Saturday, January 31, 2009

Pinuela leaf, up close and personal

This is a close-up photo of a section of the pinuela leaf. The leaves near the center of the plant turn red when the plant is getting ready to bloom, with lilac flowers.

In view of how thick the plants are, and how sharp are the tips of the leaves and the thorns on the leaves as shown in this photo, you can be sure that it makes sense to walk around and not through a patch of pinuela plants.

Two days ago Glenda left a comment wondering what would happen if you brushed against the plant, and yesterday Saretta left a comment saying that she liked the red color visible in the center of yesterday's photo. I hope that his photo is responsive to their comments. Glenda, this is a plant you do not want to brush against. Saretta, I agree. The vibrant red color and the thick, straight, ribbed texture of the leaves are certainly unusual.

By the way, if you want to see vibrant plant colors and shapes in a unique glass art installation, click here to see photos the Chihuly glass installation in the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, Arizona featured on the Scottsdale Daily Photo site.

I also recommend that you click here and scroll back to the January 27 post on Saretta's Molfetta, Italy Daily Photo site to read a fascinating explanation that the word and color sepia comes from cuttlefish. I think sepia is enjoying a revival because of the ease of shooting in sepia mode with digital cameras or photoshopping photos to sepia. I doubt that you will see sepia on this site, however, because I think it works best for architectural shots of old buildings, which you will rarely see on my site.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Pinuela fruit

This is the fruit of the pinuela plant. It more closely resembles a pineapple than the photo yesterday, except the fruit is thinner and more segmented. The fruit is yellow, like a pineapple, but is sour to eat.

One of the comments left to yesterday's post wondered what it would be like to brush up against a pinuela plant. Today's post should answer that question, and tomorrow's photo will show a close up detail of a pinuela leaf.

If you click on the photo to enlarge it, you will see that it pinuelas grow in a thicket of sharp barbs and thorns. If anyone says they are going for a stroll in a pinuela patch, you know they have spent too much time in the Costa Rican sun (or something else).

Another comment yesterday asked which of the 50 states I have not visited, and the answer is Alaska (as I discuss further in my response to the comment.)

I have been showing real plants the past couple of days. Chihuly glass plants are being featured on Scottsdale Daily Photo and I invite you to check out and scroll back through those stunning photos for an fascinating exhibition of art imitating nature.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Pinuelas, not pineapples

These plants look somewhat like pineapples, but they are pinuelas, also called piros. They are 1 - 1.5 meters (3-4.5 ft.) high and, as shown in this photo, they grow in very thick patches.

They are native to the dry forest lowland areas of Guanacaste, from sea level up to about 800 meters (2,500 ft.), growing in areas partly shaded by trees. The scientific name is bromelia pinguin.

Tomorrow and the next day I will show the fruit and a close-up of a leaf. This patch happened to be along a hike in Rincon de la Vieja National Park, although patches of pinuelas can be seen in many places in the region around Tamarindo.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Taboo Restaurant in Playa Langosta

This is Taboo Restaurant, one of our favorites. It is across the street about 1/2 block from our condo on the beach in the Play Langostsa area of Tamarindo.

As the photo shows, the menu is written on a chalk board on the wall, although they will also bring chalk boards to each table for easier reading. There is a very good wine selection as well. As this photo shows, even open-air restaurants in Tamarindo that look casual can be white-tablecloth, fine-dining.

One of Taboo's specialties is lobster bisque. The broth is thinner than is typical, but there is a small whole lobster in the bowl, leaving no doubt about the source of the flavor. A few of the items are visible on the chalk board menu if you zoom in on the photo, including a 2 pound lobster, beef tenderloin in Dijon sauce, pork in pineapple gargonzola, plus ribs, tuna pasta, and more.

My favorite recommendation with Taboo, however, is their chocolate desert. A friend of mine from Washington, D.C. stayed in our condo last year and reported that he went back to Taboo twice for the chocolate desert.

People who are considering staying in our Langosta condo will sometimes ask if a car is necessary or whether there are restaurants nearby in Langosta, which is a residential area. We enjoy walking to dinner almost every night, either at one of the Langosta restaurants, such as those that I have previously shown on this website, including Bistro Langosta and the Cala Luna Resort, or at one of the 50 restaurants in Tamarindo, which is a 10 minute walk. The concept of walking to dinner is rather novel for us Americans who were raised in suburbs where we had to drive everywhere.

