, my goal for the year was a book-a-month or 12 books and they have me down for 15 books which is not bad, but I read Little Women which is a part of one huge electronic book Ten Books You Must Read Before You Die and I haven’t read the others yet, so they did not count it. And I just finished the fifth book of The Chronicles of Narnia series which Goodreads has not counted because the electronic book is all 7 books + a bonus Lewis book all together counted as one. So that would make 20 books! Not as good as my 24 books in 2021, but that was a year of both cancer treatment and a world-wide pandemic! 🙂 Here’s this year’s list and I’ve already started the 6th book in Chronicles of Narnia, The Silver Chair! 🙂
Miss Marple: Greenshaw’s Folly by Agatha Christie
To Bless the Space Between Us by John O’Donohue
A Caribbean Mystery by Agatha Christie
They Do It With Mirrors by Agatha Christie
Diablo Mesa by Preston & Child
Easy Spanish Step by Step
Fingerprints of the Gods by Graham Hancock
The Complete Fairytales of Hans Christian Anderson
Birds of Central America by Andrew Vallely
Trees of Panama and Costa Rica
The Photographer’s Eye by Michael Freeman
Niksen by Annette Lavrijsen
Rebugging the Planet by Vicki Hird
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Green Ember by S.D. Smith
The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
The Horse and His Boy by C.S. Lewis
Prince Caspian by C.S. Lewis
Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis
And oh yes, I have a lot more to share about my Christmas trip to Arenal Volcano, but been swamped with things that must be done on my return, so more after the New Year is in!