Insect Bites on Hikes?

One of my regular readers asked about insects and bug bites on all the wilderness hikes I make with every trip and in a little-less wilderness around where I live in Atenas, Alajuela Province, Costa Rica. And he asked what I did about them.

YES, in the tropics, and Costa Rica specifically, there are actually more insect species than all of the U.S. and Canada combined. Generally they seem to me to be worse at hot times, our summer which is North America’s winter – ironically the time of year we have the most tourists! 🙂 But also location is a big factor, para ejemplo (for example) hotter lowland rainforests and year-around wetlands seem worse to me than mountain cloud forest like I was in last week. And that includes most beaches which have more mosquitoes for example than I have ever seen here in the central valley. But the government has done an excellent job of keeping down the population of mosquitoes all over the country because of diseases they carry and I seldom see one. But there are still many other bugs that bite all over the country! And spiders too!

And you birders remember than many birds eat insects, thus the places I have photographed the most bird species like Maquenque Lodge Boca Tapada and Rancho Humo Guanacaste are wetlands year-around and thus more insects than some dryer places. Here in the Central Valley I see more insects just before and at the beginning of rainy season (April-May) than I do during the daily rains like right now. Not sure why.

When hiking in the reserves and parks I usually spray with Deep Woods Off (a high % of Deet) before going out, and occasionally here at home when I see lots of insects. For treatment off bites I always take a tube of Allergel with me or a similar antihistamine gel/ointment /cream to relieve the itching (many brands here from Europe, U.S., etc). When you live in the tropics you must learn to live with insects! 🙂

Around my house I notice at different times of the year an influx of different flying insects that are pests more than biters, while at other times I get biten and don’t even know by what! 🙂 I just pull out the antihistamine gel and treat it and so far I have lived through all my bug bites! 🙂

Frogs have it easy, they can eat what bugs them. ~Unknown

¡Pura Vida!

See my Insects Gallery which is separate from my Butterfly Gallery or an earlier blog post titled “Living with Bugs.”

Villa #4

The villas are different ages as they were added through the years with mine one of the older ones I think but an excellent “Suite” style with open living room, bedroom with King Bed and a huge bathroom with separate little room for toilet plus outside door to my outside Jacuzzi Hot Tub in total privacy but still looking up at the trees. Then there was the great deck/porch or terrace it is called here with great forest views and a place to relax in the outdoors, even in the rain with its roof! I walked almost everywhere but did use their free golf cart transportation to return from dinner at night and to take me and my bags back to office to check out on last day where their driver just moved my bags from the cart to Walter’s van that was waiting. Great service in absolutely everything! And that is what makes a great lodge! 🙂

But the best thing about El Silencio Lodge was the attitude of the employees! They treated me so special every moment of every day that I can’t help but like them! 🙂

“Our attitude towards others determines their attitude towards us.”

– Earl Nightingale

¡Pura Vida!

El Silencio General Shots

The El Silencio Lodge & Reserve is a very special and unique place! And I say that having spent nights in more than 45 lodges & hotels in Costa Rica. For service, food, room quality, and the natural surroundings it is definitely now in my top 3 favorite lodges and maybe even my #1 favorite! (Remember – different lodges have different priorities!) And also it is my most expensive! 🙂 But with waterfalls like La Promesa at right near your cabin, it is worth almost any price! 🙂 And of course nothing is perfect . . .

My only two complaints at checkout were that the bathroom sink drained slowly because the stopper was installed incorrectly (CR is not famous for great plumbers) and the gourmet chef who served great food served me limp, lightly cooked bacon. Bacon must be crisp in my book! 🙂 Though, in his defense, the night I asked for a well-done steak, he did that very well! 🙂 And I had not specifically asked for the bacon to be crispy! (Had I, it probably would have been! Never assume nothin’!))

I mainly walked, but they have golf carts and drivers who will pick you up anytime, day or night and take you anywhere on campus free of charge! They also have two fleets of bicycles you can use for free, with a handful actually electric! Then they have several vans to take you off-campus to outside waterfalls or other attractions like Poas Volcano, two national parks, birding trips as far as Cañon Negro included with the cost of a guide for the trip. But believe me – there’s enough to do on campus to fill a week easily and their 3 beautiful waterfalls are as good or better than the two outside ones I paid extra to see! But still glad I saw them!

With nature my focus, I don’t get a lot of hotel shots, but here are a few with a separate gallery for my room or villa shots . . .

Going to the mountains is like going home.

—John Muir

My Trip Gallery: 2020 El Silencio Lodge & Reserve

¡Pura Vida!