One additional comment is in order regarding the above photo. This photo was taken on the night of our arrival in Tamarindo after taking two flights from the U.S. and the one-hour drive from the international airport in Liberia, except for my older son in the center of the photo, who lives in Buenos Aires and took three flights. My wife would probably want me to mention that disclaimer. My sons would not care.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Butterfly with false eye

This type of butterfly is very common. It is most distinctive for its "false eye" near the back of its wing. The false eye is a defensive protection. Predators, mostly birds, may think that the large round spot is an eye and attack the back end of the butterfly. The butterfly can survive an attack that takes a chunk out of the back side of its wing.

I do not show many insects on this site, as I have commented before. Why show a generally unpleasant members of the tree of life when Costa Rica is full of so many cute and attractive animals?

You will have to excuse me because I do not know a lot of information to share about insects. As far as I am concerned, they serve three purposes on this planet. (1) They pollinate flowering plants. (2) They provide food for birds and other animals. (3) They are an opportunity for a man to feel manly by answering the call of a wife or girlfriend who has an aversion to the sight of an insect on a hike or, heaven forbid, in a building.

My wife is scared out of her wits by bugs, but fortunately we do not have a problem with bugs in either of our condos in Costa Rica. As a precaution, we at times will use mosquito repellent when before taking a walk to dinner at dusk or before taking a hike in a forested area. We do not encounter bugs along the beach like you do in some areas that have sand flies or other pests.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Toucan at Las Pumas Rescue Center

This toucan at the Las Pumas Rescue Center for animals illustrates a bird's eye view of the adage that the grass always looks greener on the other side of the fence. Why did this toucan strain to twist his huge beak and his neck through the chain link fence? Everything he or she needs is inside the fence, and there is nothing outside the fence but a few dry leaves, and a closer look at human visitors.

The Las Pumas Rescue Center takes very good care of its animals. It prepares them to be able to be reintroduced into the wild if the animals would be able to survive in the wild. That means hiding food for the animals in their cages, giving them different types of food, and other methods to stimulate them. It gives them treats. In fact, the cougars and other wild cats are even given cow's blood ice cream.

The only explanation I can think of is that this toucan is simply a very friendly fellow, and he wanted a closer look her two visitors, who were my wife (who does the new
Scottsdale Daily Photo) and our friend Sharon (who does Phoenix Daily Photo).

Las Pumas Rescue Center is a wonderful place to visit and does very worthwhile work. If you missed my earlier posts about it, please check out those posts for Las Pumas on the subject index tab on the left side of this website.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The new and the old in central Tamarindo

This photo shows the old and the new in Tamarindo. The shops in the lower right are traditional surf shops and hostels that cater to surfers. The new building under construction is an upscale condo being marketed primarily to foreigners.

The new condo under construction is directly across the street from the Centro Commerical Plaza building that I showed two days ago. It is located about two blocks from the beach, although the condos from the third floor and up will have nice views of the ocean and Tamarindo Bay as well as the mountains.

A reflection of how the property is marketed to international purchasers is this section of the sign near the sales center. Note that the sign, like most signs in Tamarindo, is in English. Spanish gets secondary treatment equal to the treatment of 7 other languages. The website for this building,, advertises that it combines "New York style" with a Costa Rica beach location, with the ocean by day and international restaurants and night life in the evening. That marketing strategy would not be possible if it were not for the growth of Tamarindo that I have tried to illustrate in the recent posts on this website.

The website also mentions that the developers engaged in a project to plant more than 500 trees in the watershed of Tamarindo. Hopefully, the environment of the area around Tamarindo will be protected and preserved even as the town grows to a point that condos are now being marketed for "urban" amenities.

Incidently, I should mention that I took the above photo a couple of months ago as I intended to post it previously, and the building now has its exterior windows and other finishings, as reflected in some of the photos on the developer's website. I will return to showing more of the wildlife, beach and scenic photos that are the mainstay of this site during my posts tomorrow and the following days.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Main street

This photo of an older section of the main street in Tamarindo offers a contrast to yesterday's photo of a new commercial building in the center of town. The buildings in this photo, with a second story veranda and a thatched roof on the building at right, interspersed with palm trees, is more of what you would expect of a Costa Rican beach town, rather than yesterday's photo.

