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Get out the Red, White & Blue….It’s Almost Costa Rica Independence Day!

September 10, 2013

It’s September again and in Costa Rica that means “Mes de La Patria” (Patriotic Month)! This colorful time finds the entire country in a month long celebration of their Independence from Spain with patriotic displays of their red, white and blue flag, colorful parades, thematic dances, concerts, the march of “Faroles” (more on that later) and any other number of celebrations throughout the country. Most events culminate around “Dia de Independencia” (Independence Day), which takes place on September 15th each year!

A country rich with national pride, Costa Rica encourages its citizens from a very young age to appreciate their Independence Day traditions which are to be celebrated and passed on to future generations. Schools plan elaborate patriotic displays and lively celebrations both the night of September 14th, as well as more parties, parades and civic marches on September 15th, an official National Holiday. For the school children, this month marks the culmination of many months of patriotic preparation, social studies on the importance of the date, as well as providing a special night to show off their artistic talents with the march of the “Feroles” (elaborate homemade paper lanterns).

Although September 15th is the official date to recognize Costa Rica’s independence from Spain in 1821, unlike independence battles common to many other countries, this actually wasn’t a particularly significant event for Costa Rica at the time, as the country had basically functioned independently for years from the Capitanía General of Guatemala. However, after the final Spanish defeat in the Mexican War of Independence (1810 to 1821), the authorities in Guatemala declared Independence for all of Central America. So, even though the official date of independence is in 1821, Costa Rica had basically been on it’s own for some time due to Spain’s lack of economical, political and even religious interest in this very poor region.

Nonetheless, the “Ticos” take a great sense of pride in their freedom and their official festivities actually begin on September 14th when a series of runners carry the “freedom” torch from Nicaragua (stopping for Costa Rica in the city of Cartago) and continue all the way to Panama. This is meant to be a re-enactment commemorating history when an official “news” runner ran from border to border of the then Federal Republic of Central America, notifying the people of the region of their official liberation. Costa Rica did not actually get the news until October 13th, 1821!

The runners, selected from local schools throughout Central America to carry the torch an average of 500 meters each, take on their task with great honor, as the mission serves as a great source of patriotic pride throughout the region. These runners cross the Nicaraguan border into Costa Rica each year on the eve of the day of independence arriving to the (then) capital city of Cartago, where the torch is usually welcomed by the acting president of the country, presently…. Laura Chinchilla. At this same time, most of the country grinds to a halt as almost all TV and radio stations broadcast the national anthem, with most citizens singing along whether they be young or old, home or standing on a street corner, whether riding a bus or driving a car, wherever they may find themselves, their enthusiastic patriotism is both humbling and contagious.

This impressive event is soon followed in even the smallest of pueblos and including the large cities by the sound of the local fire truck sirens that announce the beginning of the “Parade of Faroles”. These often elaborate homemade paper lanterns (with candle or light source inside) are meant to symbolize the original torch run and are proudly carried throughout the streets overhead on short poles by children, with their parents generally following closely along for safety purposes. The faroles are family projects and their design and size can vary greatly from child to child. Some resemble small “Tico” houses, others look like glittering globes, and others are elaborate “typical” scenes of churches or well known national symbols found in Costa Rica. The march of the faroles is often followed by a parade of children dancing traditional dances in adorable typical costumes….a sight that should not be missed!

Another daytime community parade takes place on the morning of September 15th which now includes the adults, important town functionaries, patriotic community members, and just about anyone who chooses to march along and show their pride for Costa Rica. Folks that live along the parade route generally have their houses and yards decked out with large Costa Rican flags and banners to celebrate the big day and they enthusiastically wave their flags as the parade marchers pass by.

So if you are lucky enough to live in or be visiting Costa Rica in the month of September, you are sure to take notice of the many festive displays of Tico pride and patriotism just about everywhere you go throughout the country. Therefore, don’t forget to join in and wear your own red, white and blue in celebration of Costa Rica’s “Mes de Patria”, the Ticos will welcome you with open arms and their usual big smiles will get even larger as the whole country celebrates Independence and Democracy!!

Sing along to the Costa Rica National Anthem!

Author:
Kimberly Barron, originally from Malibu, California has lived in Parismina and Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica for 20 years. Starting as a certified tour guide, she spent 15 years managing fishing lodges on the Caribbean Coast and later 4* & 5* Hotels on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica. Currently semi-retired, Kimberly still works as the Marketing Director for Byblos Resort & Casino and Hotel Makanda by the Sea.

