Costa Rica Never Disappoints
After two years of stay-at-home life, Alight Tours took flight with a breath of fresh air that blew away the travel cobwebs. And there isn’t a better place to go than Costa Rica, an essential destination on everyone’s bucket list. With its tropical climate and wide range of habitats, wildlife is encountered at every turn. This biodiversity hotspot covers 0.03% of the earth’s surface yet holds 15% of the world’s species – more species per square mile than mega-diverse countries like Brazil or Colombia.
Costa Rica serves as a biological bridge connecting North and South America. Thanks to its rugged geography that includes lowlands, mountain ranges and valleys, the country experiences a wide variety of microclimates. More than half of the territory is covered by lush forests and about a quarter is protected by National Parks and reserves. Costa Rica is a natural wonder really worth exploring.
Our group of 11 visited the country’s must-see birding locations which included Carara National Park, Monteverde, Arenal, La Selva and the cloud forests of Los Quetzales National Park. There was an additional trip extension to the Osa Peninsula where we explored the Corcovado and Piedras Blancas National Parks. Over the course of 12 days (plus 6 days with extension) we tallied a whopping 447 species of bird including the three national endemics! Many of the species were regionally endemic, only being found in Costa Rica and neighboring Panama. A number of the group had birded in Central and South America before, yet for most, this was their highest species tally.
Making this trip extra unique was the weaving of conservation themes and support of local communities throughout the tour. Early in the trip we learned about the valuable work of the Cabanisi Conservation Project focused on conserving the threatened Cabanis’s Ground-Sparrow, one of Costa Rica’s three endemic bird species. We were taken into the field to locate the sparrows and learned about the impacts and efforts to preserve them. We also observed a bird banding session in Monteverde, giving us up-close encounters with birds we were seeing in the field. We learned why this research is so important and even got the chance to release captured birds back into the wild.
We were guided by one of the best guides any of us have ever encountered – Jose Pablo Castillo. His knowledge of the country’s history, geography, ecology, and particularly the bird fauna was outstanding. We were astonished by Jose’s ability to accurately reproduce the calls of seemingly every Costa Rican bird species, as well as his up-to-date knowledge of relevant bird-related scientific findings. In his free time he regularly contributes to community science projects, and assists conservation and research efforts whenever possible. Jose looked after us like we were family, and we look forward to working with him again in the future.
With the sheer number of birds, the incredible diversity of flora and fauna, and the delightful food, accommodations, and people, a trip to Costa Rica never disappoints. Come with us when we return in Spring 2024!