In April 2015, I made my fourth trip to Costa Rica, attending a workshop conducted by my friend Greg Basco. With his business partner Paulo Valerio, he founded Foto Verde Tours, creating tours for photographers by photographers. He works with selected lodges to increase the likelihood of good nature photography opportunities. This year’s trip was titled The Art of Biodiversity – Pacific and the itinerary delivered on this promise.
Our stay in Costa Rica starts at the Bougainvillea Hotel near San Jose. The hotel boasts several acres of garden with a variety of macro subjects; plants, flowers, bromeliads, and orchids. A few birds frequent the gardens although the predominant subjects are the flowers and the insects that visit them.
Central Pacific Coast
Our days at the first lodge are divided between river boat trips on the Rio Tarcoles where egrets, herons, kingfishers and other water birds can be found, and the hotel grounds where there are opportunities to photograph iguanas, basilisk lizards, leaf cutter ants, acacia ants, poison dart frogs, and the local birds. In the evenings, we concentrate on locating and photographing red-eyed tree frogs and golden eyed tree frogs.
South Pacific Coast
Further south along the coast we settled in to our next location with plenty of time for a trip to a nearby beach for sunset photography. The next day we visited Manuel Antonio National Park to photograph white-faced capuchin and squirrel monkeys, iguanas, and crab-eating raccoons. The park contains a variety or trails and beaches that provide multiple opportunities for wildlife encounters, even though there are a lot of people visiting the park. Our days at the lodge included macro setups of several insects as well as a small land crab.
Pacific Cloud Forest
We leave the coastal area to a significantly different environment at 9,000 feet where oak forests of the Talamanca mountain range, the high cloud forests just on the Pacific side of the Continental Divide, offer chances of finding the Resplendent Quetzal. Our time is divided between searching for this neotropical bird, and photographing perches set up near bird feeders and at two high speed flash setups for Fiery-throated Hummingbird, Green Violet-ear and Magnificent Hummingbird. One day we had a road trip to the Savegre River to stop at a lodge with known locations of Quetzal nests and hummingbirds. At this location we had two active nests to observe. On one occasion where we are all photographing with 500mm lenses, a male resplendent quetzal flew to a different perch to wait for the female to leave the nest so he could feed the chick. I don’t think anyone else saw where he went and I picked up my tripod and quietly but quickly moved to a better location. I was so close that to capture the bird with its long tail required that I capture images with the intent of constructing a vertical panorama. On the last morning of our stay here, we set up for some landscape photography at a Jurassic-looking paramo swamp forest near the lodge.
We finished our trip at the Bougainvillea Hotel near San Jose with a farewell dinner.