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National Park Day in Costa Rica! Why pay when you can enter FREE!

August 24, 2013


Did you know that August 24th is National Park Day in Costa Rica? Just another great reason to celebrate the beauty that surrounds us in this small Central American country, known as the land of Pura Vida! Parks will be offering free entrance to all visitors, and many Costa Rica hotels hold special tree planting ceremonies, as well as area restaurants often feature special dishes on their menus commemorating this important occasion, by focusing on all that is green and the abundance of natural ingredients that can be found throughout the country. School children take the day from school to learn more about protecting Costa Rica’s natural resources, and national flags, as well as the special Blue Flags representing ecologically awarded beaches and areas, fly proudly. After all, without the parks, where would Costa Rica be on the World’s sustainable tourism totem pole?

A National Park in Costa Rica is defined as a protected area that has been legally declared a National Treasure in order to protect and conserve the biodiversity it contains. These areas generally include diverse eco-systems deemed to be of National significance, generally showing minimal evidence of human impact, while offering important attractions for National and International visitors, as well as learning centers for some of the best scientists in their fields.

In 1888, with the founding of the National Weather Service (now referred to as the National Weather Institute), a century long genesis began of multiple governmental departments culminating in at least a dozen name changes over the years. Duties of protecting the natural resources of Costa Rica gradually expanded to include many diverse functions including specializations in water, hydrocarbons, gender, environmental education, citizen participation, biodiversity, wetlands, climate change, joint implementation, conservation, rational use of energy, environmental quality compliance, as well as the continued control of existing natural resources as previously mentioned. Eventually the morphing entities formed the current government segment referred to as the Ministry of Environment, Energy and Telecommunications, better known in Costa Rica as MINAET.

Costa Rica’s system of Protected Areas consists of an impressive 9 different categories: 1) National Parks 2) Biological Reserves 3) Natural Reserves 4) National Monuments 5) Protected Zones 6) Forest Reserves 7) Wildlife Refuges 8) Wetlands & 9) Indigenous Territories. These wildlife and rainforest areas have been declared as such due to their unique eco-systems, the existence of endangered species and for their significant historical and cultural value as well. The total of these diverse 169 Protected Areas equals approximately 26% of Costa Rica’s territory, protecting an amazing 5% of the World’s biodiversity! This sacrifice of often some of the most valuable land is an incredible example of this country’s dedication to protecting the environment not only within its borders, but the entire continent, since Costa Rica serves as a land bridge between South and North America.

There are an impressive 28 National Parks in Costa Rica, with each park having its own unique features, making every and every one of them worth an in-depth visit. An excellent example is perhaps one of the most famous Costa Rican parks, Isla del Coco, an internationally recognized treasure. Located approximately 340 miles off the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica on an uninhabited island (except for the Park Guard Station), this island has been declared a World Heritage Site, included on the List of “Wetlands of International Importance”, as well as nominated for the short list of 7 New Wonders of Nature, by the 7 Wonders of the World organization. Declared a National Park in 1978, Isla del Coco alone has identified some 235 plant species, 400 insect species (65 endemic), 100 bird species (13 resident, 3 endemic and multiple endangered). Its protected marine territory is home to a wide range of species of Shark, parrot fish, manta rays, among numerous other marine species. This particular park is considered one of the richest diving spots in the World, as declared by the famous Jacques Cousteau. Please see the list below, for an extensive list of Costa Rica’s National Parks, as to detail each one would be too long for one blog post.

List of Costa Rica’s National Parks:
1. Santa Rosa National Park
2. Rincón de la Vieja National Park
3. Guanacaste National Park
4. Las Baulas Marine National Park
5. Diriá National Park
6. Barra Honda National Park
7. Braulio Carrillo National Park
8. Turrialba Volcano National Park
9. Poás Volcano National Park
10. Irazú Volcano National Park
11. Tortuguero National Park
12. Cahuita National Park
13. Barbilla National Park
14. Chirripó National Park
15. Tapantí-Macizo de la Muerte National Park
16. Internacional de La Amistad National Park
17. Corcovado National Park
18. Ballena Marine National Park
19. Piedras Blancas National Park
20. Manuel Antonio National Park
21. Tenorio National Park
22. Carara National Park
23. Los Quetzales National Park
24. Palo Verde National Park
25. Arenal National Park
26. Del Agua Juan Castro Blanco National Park
27. La Cangreja National Park
28. Isla del Coco National Park