The beach and ocean is right behind these building, which makes them an ideal location for surfboard rental and other beach shops. I would not expect to find a yoga, tai chi or dance studio in any of the buildings in this photo, whereas that business seems right at home in the modern shopping center featured in yesterday's post.

Tomorrow I will show a photo of the old and the new in Tamarindo in the same picture.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Centro Commercial shoppping center

The dance, yoga and exercise studio I showed two days ago is on the second floor of this building, which is the Centro Commercial Plaza shopping center. There is a night club up on the top floor under the pointed part of the roof. The shops and offices in this building are condominiums, with several real estate sales offices, a pharmacy, and other businesses.

This building is a good illustration of the growth of Tamarindo. Construction of shopping and business buildings such as this show that Tamarindo is no longer a sleepy Costa Rican fishing village that evolved into a small beach town. The contrast between new, modern buildings such as this and the older, traditional buildings will be illustrated further by my photos to be posted tomorrow and the following two days.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Tango restaurant

If you take tango lessons while visiting Tamarindo, as I described yesterday, where will you dance the tango so you do not forget what you learned before you go home? No problem. Tamarindo has a fairly new Argentine tango and steak themed restaurant, called Tango & Grill, shown here.

I stopped by to take these photos while it was still daylight, too early for evening diners and dancers. I have not eaten at this restaurant yet, as my son lives in Buenos Aires so I get a lot of Argentine steak and tango when I go down there. But I look forward to trying out this restaurant.

Most of the residents of Tamarindo are international, particularly Americans, Canadians and Europeans, but I know of several Argentines as well who live in Tamarindo. The food, music and decor in this restaurant should remind them of home.

Announcement of a new City Daily Photo site of interest: I would like to welcome the Scottsdale, Arizona, USA Daily Photo site and encourage folks to click on this link to check it out. Scottsdale, like Tamarindo, is a lovely resort area, but unlike Tamarindo it is in a desert rather than on a tropical Pacific beach.

Scottsdale is a leading center for the arts and is a much larger, developed, affluent suburb of the major metropolis of Phoenix. It is famous for its golf, resorts, art galleries, and the beauty of the desert. But even though the desert Southwest is known for spectacular sunsets, I still think nothing compares to the sun setting into the Pacific in Tamarindo/Langosta.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Dance, yoga and exercise studio

Yesterday I showed the advertising poster for tango lessons, so today I am showing where the tango lessons are held. This is the second floor of a shopping center where there is a dance and exercise studio. The signs in the window advertise not only tango, but tai chi, yoga, pilates, and "Danzas Latinas."

A business such as this would probably be unremarkable in your town, but for a small Costa Rican beach town like Tamarindo, which is best known for its surfing, this is a sign of the diversification of available activities and the growth of the community.

This business obviously caters to non-surfing, higher-end tourists. I doubt that the following dialogue occurs when surfers wake up at a hostel in the morning (or perhaps the afternoon)

"Hey, dude, let's go surfing again now. I can hear the waves pounding the sand, it's another perfect afternoon for surfing here in Tamarindo, and there are probably some hot chicks laying out in the sand under the palm trees."

"No, man, you go ahead and surf without me. I'm going to put on my yoga threads and practice my tai chi routine with the babes over at the dance, exercise and yoga studio."

On second thought, maybe the surfers should try yoga and tai chi. It would probably help their balance and flexibility for surfing, and they would probably meet more women.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Tango in Tamarindo?

OK, I know today's post is rather goofy, but I will try to have a little fun at the risk of making a fool of myself, which I do rather easily.

Above is a "Learn to Dance Tango" poster. That's right, in Tamarindo, a small Costa Rican beach town, there is a dance studio where you can take tango lessons.

The scene shown in the advertising poster is, of course, Buenos Aires, with its Obelisk monument in the middle of Avenida 9th de Julio (the widest street in the world), and the very Argentine tango dancers and street scene.