Las Gemelas Waterfall

Okay, for you Spanish readers, yes, that says “The Twins” Waterfall and thus you may ask, “Where is the second one?” Well . . . sometimes my better judgement overrules my sense of adventure. We had already hiked about 4 km and waded across the ice cold, rock-strewn river with Bryan, my personal guide, helping me wade across the slippery rocks just to get this photo of the biggest of the twins. To see the other one we would have had to wade up a separate stream of slippery rocks to the left of the bottom of this falls maybe 50 meters. Bryan had already said “I can’t believe I’m helping an 80 year old do this hike!” He was doubting the wisdom of going further and after nearly slipping down more than once. I did too! But I was thankful that I could make the hike solo with my excellent young masked guide who was perfect for me in every way! Most of the holiday weekend crowd have gone. We have a max of 9 guests the rest of the week, so very tranquilo! Which I prefer! 🙂 And yes, I love this place! Already another favorite and I have so many favorites in Costa Rica. Here’s just a few shots of the Las Gemelas Falls Hike and notice that weird V-shaped bridge over one of the streams, like none I’ve seen before:

See my Waterfalls Gallery for more Costa Rica Waterfalls.

Or see THIS TRIP GALLERY: 2020 El Silencio Lodge & Reserve.

¡Pura Vida!

On the trail to the waterfall this sign was laying on the ground. My guide said that the biggest danger is sudden flash floods when there is a rainstorm in the mountains above.

El Silencio

Walter drove me over the mountains in the rain and we arrived in the rain. To explain the “over the mountains” bit – Atenas is in a valley with hills and so is the village of Bajos del Toro and El Silencio Lodge. Between us is a row of mountain, the continental divide. Atenas is on the “Pacific Slope” and Bajos del Toro is on the Caribbean (or Atlantic) Slope. You know, all the rivers have to go into one ocean or the other! 🙂

And from one rural area to another means very narrow roads, and very winding over the mountains with lots of what we called “hairpin curves” in Arkansas or switchbacks. I am so glad I use a driver now! I would have been a nervous wreck (or dead) driving over those narrow mountain roads. BUT it is so beautiful in the mountains around here and that’s why some people have called Costa Rica “The Little Switzerland of the Americas.”

I chose Mon-Fri because local working people go to these places on the weekends when they are off from work and thus they are less crowded on weekdays. But I forgot that the government offices and most businesses celebrate nearly all holidays on Monday now. Our Independence Day is 15 September (tomorrow) and they celebrated it this year on Monday (Today!) and with no parades allowed, many people went to the beach or a lodge like this for the long weekend. So a lot of people still here today from San Jose but nearly everyone leaves tomorrow I was told. So it will be the more typical half empty COVID-era resort! 🙂

Though it rained off and on all afternoon and still raining this evening, I hiked around a little and took a lot more photos than these samples of my arrival here. The restaurant is excellent with gourmet food (and prices) that I enjoyed with a grilled rainbow trout tonight that was raised right here in their own trout ponds. I got back to my room with my bed covers turned down and two little chocolates to make me smile. Another great day! 🙂

El Silencio Lodge Website

Or see THIS TRIP GALLERY: 2020 El Silencio Lodge & Reserve.

¡Pura Vida!

Virtual Night Hike at Selva Verde

Come join one of the guides at Selva Verde Lodge on a typical night hike in their Sarapiqui Private Reserve. Since people have not been able to visit them live, they put this”virtual night hike” on their YouTube Channel. One of the guides shows you the kinds of things I get to see live when I go on such night hikes at this and other lodges in Costa Rica. It is real and typical except for the short time of only 3 minutes! In real life there is more walking between the animals seen!   🙂

Featured image is from my Red-eyed Tree Frog Gallery and another night hike somewhere else (Danta Corcovado).  

+

And here’s the same guide on a DAYTIME TOUR of Selva Verde, Just be aware that in an hour or more tour you see a lot more wildlife than in these little 3 minute videos! But both are a taste of what I regularly see and photograph in my retirement in Costa Rica: 

¡Pura Vida!

Costa Rica by Bus

Someone recently asked me about getting around the country by bus and I think I referred them to the Bus Schedule website which lists all of the option when you type in the “From” and “To” spaces on that website with all bus companies included.

Well, I forgot about an even better help beyond schedules, the Facebook Group Page Costa Rica by Bus on which you can post a question (may have to join group first) and some of the many people who travel by bus will share their experiences and advice. And of course they also recommend the bus schedule site above. And by the way, that bus in photo above is the one I took to Turrialba.

I plan to go to a birding lodge near San Isidro del General in May, so anticipate my report on that bus experience then. I use the bus almost weekly to go from Atenas to Alajuela for many different reasons and have gone to San Jose by bus many times. Some of my other bus adventures have been (with links to photo galleries):

All of this was to simply say that you can travel on a “shoestring budget” and see a lot of Costa Rica whether you live here or visiting. Buses are cheap here! That is the way most Ticos travel! And you can do it without the Spanish language, though much easier and a richer experience if you speak at least a little Spanish.

Now, as a retiree who has made seeing all of Costa Rica my main activity, I do not do everything the budget-way and love to go the longer distances on Sansa Airlines or to places less than 3 hours from Atenas by my favorite driver here in Atenas, but I do not have a car and have basically quit renting cars because of the high insurance cost, thus seeing Costa Rica by bus is one option I still use when I consider it the most practical way. The next bus report comes in May!   🙂

“Live with no excuses and travel with no regrets”    ~ Oscar Wilde

I just realized that I did a similar post in 2017, Seeing Costa Rica by Bus   🙂

¡Pura Vida!