Map of Costa Rica’s National Park & Protected Areas
Flickr Photo Galleries of Costa Rica & it’s National Parks

The protected areas of Costa Rica generate extensive economic resources to support its dynamic eco-systems, as well as building centers for further ecological studies, stimulating scientific investigation to learn the proper handling of these delicate zones. Over the last 20 plus years, these Protected Areas have brought in some $1.92 billion dollars per year by promoting sustainable tourism to this country, meaning Costa Rica stands as the most visited nation in the Central American. Tourism now earns more foreign exchange than bananas and coffee combined, a previously unthought of statistic from this coffee and banana republic. Commerce, tourism and associated services now contribute some 68% of the country’s GDP and represent more than 13.3% of direct and indirect employment. Not only have the National Parks served as a major economic factor for this developing country, but these important areas continue to serve as healthy and natural alternatives of entertainment, bringing a better quality of life to its citizens, as well as everyone that comes in contact with their unparalelled beauty.

Now isn’t that reason enough to raise a cold Imperial Beer and celebrate Costa Rica’s National Parks, as well as the laidback lifestyle we all call “Pura Vida”?

Author: Kimberly Barron, originally from Malibu, California has lived in Parismina and Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica for 20 years. Starting as a certified tour guide, she spent 15 years managing fishing lodges on the Caribbean Coast and later 4* & 5* Hotels on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica. Currently semi-retired, Kimberly still works as the Marketing Director for Byblos Resort & Casino and Hotel Makanda by the Sea.

Sources:
http://www.inbio.ac.cr/es/biod/24agostoDia.P.N.htm
http://hogar-verde.com/dia-de-los-parques-nacionales/
http://www.minae.go.cr/acerca/info_general/historia.html
http://proparques.org/content/view/93/76/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cocos_Island
http://costa-rica-guide.com (Park Map & Photos Courtesy of CostaRicaGuide.com)
http://www.arenal.net/photo-gallery.htm (Photo Credit)
http://www.naturalencounters.com/parrots_macaw.htm (Photo Credit)

The Tourist Tree? The Naked Indian Tree? It’s the Gumbo Limbo Tree in Costa Rica!

August 14, 2013

Living in the rainforest in Costa Rica means being surrounded by an abundance of interesting trees. One of my personal favorites is the Gumbo Limbo tree! A wildly popular tropical tree, it is native to the southeastern United States, but found widely throughout the Americas, West Indies and especially prominent in Costa Rica. This tree easily adapts to a variety of both dry and moist habitats, and is a fairly salt-tolerant species, enabling this tree to be found along most coastlines including around the Hotels of Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica. Though consisting of a fairly soft wood, the Gumbo Limbo is considered a very wind-tolerant tree, making this species a good choice for hurricane or extreme weather areas.


This fast-growing canopy tree reaches heights of 50-60 feet and more, with a trunk that bears a striking color of green and red, with a thin paper like exfoliating bark. The Gumbo Limbo or Bursera Simaruba, goes by several aliases, such as the Spirit Gum, Birch Gum, Turpentine, Naked Indian, or more commonly named in popular vacation destinations…..the “Tourist Tree”, because of its red color and peeling skin!

The Gumbo-limbo is generally planted for shade and ornamental use in front or backyards, can be found along streets and highways, but it is also commonly used throughout Costa Rica as a “living fence” since it easily sprouts from cut branches that are stuck into the ground. With it’s naturally rapid growth, within no time farmers have a strong, natural, eco-friendly fence with which they can corral their livestock and mark their land.

The arils (or etable part surrounding the seed) provides an important source of food for winter migrating birds, including many migrants from North America, as well as local residents such as the Masked Tityra, Bright-rumped Attila, and Black-faced Grosbeak, the Baltimore Oriole, Dusky-capped Flycatcher and many species of Vireos. Additionally, Gumbo-limbo’s rapid growth, easy and low cost of propagation, and it’s ecological versatility make this species an ideal “starter” tree for reforestation projects.

There are so many more natural benefits to this great tree, as the sticky, turpentine-scented resin has been used for centuries for making glue, varnish, liniments, as well as a water resistant coating for dugout canoes. The aromatic sap is also used as an anti-inflammatory, a treatment for gout, a form of incense, as well as the leaves are brewed to make a medicinal tea for a wide variety of ailments. The bark is also considered a treatment against rashes caused by plants such as poison ivy and poison oak. Though the actual wood of the tree is rather soft and spongy, this versatile wood is traditionally used to manufacture the colorful carousel horses you see at county fairs, and other small wood products such as matchsticks, toothpicks, charcoal, boxes, crates, and interior trim have also been made from the Gumbo-Limbo wood.

