Contemplating Life In The Jungle @ Manual Antonio National Park
A couple of hours and some great chat on later, Henry, Alice and I arrived in Quepos, the main jumping off point for Manuel Antonio National Park. It was crazy going from wearing a hundred layers to sweating again, in just two hours! It was very hot and very humid! We checked into our sweet apartment, added Henry into the booking, then headed out to find some lunch and explore the town. We spent a while picking a highly recommended restaurant that turned out to be closed but we managed to get some delicious food elsewhere. Like most touristy areas in Costa Rica, food is very overpriced, it seems very unfair on the locals.
Quepos is in the Puntarenas province and received its name from the Indian tribe who first inhabited the lands of the same name. Although being quite small, Quepos is very touristy as it sees copious amounts of tourists almost year round, as it serves as the best and most used jumping off point for the most popular and visited national park in Costa Rica- Manuel Antonio National Park.
After a quick bite to eat, the three of us amigos went for a stroll through the sleepy town where I swear 95% of the town was closed, it was a Sunday though. We couldn’t help but notice how many boy racers were zooming around in really shit semi done up cars. We walked around the docks and checked out the non existent beach before heading back to the apartment with some beers, where we gave a crash course lesson in monopoly deal to Henry. That night consisted of a few boozy happy hour cocktails, even more monopoly deal games and tipsy street vendor pizza for dinner.
Super early the next morning, the three of us got ready, packed and jumped in the car. We were off to Manuel Antonio National Park! We had got up really early to avoid the crowds and get the best out of the park, as we had been told it’s horrendously busy. We had even chosen an amazing lunch restaurant, a little highly recommended falafel joint nearby the park for afterwards.
Dragon Fly @ Rainmaker Reserve
We drove the 15 minutes to the entrance and we were waved down by a guy, somewhat official looking and standing in the middle of the road. He offered us parking before asking where we were going, then he tried to tell us that the park was closed on Mondays. I practically told him that we didn’t believe him, in my defence it seemed ludicrous. So we drove off toward the park entrance only to find out that it was in fact closed on Mondays!!
Due to high levels of tourism Manuel Antonio has had to limit the entry to 600 people per day (we heard there was a limit of 1000) and has closed the parks on Mondays, which we neither heard or knew, obviously. Poor Henry had only come for 1 day to visit the park!
A sad drive back to the apartments, we managed to have a reasonably productive morning getting all our washing done while Henry rang around and sorted a trip to Rainmaker forest reserve. Rainmaker reserve is a privately owned reserved who has been helped (funded) by The Body Shop! The idea behind the family who owns the reserve is to bring in small amounts of tourists, in an eco tourism way, to educate and display an unaltered rainforest.
We walked the short 4 km of trails that lead us to some beautiful waterfalls and natural pools where we took a quick dip and across some dangerous looking suspension bridges and through some beautiful rainforest. We saw lots of frogs, butterflies and lizards and it poured down with rain just as we left so perfect timing!
After dreaming about falafel we drove all the way back out to the National Park only to find out that it was also closed on Mondays!!! We had had some bad luck with opening times (or maybe we just need to read more carefully!). Henry headed off that afternoon while we went for another stroll through town and enjoyed having a big apartment to ourselves, it had a kitchen and two queen beds, it even had cable tv! With English channels!! Although we were forced to watch quite a bit of Two and a Half Men and Big Bang Theory which Alice is convinced are two of the worst shows on tv but aside from that, it was amazing!
Female Spider @ Manual Antonio National Park
Scaley Stares @ Manual Antonio National Park
The next morning we jumped on a bus and headed to the, now open, National Park. As we arrived at the ticket booth, surrounded by vendors selling all types of food and drink, we were approached by a guide who offered us his services. We had planned on walking the park alone today, and possibly hiring a guide for the next day, depending on what we saw, but we had heard that a guide really wasn’t necessary. Towards the end of the conversation, when he realised we weren’t super interested, he tried another ploy of “the park is really dangerous without a guide”. Straight away (after laughing) we shut him down, thanked him for his information but we wouldn’t need his services. This park, even before we had entered it, is the most visited and busy park in Costa Rica, possibly Central America. We knew dozens of people who had visited the park without a guide, read hundreds of reviews and knew for certain that there was no danger to us inside this park. This sort of ploy really bugs me.
