The Rain Forests of Central America

Or:  Getting Wet is Worth It!

Di and Jim Wanderer wedged between the buttresses of a forest giant.

On this cruise along the Western Caribbean, we stopped and explored two rainforests, one in Panama and the other in neighbouring Costa Rica.

I love the rainforest!  So many plants and animals to see and discover!  

Yes, it is hot and humid but not as oppressive as Columbia had been.  Besides, there was lots of shade and frequent rain showers to cool things off… or steam things up depending on your perspective.

Morph Butterflies: Brown when their wings are closed flash an almost impossibly bright blue when the wings are open.


In Panama our tour took us into the forest just beyond the famous Panama Canal.  It amazed me how quickly we appeared to be in the depths of the jungle.  Amazing iridescent blue butterflies, the size of our palms, flitted by in the green.  A paca (large rodent the size of a cat) skittered across the road in front of the van.  

Then the two toed sloth made his appearance.  He was just hanging around in a tree by the bridge, not bothering anyone but our sharp-eyed driver spotted him.  Two toed sloths, as their name suggests, has only two clawed toes on their front paws.  However,

A two-toed sloth deigns to open one eye to blear at us.

surprisingly, both two-toed and three-toed sloths have three toes on their hind paws.  Sloths apparently do indeed move very slowly and if they look rather stoned… it is because they probably are.  Their leaves of choice are narcotics.  They are nocturnal and eat all they can at night.  It takes them all day to sleep off their meals.  They stay in one tree for days until they have consumed all they can.  Then they climb down, relieve themselves, (If I had to wait almost a week before I could relieve myself, I’d be pretty relieved too!) and find a new tree. 

He just looks soooo comfortable!


Something else I did not know was that female sloths do most of the work when it comes to mating.  All the males have to do is hang about in their tree and whistle.  The females come… ah… running?  Unfortunately, the harpy eagle, one of the biggest eagles in the world, has figured this out and has learned to imitate the male’s whistle.  If any female is fooled and is attracted by the eagle’s whistle, she becomes an easy meal.

This howler monkey doesn’t give a hoot!

Later in a rain forest preserve, we all marvelled as lines of leaf-cutter ants, waving green flags formed continuously moving trails across our path.

Then there were the howler monkeys.  We heard them long before we spotted their swift moving black shapes.  You’ve all heard the sounds on documentaries, like rasping grunting pigs howling in rather than out.  To hear that sound in person… to listen to it echo like a ruckus choir in a cathedral… it was almost surreal.  Despite the heat and the humidity, I got chills.

A Rainbow Sided Tree Frog


A troupe of the more rare white faced monkeys presented themselves but only long enough to stare at us and think twice about crossing the road (which was more like a track) until later.  With the scuffle of leaves and the waving of branches, they melted back into the forest until we had returned to the van and driven off.

Jim zips through the canopy.

In Costa Rica we went to the Vagueris National Park.  Here we got to see one of those wonderful tree frogs, you know, the ones with the bright green skinny body and the bright red suction cup finger and toe tips?  Here we got to get closer to the trees and vegetation themselves, thanks to a canopy tram line that took you down the mountainside to a rain swollen waterfall.  

Here the rainforest truly lived up to its name.  Until now we have managed to be either in a van or under cover when the rains hit.  Not this time!  We got to experience a true warm downpour.  It was almost too hot for raingear but you quickly became as soaked as a washcloth without it.  

Believe it or not, the tree top tram was upstaged.  Our next event was a zipline right through the canopy.  Eleven lines!  Woohoo!

I can’t wait to get back to the rainforest again.  I’d love to explore it under the wing of a forest savvy grandmother who could tell me all about each plant and its uses.  Until then, the sound of howler monkeys will haunt my dreams.



About diwanderer

I love to travel! I love food and wine and learning about new cultures. Come and explore with me!
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