Tribal or Native Indian medicinal uses include remedies for skin infections, skin sores, ingesting a bark tea for urinary tract infections, pain, colds, flu, sun stroke, fevers and to purify the blood. A length of bark about 5 cm x 30 cm is boiled in a gallon of water for 10 minutes or so for these local remedies and then used topically or can be sipped as a tea 2-3 times per day. Not only is it touted to provide the above medicinal remedies, but it is also said to kill bacteria, stop excessive bleeding, increase urination, increase perspiration, cleanse the blood, neutralize various venoms, helpful as a cough expectorate, reducing fevers and my favorite remedy…..increasing libido!!

So when out hiking, exploring, or just taking a drive around Costa Rica, no more passing that Gumbo Limbo tree and not even giving it a second thought. Just look at how much one can do and “cure” with this beautiful and unique tree!

But my friends…..you have been warned!!!! None of these uses are FDA approved, so please do not try these remedies at home! At least not without a Shaman present!!

Author:
Kimberly Barron, originally from Malibu, California has lived in Parismina and Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica for 20 years. Starting as a certified tour guide, she spent 15 years managing fishing lodges on the Caribbean Coast and later 4* & 5* Hotels on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica. Currently semi-retired, Kimberly still works as the Marketing Director for Byblos Resort & Casino and Hotel Makanda by the Sea.

Sources:
http://www.sfrc.ufl.edu/4h/Gumbo-limbo/gumblimb.htm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bursera_simaruba
http://www.regionalconservation.org/beta/nfyn/plantdetail.asp?tx=Burssima
http://www.plantcreations.com/bursera_simaruba.htm

Costa Rica’s “Romeria” to Cartago! Give thanks to the Virgin of Los Angeles!

July 28, 2013
Dia de La Virgin de Los Angeles

Well it’s that time of year again….the end of July and as August 2nd quickly approaches, the “Romeria” of pilgrims can be seen walking, riding, cycling and including other ingenuous means of transporation along the Pan American Highway and along other main roads of Costa Rica that lead to the city of Cartago where they will participate in the annual celebration of the “Virgen de Los Angeles”, this country’s patron saint.

Legend proclaims that a young indigenous girl, Juanita Pereira, found the statue of the “Black Virgin” on Aug. 2, 1635, while gathering wood in the forest outside the city, which at the time was racially segregated. The young girl carried the unique

Replica of the Famous Statue

stone said to resemble the Virgin Mary with child in her arms to her home and locked it up. It is said that the small 6 inch stone image almost immediately disappeared, only to mysteriously return to its original spot on the rock in the woods where it was originally discovered. This happened not once, but numerous times, including after giving the stone to a local prominent priest, who then proclaimed it to be a miracle and so began it’s high regard throughout the country! The legend lived on, and in 1824, “La Negrita”, as the black Virgin image is referred, was officially bestowed as the patron saint by the Costa Rican government.

Today, this small statue rests on a golden and bejeweled platform above the altar at the Basílica Nuestra Señora de Los Angeles in Cartago, some 14 miles east of San José, which was purposely built around the rock where the small figure first appeared.

Millions on the Annual Trek to Cartago

This religious holiday is a unique experience for both nationals and visitors of Costa Rica, as they get to experience the true culture and dedication of the Ticos to their beloved Patron Saint. Pilgrims can travel up to 2 weeks to arrive to the Basilica in Cartago to get a firsthand look at the statue of “La Negrita”, which means “little dark one” in Spanish, as that is the color of this beautiful stone figure. Local legend proclaims that a small stream with curing powers is situated in proximity of the Basilica, and this “holy water” is said to cure all forms of sickness and physical ailments, so many pilgrims will collect small amounts of this special water during their annual pilgrimage.

The many “Ticos” from all over the country that spend days and even weeks to make their way to the Basilica, upon arriving will climb the steps of the church on their

On bended Knee, some with Crosses

knees, some with their last ounce of strength, as a means of thanking La Negrita for favors, as well as to pray for help to overcome their sicknesses and/or physical and mental disabilities. Since there can be some 2+ million annual visitors, some pilgrims choose to pray by the stone where the image was originally found, as the surrounding areas of the Basilica can be overwhelmed with people seeking a look at the “La Negrita” statue.

