by Shannon Farley
Braving the fear of creepy-crawlies and things that will eat you in the dark, our writer discovers cute rainforest frogs, fascinating insects, and even a cuddly sloth on one of the best Costa Rica rainforest night walk tours at Veragua Rainforest Adventure Park.
The sun set at least two hours ago, and it is pitch black outside. As I pull on my rubber boots and grab my rain jacket and flashlight, I eye the nice, cozy-looking bed in my room and think, “Why am going to go look for tarantulas and scorpions?”
Certain that all I was going to see were creepy-crawlies, which are definitely not my favorite, I resolutely head out to join my little group of adventurous souls ready for the rainforest night walk at Veragua Rainforest adventure park in Costa Rica.
Most people only visit the rainforest in Costa Rica by day, and I must confess, so far I’ve been one of those people. But they say “you haven’t really seen the rainforest until you’ve seen it at night”. So here I am; flashlight in hand, following our naturalist guide up a muddy road in the dark toward the forest’s edge, and trying not to think about all of the things out there that could possibly eat me.
The transition from day to night in the tropical rainforest is a powerful change, and is when many animals become most active. At nightfall, the forest comes alive with sounds. It is like a National Geographic soundtrack with chirps, croaks, tinkling sounds, and booms that somehow seem a little louder and a little scarier when you can’t see what’s making them.
Scientists say more than 60 percent of the wildlife found in tropical rainforests is nocturnal … from frogs to bats, snakes, insects, spiders, and nighttime mammals. A night walk gives you the chance to spot some of these abundant nocturnal animals and learn about how they survive in the tropics at night.
Just a few steps up the road, we run across our first frog, a Rainforest Rocket Frog calmly hopping from puddle to puddle toward leaves and tall grass where it could hide. Over the next two hours, we saw dozens of rainforest frogs: Strawberry Poison-Dart Frogs, Green and Black Poison Dart Frogs, Masked Tree Frogs, Red Eyed Tree Frogs, Glass Frogs, Splendid Leaf Frogs, and large bullfrogs. We saw a two-toed sloth making its way through the trees a short distance away; a Walking Stick insect so big it should have been called a “walking branch”; and several kinds of snakes, including parrot snakes, green vine snakes, and an Eyelash Palm Pit Viper. We alertly kept watch for a Fer-de-lance, one of Costa Rica’s most venomous vipers, which had been lurking recently around the frog pond; but luckily it kept its distance that night.
There were huge moths, bats that did “fly-bys” in the dark past our heads, strange looking beetles, cicadas, and dozens more insects too numerous to identify easily. And all of this we saw walking up the road from the bunkhouses to Veragua’s adventure park facilities, along the paved trails leading to the Reptile Habitat, and around their two frog ponds. We didn’t even have to walk directly into the forest because the jungle is so thick around the adventure park, remotely located in Costa Rica’s Central Caribbean region, that animals were everywhere.
This could possibly be one of the best Costa Rica rainforest night walk tours ever! In reading about other night tours in many other areas of Costa Rica, most people walk for hours and only see wildlife here and there. At Veragua, it seemed everywhere we turned, there were a plethora of animals to see, albeit mostly frogs, snakes and insects. However, my fears were allayed; not one tarantula or scorpion did I see.
Veragua Rainforest’s location next to the immense La Amistad International Park in the Talamanca Mountains has made it a hotspot of biodiversity. The 3,212-acre (1,300-hectare) private reserve is the most frog-diverse place in all of Costa Rica, home to an incredible 54 species, including critically endangered species, some of which have their last natural populations within the park. Certainly, there’s no guarantee that you will see anything on a night hike at Veragua Rainforest Eco-Adventure, but chances are high that you will.
When the tour finished, any sleepiness I had at the start was replaced with the amazing feeling of being very alive. It was like being a kid again, out discovering creatures in the great outdoors.
Guided night walks at Veragua Rainforest are available during overnight or multi-day educational programs at the adventure park in Costa Rica. Visitors are advised to wear long pants and covered footwear for the night walks, and also to bring a jacket in case of rain. Flashlights are provided, but it’s a good idea to have your own as well.