In order to give the illusion that I have any credibility to comment about tango, I will risk embarrassing myself and share with you the following two photos from my most recent trip to Buenos Aires, last November, where my son lives. (No, the hat is not mine and, yes, this occurred the day before my wife flew down and joined the trip.)

Imagine this scenario. You come to Tamarindo for a Costa Rican beach vacation, take tango lessons, then return to your town, go to a night club and dazzle the patrons with your tango moves. The most beautiful people in the club line up to cut in to dance with you. Your dancing partner swoons, gazes intently into your eyes, and asks you, "Where did you learn to become such an accomplished tango master, Buenos Aires?" Will you respond "Of course" or will you say "On the beach in Tamarindo, Costa Rica."

If you take tango lessons in Tamarindo, you will probably be anxious to apply your lessons and go dancing right away. Where can you dance the tango in Tamarindo besides the dance studio? Tomorrow I will show you.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Sunset No. 8

It has been a while since I showed a sunset, so I thought I would share this photo from the balcony/patio of our condo on the beach in the Playa Langosta area of Tamarindo (which we rent to visitors when we are not using it). We like to end our days by sharing a bottle of wine with friends on our patio while watching the sunset, then walk to one of the many fine restaurants in Tamarindo.

I do not mean to diminish the beauty of nature enjoyed by people who live on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica, or the Atlantic seaboard of the U.S. (or the east coast of any ocean, sea or lake, for that matter), but but it seems to me that admiring the colors of the western sky as the sun sets into the ocean is the quintessential perfect end to the day.

In Tamainrdo, there is no collective gathering at sunset like the daily frolics at Mallory Square in Key West. Instead, people sit on their balconies or in small groups on the beach or in beachfront restaurants and enjoy the changing colors while reflecting on the day and the evening and day ahead.

Have you been to Mallory Square in Key West for the sunset celebration? Its reputation is evidenced by a comment by a Turkish tour guide in Bodrum, Turkey, when I was there. She greeted us by saying that the best way to understand Bodrum is that it is the Key West of Turkey.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Sleeping jaguar

This close up photo of a sleeping jaguar was taken at the Las Pumas Rescue Center. A week or so ago I posted a photo of a toucan at the center, as well as information and a link to the website of the center, including information about how it was founded by a Swiss woman who started caring for sick, injured or orphaned animals, and the center carries on her work even though she passed away a few years ago.

Although she cared for as many as 160 animals at a time, the center is best known for caring for wild cats, such as this jaguar. He looks quite comfortable and content, taking his cat nap. When animals are received at the center, they are evaluated by a biologist to assess whether they can be rehabilitated and reintroduced to the wild. Last year, the center took in 84 animals and was successful in reintroducing 67 of them back into the wild.

While at the center either temporarily or for a long time, the center simulates conditions in the wild as they care for the animals. They vary and hide the food and feed the animals at different times to maintain hunting skills and instincts.

Jaguars are native and still wild in Costa Rica, although they are endangered. I have never seen one in the wild, and tourists do not need to worry that they will confront a jaguar in tourist areas. (I mention this because my tracking of Google searches shows that some people land on my site because they are worried about wild animals they might encounter if they come to Costa Rica.)

Jaguars are 1.1 to 1.8 meters in length (3.5 to 6 feet), plus the tail. My Costa Rica wildlife book has a very simple description of the physical appearance of a jaguar. It says: "You will know it when you see it."

I will post some more photos from the Las Pumas Rescue Center on various days in the weeks ahead, including a photo of very cute young margay.

Saturday, January 17, 2009


This is another one of the many waterfalls in Rincon de la Vieja National Park. Rincon de la Vieja has lots of waterfalls because it is a transitional era between the lowland dry forest of the coastal plains of Guanacaste and the cloud forests of the higher elevation of a volcanic mountain that rises to 1,916 meters ( 6,286 feet).

The park has 32 rivers and 16 seasonal creeks. There are many hiking trails in the woods as well as the plains. The higher elevation portion of the park has dense forests, which is where this waterfall is located. The coastal plateau portion of the park has hiking trails that lead past volcanic fumaroles.