An example of how popular this yearly event is, in 2003, 1.5 million people descended upon the city of Cartago for the dedication to “La Negrita”. At that time that number represented close to 40 percent of Costa Rica’s entire population!

What was once 1.5 million people, has grown over the years to attract some 2.5 million pilgrims, so with the passing of time, this yearly trek has not lost its following. In response to the incredible amounts of garbage generated by such a large number of

EARTH University going Eco!

people, EARTH University created the program “Eco Romería” starting in 2011. A press release from the Health Ministry said that more than 80,000 plastic bottles and 27 tons of organic material were collected last year. This year, garbage cans will be placed every 500 meters along the main routes leading to the Basílica, as well as the Red Cross will be available along these same main routes and at the church to attend to folks with dehydration, blisters and other side effects of the long arduous trek.
The Lumaca bus company has also committed some 270 buses to provide transportation from San José to the Basilica Church so visitors can enjoy the outdoor mass on August 2nd.

The Basilica was built in 1639 and was later partially destroyed by an earthquake. The restored Basilica offers an impressive mix of colonial architecture combined with 19th century Byzantine style and is consecrated to the Virgin of Señora de los Ángeles, it truly is an impressive church.

If you would like to see inside the Basilica on a normal day, just watch below you should come to Costa Rica any time of the year and celebrate a normal service at this fabulous church,

 

Everyone is welcome to participate in the Romeria in Costa Rica. It is an excellent way to get to know the culture and the “Pura Vida” people of this country. The City of

The Adorned Virgin of Los Angeles

Cartago is beautiful to visit and the climate is cool and refreshing. The display area at the Basilica de Los Angeles is worth a stop to see the Virgin statue and the rock she was found on which in truth is actually a replica, as the original Virgin statue is now held at the Vatican. The replica statue, sanctified by the Pope, is kept at the Cartago Basilica and is now what the “romeros” will see upon arrival.

Don’t forget the Holy Water!

Don’t forget to bring a small container, so you can receive some free holy water that flows from a river that sits below the church and has been blessed by the Basilica’s priest, its said to be the ultimate healer!

Feel free to report back to me if the holy water does in fact cure your sickness, physical or mental health……as it never hurts to have a firsthand account that is was worth the long arduous trek! Pura vida!

To see how the Costa Ricans celebrate this holiday and decide if you would like to participate too, check out the following video:  CLICK HERE

 

Author:
Kimberly Barron, originally from Malibu, California has lived in Parismina and Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica for 20 years. Starting as a certified tour guide, she spent 15 years managing fishing lodges on the Caribbean Coast and later 4* & 5* Hotels on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica. Currently semi-retired, Kimberly still works as the Marketing Director for Byblos Resort & Casino and Hotel Makanda by the Sea.

Costa Rican Guaro! Belly up to the Bar and Party!

July 14, 2013

Popular throughout Central American countries, though not readily available in the USA, “Guaro” is a distilled liquor originating in Costa Rica. Manufactured from sugar cane juice, Guaro has a high alcohol content, clear coloring and a strong but slightly sweet flavor. Most commonly mixed with fruit juice or soda (Fresca being a favorite), few people choose to consume this liquor in straight shots.  Referred to as an “aguardiente,” the words “agua” and “ardiente” when combined translate to basically mean Guaro is “burning water”.  A fairly accurate description if you ask me!  Once considered the “moonshine” or “chicha” of Central America, Guaro is no longer a product of homemade stills, but an almost patriotic part of Costa Rican popular culture.

 
 
History:
In an attempt to end the kitchen sink production of clandestine “Guaro”, the Costa Rican government approved the manufacturing and eventual bottling of the clear liquor by Costa Rica’s National Liquor Factory (la Fábrica Nacional de Licores or “FANAL”) back in 1851.  At that time it was sold in barrels via “liquor agencies”, with the clients providing their own container.  Starting in 1980, a new division was created in FANAL, with “Cacique” becoming the official Guaro brand name in Costa Rica.  With it’s distinctive red label and iconic Indian Chief (that’s what “Cacique” means….Chief), Cacique quickly became the more commonly used name, since “Guaro” can often times refer to almost any distilled spirit. Easily one of Costa Rica’s most popular “beverages”, bottles of Cacique line the shelves of every Costa Rican grocery store and bar in even the most remote corner of this country, as well as being offered at every Costa Rica Hotel and Restaurant to be found.
 