At the entrance and for the first few hundred metres there were just swarms of huge groups of American tourists, loud, yelling, obnoxious tourists. We ran, literally to the other end of the park where we knew the tours wouldn’t manage to reach too often as it was a decent couple of kilometres away.
We managed to see some agoutis, butterflies, hundreds of Halloween crabs and birds as we slowly made our way through the park. There were a couple of beautiful lookouts as Manuel Antonio Park is surrounded by some incredible beaches. We also saw Capuchin White faced monkeys, Spider monkeys and Howler monkeys.
We headed back along the popular swimming beach that was absolutely jam packed full of people, and white faced monkeys. These monkeys were so used to people that they we practically walking on the footpath with everyone else.
Pristine Beaches @ Manual Antonio National Park
“To Jump, Or Not To Jump” @ Manual Antonio National Park
We saw a few sad points, a tourist holding a banana up with his phone to get the closest photo, a tour guide pointing at a monkey so close she almost touched his face and tourists standing next to two scared screaming/shaking monkeys to get a photo.
We didn’t stay for long looking in this area, but instead headed in for the over crowded, but lush looking beach. I all but stripped off and ran straight into the water as it was so bloody hot and humid, Alice got distracted for a wee while, following an iguana, and from what I hear a raccoon. By the time she jumped in, the next wave set had rushed in and quicker than she had come in, she got smashed back onto the shore. So did everyone else around, apart from those smart enough to be on the other side of the break (I’m talking about me).
Those Eyes @ Manual Antonio National Park
“Hide and Seek” Green Leaf Frog @ Manual Antonio National Park
Afterwards we headed for the last trail we wanted to walk. Toward the very end we had to cross a little wooden bridge that was literally controlled by white faced monkeys. Alice bolted across when they weren’t looking as she is really weary of monkeys after a monkey attacked her sister in Bali and you know- rabies. Whereas a couple behind us stopped to take photos and ultimately got slapped by one monkey and chased off the bridge by the rest. It was really funny but quite scary! Once we had all reached safety we had front row seats to a full on monkey fight, then a little family of monkeys including a baby came down onto the bridge and reclaimed ownership. Two young french girls tried to get too close while taking photos and nearly got bitten, also a young, again french, family got chased away when they arrived to cross. All very entertaining but mainly frightening.
Holding On @ Manual Antonio National Park
“Is There Something On My Head?” @ Manual Antonio National Park
We had a great day but Manuel Antonio is really spoilt. We don’t know whether it’s because it is small or poorly managed but the tourists are the problem. Not many people have any respect for the wildlife and seeing people climb trees to get closer photos to iguanas or monkeys and try to touch or feed the animals was really disappointing. We understand why people hate this park but it could definitely be improved by better management and stricter and more enforced rules. The monkeys are so tame and bold it’s such a shame. Our guide at our next stop in Corcovado said a couple of years ago she saw a monkey open someone’s rucksack and take their mobile phone, she then saw it sitting in a tree SWIPING the screen! Actually swiping like people do!! Another guide we met said they saw a monkey with someone’s phone taking photos with the flash on!! What a terrible result of poorly managed tourism. Not all bad obviously because we really enjoyed our day and came away with some very close up monkey photos.
We headed out of the park and treated ourselves to the falafel place, not just any falafel, but probably the best I’ve ever had for sure! I also had a beer, because like every other Central American county, it’s cheaper than anything else.
Pretty chilled out night with some planning for Corcovado followed, then before we knew it we were headed to the bus station the next morning. We had planned to get the direct bus to Drake Bay at 11:30am, but when we arrived at the bus station we were told that there had been an accident on the road and the bus would be a minimum of a few hours late, meaning we wouldn’t make it in time for the only means of transport to Drake Bay, the boat. At the exact time we desperately needed data we had run out of credit and couldn’t recharge so we jumped on the next bus heading south, hoping we could change a couple times and make it for the boat, or change plans and head straight to Puerto Jiménez (another jumping off point for Corcovado National Park) instead. That was very wishful thinking.
“You Said What!?” @ Manual Antonio National Park