An Account of OTS’ 60th Anniversary Costa Rica Tour

OTS celebrated its 60th anniversary last year and, for the first time, organized a special tour to all three of its research stations in Costa Rica: Palo Verde in Guanacaste, Las Cruces in the Zona Sur (very close to the Panamanian border), and La Selva near Puerto Viejo de Sarapiqui on the Caribbean side. We had the pleasure of being on the tour, which ran from December 4 to 15, and we are happy to share our experiences.

Nine of us joined the tour, seven from the USA plus the two of us – David from Canada and Michael, a Canadian-Costa Rican. We all had previous travel experience in Costa Rica – extensive, in some cases – and we all shared a keen interest in the natural history of the country.

The OTS team had organized the trip very carefully, and there were no logistical problems along the way. Julissa Larios was our enthusiastic and friendly tour host. Transportation was in a spacious tour bus, and our driver, Rafa, was great at navigating Costa Rica’s steep, winding roads, and narrow bridges.

We converged in Liberia, Guanacaste and were driven to Palo Verde, where the OTS tour began. The itinerary took us to distant points of Costa Rica: three nights at Palo Verde, one night at Villas Lapas near Tarcoles on the drive south, three nights at Las Cruces, overnight at the Sueños del Bosque Lodge in San Gerardo de Dota on the drive back north, and finally three nights at La Selva.

Our group included some dedicated and experienced birders equipped with binoculars, field guides, the Merlin app, and telephoto lenses. Our expert OTS naturalist guides were Jeisson Figueroa, OTS Naturalist Guide (first half of the trip) and Pablo Muñoz, OTS Education Coordinator (second half), and they spotted and identified so many birds that we could hardly keep our lists up to date.

David Wilson with Julissa and Pablo

Tour and special activities

There were more highlights than can be listed in this brief account. Each day started with a birding walk at dawn. We had morning boat tours on the Tempisque River (Palo Verde) and the Puerto Viejo River (La Selva) and night walks where we saw scorpions, spiders, and an unforgettable, amazingly loud gathering of mating frogs.

We were also taken to a coffee plantation near Las Cruces and a family-owned chocolate (cacao) tour near La Selva, learning about production, and sampling the products. Another unexpected treat was the Arts Festival Day at Las Cruces, where the local community was invited to enjoy musical and dance performances and an evening reception was put on for the tour participants and some local supporters of OTS. We also got insiders’ views of the scientific research that OTS makes possible, with lectures and facility tours. All in all, we were made to feel like honored guests!

Birding highlights were many: marsh birds such as the jacana and the rare jabiru at Palo Verde; herons and tiger-herons; kingfishers; scarlet macaws close up; parrots; toucans and aracaris; songbirds, including flycatchers, euphonias, tanagers, and manakins; many species of hummingbirds; several species of trogon; and raptors like the crested caracara and snail kite. Perhaps the best of all was the early morning quetzal tour in Dota, where we had superb views of these iconic birds.

Happily, we had excellent weather, too – until we got to the rain forest at La Selva, where we had, as expected, lots of rain.

By the end of the Tour, we had all become good friends, and there was a general agreement that we hope OTS will organize more tours this year and in years to come.

Relato de una gira por Costa Rica por el 60 aniversario de la OET
Taking flight with OTS