 
Characteristics:
FANAL originally decided to market this popular liquor in 1 liter glass bottles containing a lower alcoholic content then vodka, but with the continued growth in popularity, they later began providing consumers with the options of 750 ml glass bottles and 365 ml “pachitas”….or plastic bottles (the handy travel size!).  FANAL takes great pride in producing a high quality product of licensed ethyl alcohol, guaranteeing a high purity for “safe” drinking.  The brand has proven so popular, that over the years it hs expanded from only 60 proof Guaro Cacique (with the red label) to the 70 proof Cacique Superior (with the black label), the latter offering an even higher purity of “rubbing alcohol”via further filtered purification through activated carbon and increasing not only it’s purity, but perfecting it’s mostly neutral aroma.  They also produce a lesser know black label, offering a whopping 80 proof and referred to as “Super Caňita” (Super Cane)!
 
 
Origin of the Name:
The present name of Guaro as “Cacique” (or “Chief”) is thought to originate from FANAL.  Since several circumstances.  Between 1977 and 1980 an excavation made by the Costa Rica National Museum revealed on of the largest indigenous settlements to date near the town of Grecia on land that occupied by the liquor had remained for decades as one of Costa Rica’s most enduring and popular products, indigenous societies considered their “leaders” to be their “Chiefs”, thus the name “Cacique” stuck.  Often times referred to as “Cuatro Plumas” in joking reference to the Four Feathers on the chief’s headress found on the ubiquitous red labels, just saying the word “Guaro” brings smiles to almost every Tico’s face!
 
 
Guaro Recipes & Purchasing:
Over the years, Guaro’s popularity has reached international proportions.  New companies have opened making their own brands of “pirated” Guaro recipes and attempting to market this “poor man’s vodka”, as the newest upscale spirit.  No worries though!!  With the ease of the internet you can now buy the “real” Costa Rican Guaro and not at over inflated prices!  Check out the website www.guaroliquor.com for puchasing details, as well as their page dedicated to some of the best Guaro recipes I have found.  (Not that I haven’t invented a few of my own over the years!)
 
 
Now, some 160 years later, Guaro continues to be as popular as ever!In fact, this liquor is such an integral part of Costa Rican culture that a recent exhibit at the Museos del Banco Central (Central Bank Museum) featured one work representing three icons of daily Costa Rican life; Cacique Guaro, a Soccer Ball and a representation of the celebrated Black Virgin!
 
For those of you lucky enough to be visiting beautiful Costa Rica, a little word of warning….. the pronunciation of “water” has been known to be misinterpreted as “guaro” by eager waiters not completely versed in the English language.  This has led to incidences where thirsty American tourists having asked their waiter for a glass of water and the waiter, ever so happy that the tourists wanted to try his country’s famous Guaro returned from the kitchen with a glass of the clear beverage. The tourist innocently takes a generous swallow and have experienced a coughing and sputtering surprise in Costa Rican thirst-quenching!!  Consider yourself warned!!
 
 
Author:
Kimberly Barron, originally from Malibu, California has lived in Parismina and Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica for 20 years.  Starting as a certified tour guide, she spent 15 years managing fishing lodges on the Caribbean Coast and later 4* & 5* Hotels on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica.  Currently semi-retired, Kimberly still works as the  Marketing Director for Byblos Resort & Casino and Hotel Makanda by the Sea.
 
 
 Sources:

The Blue Morpho Butterfly….A Natural Beauty in Costa Rica!

June 28, 2013

Hard to believe, but there are almost 24,000 species of butterflies the World. One of the prettiest and most impressive species are the Blue Morpho butterflies. Not only are these beautiful butterflies common to Costa Rica, but they are one of the most sought after species by collectors and nature lovers alike who seek to experience them in their natural habitat, as they mesmerize you with their incredible bright blue metallic coloring that serves as an incredible contrast to the lush green rainforests of our Central America paradise.

If you’d like to learn more about these delicate rainforest treasures, read on……

Common Name: Blue Morpho Butterfly

Type: Insect

Family: Nymphalidae

Range: Common to the tropical rainforests of Central America and South America. Blue Morphos are found primarily in forests

in Central and South America, with high concentrations in both Mexico and Costa Rica. These incredible insects are easily spotted by their large beautiful bright blue wings that reflect light as they fly by in their distinctly erratic pattern.

Size: Blue Morphos average approximately 5 – 6 inches wide, though some species will be smaller.