Five “Lifer” Birds

For you who are not “Birders” or persons who like to go out in the forests and find new birds, “lifer” is a new bird you see for the first time. In an earlier post I think I mentioned I had seen 4 “lifers” while at Hacienda Guachipelín – well . . . I was wrong! It is five.

I had not included the Stripe-headed Sparrow because I was sure I had a photo of one, but when I got home and checked it out, what I had from an earlier trip was a Black-striped Sparrow and not the Stripe-headed and you Costa Rica birders know that there is a difference! Thus meaning I got photos of 5 new birds added to my Costa Rica Birds gallery, bringing my CR collection up to 325 species, which sounds like a lot, but with nearly 1,000 species of birds in Costa Rica – I have a ways to go!   🙂

My 5 New Birds

IMG_3546-A-WEB
Lesser Ground-Cuckoo

 

IMG_4066-B-WEB
White-fronted Parrot

 

IMG_3042-A-WEB
White-throated Magpie Jay

 

IMG_3644-A-WEB
Stripe-headed Sparrow

 

IMG_3121-A
Western Wood-Pewee

 

All but the Western Wood-Pewee have been shared in other posts but in a different context. And the Wood-Pewee is simply not a good photo thus not used before. The linked names below take you to the eBird or Cornell Neotropical page on that bird if you want more information, plus I have added some of my own comments on each bird related to my experiences.

Lesser Ground Cuckoo

I now have a Lesser Ground Cuckoo gallery with several shots of this same bird! And photo gallery of the Squirrel Cuckoo, with even some in my yard, and I have seen and photographed the Mangrove Cuckoo twice (Rio Tarcoles & Caño Negro), as my only other cuckoos in Costa Rica, though I do have a poor photo of a Levaillant’s cuckoo in my Gambia Birds gallery.

White-fronted Parrot

There are so many parrots here and I have a lot in my gallery but still only about half of the ones in Costa Rica. There were few parrots in the two parts of Africa I visited and thus all my parrot photos are mostly in Latin America, including Brazil & Mexico. I may start going to CR places known for the species I do not have. But I now have added a White-fronted Parrot Gallery!    And for those who know parrots don’t confuse this one with the White-crowned Parrot which I’ve seen in three places now.

White-throated Magpie Jay

I was in the only area of Costa Rica where this bird appears (Northern Guanacaste). The closest thing I have ever had like this beautiful bird is the Black-billed Magpie in the Yellowstone National Park in the states. Though both are named Magpie, they are quite different! And I now have a White-throated Magpie Jay Gallery   added to my collection!

Stripe-headed Sparrow

This is the one I confused with Black-striped Sparrow and that link to my photo will show you the difference, mainly the body colors and the stripe through the eye, though similar as they are with the Olive and Green-backed Sparrows. And now I have a Stripe-headed Sparrow Gallery!

Western Wood-Pewee

Though it is almost identical to the Eastern Wood-Pewee, they are slightly different migrant birds appearing on our east and west coasts according to their name with the eastern being more broadly distributed even into the west as you will see with my photos of the eastern I found at Rancho Humo, both in Guanacaste on our west coast. And now my Western Wood-Pewee Gallery!

It is fun to see my collection grow!

“The sharp thrill of seeing them [killdeer birds] reminded me of childhood happiness, gifts under the Christmas tree, perhaps, a kind of euphoria we adults manage to shut out most of the time. This is why I bird-watch, to recapture what it’s like to live in this moment, right now.”
― Lynn Thomson, Birding with Yeats: A Mother’s Memoir

¡Pura Vida!

Hacienda Guachipelín – THE BOOK

The book is finished with 4 new lifer birds for me and now I’m off to other creative activities. Remember – you can PREVIEW the book electronically (flip through the pages) for free at my bookstore by clicking on this link and then each page to turn a page. Fun! And best seen in full screen mode!   🙂

https://www.blurb.com/b/9712481-hacienda-guachapel-n

Or click the book cover image below to get there:

¡Pura Vida!

 

“…and then, I have nature and art and poetry, and if that is not enough, what is enough?”
― Vincent Willem van Gogh

 

 

 

 

 

Rincón de la Vieja TRIP GALLERY

My trip gallery is finished with a lot of interesting photos I think including 24 species of birds four of which are “Lifers” for me! So a good trip for me and some of my most interesting airplane photos en route like the big waterfall from above! And that reminds me that I have also added 9 waterfalls to my collection on this trip. See the trip gallery at this link:

2019-October 13-19–Hacienda Guachipelín, Rincón de la Vieja, Liberia

IMG_3546-A-WEB
Lesser Ground Cuckoo — My favorite new bird!

 

“Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.”     – Ibn Battuta

¡Pura Vida!