One of the beautiful things that happens when you start paying attention is that you begins to see things you never saw before everywhere. It’s kind of like how before your friend bought a Mini Cooper, you never really noticed them around but once you were made aware of its existence, you began to see them all over the place. Paying attention in Costa Rica is like that. Once you start looking, there are amazing creatures and critters all around you.
Some of the wildlife is fairly common in certain areas. For instance, we saw (and heard!) howler monkeys virtually everywhere outside of the cities and often the shuttle driver would stop and point some out along the way. And it was no big deal if a bat flitted right past you at night (natural insect repellent) or a few geckos hung out on your ceiling (though the one in our bathroom was not content to stay put and thus had to be put out!). Sometimes it’s the luck of the draw, like the last time I visited Monteverde, when a two-toed sloth was hanging out on a small tree on the side of the road and afforded us clear views of it smiling serenely from the branches. More often than not though, you have to have good timing, patience, and a good guide who knows where to look.
Sometimes the wildlife is hard to see due to their size or coloring. This makes sense because each of these creatures spends its life trying to avoid becoming something else’s dinner. Also, it takes practice to be able to use your binoculars effectively. One of the best tips I got this time was to keep your eyes trained on whatever you want to see and bring your binoculars up to your eyes. This helps to alleviate (though not eliminate) that bewildering moment when you have no idea where you are looking in relation to the creature you are trying to spot.
Not having cameras with a very strong zoom, I couldn’t do much justice to capturing the wildlife I saw on film (unless it just happened to be very very close or we were in a zoo-like setting) but in a sense, that’s what it was really like to be there in nature with these creatures, staring intently at the spot the guide points out, trying to focus amidst all the flora and fauna until at last the figure you’re trying to spot emerges, and you feel the satisfaction of having seen something you’d never see at home.
Though our time in Costa Rica will end, the ability to pay attention doesn’t have to, and I look forward to seeing the familiar in a new light when I return home with “new eyes.”