Diet: The blue morpho’s diet changes as it passes through each stage of life. As a caterpillar, the Blue Morpho chews leaves.

When it “morphs” to become a butterfly, it begins to drink its food instead, using a long, protruding mouthpart called a proboscis as a literal drinking straw. They use this to sip the juice of rotting fruit, the fluids of decomposing animals, tree sap, fungi and wet mud. Blue Morphos can actually taste fruit with sensors located on their legs, and they “taste-smell” the air with their sensitive antennae, which function as a combined tongue and nose on the go.

Average life span: The life span of the Blue Morpho butterfly is short. They generally live only 115 days, with most of their time focused on feeding and reproduction.

Habitat: Blue Morphos can mostly be found in the tropical forests of Latin America spanning from Mexico to Colombia, with a

large population found in Costa Rica. Adult morphos spend the majority of their time on the forest floor or the lower shrubs and trees under the jungle canopy with their wings folded for protection from predators. However, at the time of searching for mates, the blue morphos can fly through all layers of the forest attracting attention with their incredible iridescent blue wings.

Breeding/Reproduction: Although butterflies are some of God’s most beautiful creatures, they mostly just reproduce and sadly die immediately after laying their eggs. The male butterflies release chemicals called pheromones in their wings to attract as many females as possible in their pursuit for successful reproduction. The female’s eggs are fertilized, at which time they lay them in a safe place and fly off leaving them on their own for hatching. The surviving eggs will hatch after only nine days.

Blue Morpho Butterfly: Belonging to the family of Nymphalidaes, these beauties acquired their name “Morpho” which means “changed” because of its ability to appear like they are changing colors when in flight. This is largely due to the

butterfly’s prominent wings which can span from five to eight inches. The changing color effect is often a result of the ventral or the front of the wing which is dull brown and covered with a series of different sized eyespots. These eyespots serve to protect the butterflies from predators such as birds and insects, as when they close their wings are show these eyespots, predators are more inclined to peck or attack the “eye” as opposed to the

butterfly body. When the morpho opens its wings, the dorsal or the back part of this insect is bright blue with the edges of the wings being black or a darker shade. This bright blue coloring is actually the result of the microscopic scales which reflect light, so when the blue morpho flaps its wings upon flying the bright blue back is in contrast to the front or underwings dull brown. This is what makes them look like they are appearing and disappearing as they fly erratically through the air. The male blue morpho has broader wings then the females and it appears to generally be brighter in color, while the female of this species has duller blue wings with sporadic white spots along the brown edging.

Life Cycle: The Blue Morpho’s life cycle starts when the eggs are hatched into larvae. The larvae becomes a recognizable

caterpillar with distinct brownish red with green patches along the back. These caterpillar have prickly hair that can irritate predators when threatened or attacked. These caterpillars mostly eat on leaves, especially favoring plants from the pea family. The caterpillar then forms a jade colored green chrysalis to start metamorphosis. A short time later an adult blue morpho butterfly emerges. At this stage since they still do not

have the ability to chew, so they drink for nourishment

instead. As mentioned above, at this stage they still use their proboscis to sip fluids of rotten fruits, tree saps, certain fungus’ and even wet mud. They also eventually use sensors on their legs to taste fruits, while their antennae act like a combo tongue and nose to “taste-smell” the air while in search of food.

While spending time in Costa Rica, please remember that the Blue Morphos only have a life span of 115 days. Even with these few months to live, they also are constantly threatened by their natural predators (more birds than anything), as well as the constant threat they face due to habitat destruction by loggers, farmers and urban development. Lastly, sadly humans continue to be a threat due to their fascination to want to capture and display these beautiful insects to show off the bright and beautiful colors these beautiful butterflies display.

When staying at your Costa Rica Hotel, please don’t support this destructive market by buying or encouraging the sale or displays of the Blue Morpho, their continued existence depends on your good conscience! Happy Travels to all, I hope you get to see a Blue Morpho during your vacation! Pura Vida!

Fun Facts: • When the blue morpho flies, the contrasting bright blue and dull brown colors flash, making it look like the morpho is appearing and disappearing. • The “blue butterfly” has spiritual meaning for many native people of the rainforest, who see it either as a wish-granter or the complete opposite….a malicious spirit. • Blue morphos, like all butterflies, taste with sensors on their legs and taste-smell the air with their antennae to help them detect food while in flight. • Their beauty is brief: the entire blue morpho life cycle lasts only 115 days, so enjoy while you can. • If disturbed, Blue Morpho caterpillars will secrete a fluid that smells similar to rancid butter. • The tufts of hair found on the caterpillars will irritate human skin.

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Author: Kimberly Barron, originally from Malibu, California has lived in Parismina and Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica for 20 years. Starting as a certified tour guide, she spent 15 years managing fishing lodges on the Caribbean Coast and later 4* & 5* Hotels on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica. Currently semi-retired, Kimberly still works as the Marketing Director for Byblos Resort & Casino and Hotel Makanda by the Sea.

Sources: http://www.costaricajourneys.com/blue-morpho-butterfly/ by shamsul http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Morpho

Squirrel Monkey or Mono Titi (in Spanish)… We´re too damn cute, don´t let us dissappear!

June 8, 2013

Literally everyday I have the pleasure of being visited by one of the cutest little jungle creatures you will ever encounter……the friendly Titi or Squirrel Monkeys of Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica. The particular species that swings through our trees, climbs on our roofs, and even occasionally gets in our houses are found ONLY in the Manuel Antonio area. Our blessing, is this little monkeys curse though, as with continued development in the surrounding areas of Manuel Antonio and Quepos, these beautiful little animals have slowly been completely cutoff from their natural wildlife corredor, meaning the Titis of Manuel Antonio no longer have anywhere else to go! This not only limits their ability to naturally flourish, but results in an elevated level of inbreeding, more sickness, and a weakening of the species over time, putting in danger this species´ long term existence.


Easily recognized by their soft light brown body furr, adorable little white with black facial “bigotes”, long brown with bushy black tipped tails, and friendly incesant chatter, their tiny size and endearing faces draw oohs and ahhs from all that encounter them, making them clearly one of the main attractions in and around Manuel Antonio National Park, located on the Central Pacific Coast of tropical Costa Rica.

In search of a way to minimize the negative impact that this situation has caused, several local community organizations have emerged to help in the protection of this special little monkey. One of the most prominent in our area is www.kidssavingtherainforest.org. Some of their many objectives, has been the creation of ¨monkey bridges¨ throughout the area. These thick ropes are strategically placed where the monkeys naturally arrive to cross roads, highways or locations that have a large amount of electrical, phone, or other types of cables, or where the vegetation is not sufficient for monkeys to safely traverse. This helps the monkeys avoid electrocution, or from the creatures having to come down from the trees to continue their journey, a move that would make them terribly susceptible to predators, as well as other modern environmental hazards. This organization has also published an excellent list of 10 reasons why you should NOT feed the monkeys, which most hotels, restaurants and other businesses post in their establishments to help educate the community and the visiting tourists about the negative impact feeding the monkeys has. This not for profit organization has also been funding a wildlife rescue center for local injured monkeys and other animals, so you can now choose to visit and donate to their badly needed facility when in the Manuel Antonio area.


Another excellent organization developed specifically for the protection of the Titi Monkey is www.titiconservationalliance.org. The Titi Conservation Alliance was started in 2001 by a group of business owners within the tourist industry based around Manuel Antonio National Park, Costa Rica. Recognizing the need for conservation of their natural environment to maintain prosperity for their businesses, this group of entrepreneurs began the Alliance with the mission to promote sustainable development and to conserve the biodiversity of Costa Rica’s Central Pacific Region. Today, the Alliance is composed of member businesses and individuals dedicated to saving the endangered titi monkey, and its habitat. Through dues paid by member businesses, donations from concerned tourists wanting to help protect the beautiful areas they enjoy visiting, and the efforts of our staff and volunteers, the Titi Conservation Alliance is working to protect Costa Rica’s Central Pacific region through Sustainable Development, Habitat Reforestation, and Environmental Education.

For those of you coming to Costa Rica, or if you have been trying to decide where to go on your next vacation, consider the Manuel Antonio area of this beautiful country, where not only will you have the opportunity to see these endangered little Squirrel Monkeys, but where many businesses will donate a portion of what you spend in our area directly for the Squirrel Monkey´s protection, so future generations will be able to enjoy the ¨Mono Titi¨ too!

Author:
Kimberly Barron, originally from Malibu, California has lived in Parismina and Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica for 20 years. Starting as a certified tour guide, she spent 15 years managing fishing lodges on the Caribbean Coast and later 4* & 5* Hotels on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica. Currently semi-retired, Kimberly still works as the Marketing Director for Byblos Resort & Casino and Hotel Makanda by the Sea.