If you click on the Rincon de la Vieja label in the index of subjects to this website you will see a variety of photos of this park. It is located about an hour and half from Tamarindo. There are tour operators who will have a driver and van pick up tourists at condos or hotels in Tamarindo, drive them to Rincon de la Vieja, accompany them on hikes to show a variety of the types of plants, animals and terrain in the park, take them to a good restaurant for lunch, and then return to Tamarindo by mid afternoon. It makes for a delightful day.

Friday, January 16, 2009

White-faced Capuchin monkey family

This is a white-faced Capuchin monkey family. They are not shy. On wildlife-viewing boat trips on the Tempisque River in Palo Verde National Park, they will actually hop on the boat and take pieces of banana out of your hand, if you offer food to them. Each time I have taken that trip, we have encountered a group of at least 10 monkeys, including several babies riding on their mother's back, as you see here. They live in groups of between 6 and 40 monkeys.

They are native only to the western hemisphere, from Central America ranging as far south as northern Argentina. Early Spanish settlers named them after the Capuchin monks of the Franciscan order because the resembled the dark robes, with only white faces exposed, of the monks.

My wife is not a fan of white-faced Capuchin monkeys, as she thinks their faces are too expressive and, at times, human-like. Visitors on the wildlife-viewing boats, especially children, delight in the contact with the monkeys. It is certainly much more thrilling to see monkeys in the wild than in a zoo, and Costa Rica is a place where one can be virtually guaranteed of seeing monkeys in the wild if visitors go to the right places. They are territorial, so the wildlife tour operators know right where to go to find them.

White-faced Capuchin monkeys are considered the most intelligent of the western hemisphere monkeys. In the wild they use tools, such as stones, to crack open nuts. They are easily trained and they were the species used by organ grinders. In modern experiments, some white-faced Capuchins raised by humans as infants have been trained to be assistants to quadriplegics and have been trained to do tasks such as opening bottles and even micro-waving food.

White-faced Capuchins, also called white-throated Capuchins, are about 46 cm (18 in.) in length, plus a tail as long as their body. The Spanish word for monkey is mono, and they are called mono carablancas. Their scientific name is cebus capucinus.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Macaws and automatic teller machine

Several days ago I included a link to the website of the Bank of Costa Rica, which is matching contributions to its account for an earthquake relief fund. This is a photo of the automatic teller machine on the front of the Bank of Costa Rica branch at the Plaza Conchal shopping center in Tamarindo.

Today's photo also shows a painting of two macaws, surrounded by a frame of sea shell pieces, to decorate the wall next to the outdoor automatic teller machine.

If you enlarge the photo and look closely at the painting, you will also see that the artist wrote the words "Costa Rica" on the painting. I suspect that the artist did so not because he or she felt that people needed to be told what country they are in, but as a reflection of national identity or pride. After all, in how many places in the world would they decorate an outdoor wall next to an automatic teller machine with an original painting of tropical birds?

To me, this painting next to an ATM machine is another way of reminding visitors, like Dorothy did in The Wizard of Oz, that "We're not in Kansas anymore."

One other comment is in order about the Plaza Conchal shopping center murals that I have posted recently. Isn't it refreshing to see art that is not graffiti painted on outdoor walls in public spaces? Graffiti is not a problem in Tamarindo, unlike urban areas around the world.

While we are on the subject of graffiti, I would like to share a story that I think is a nice reflection on Costa Rica. About two years ago some graffiti appeared on places like roadway bridges in the area. The graffiti was the same stencil design, painted in white, that showed a skull and the word "Gringo." The local newspapers carried articles about how Costa Ricans were worried that the graffiti might make North Americans feel that they are unwelcome or resented, which is certainly not the case.

A later article reported that they caught the people responsible for the "gringo" graffiti. They were a couple of young Americans who were promoting a product. As an American, I felt embarrassed. We are visitors to Costa Rica, we use their public services, and then a couple of Americans defaced the areas they painted and created the appearance of conflict between Ticos and North Americans.

Incidentally, the word "gringo" does not have the same negative connotation in Costa Rica as it usually does when used in Mexico. Costa Ricans are a genuinely friendly, welcoming and tolerant people. Their attitude towards life is summed up in the national expression: "Pura Vida." It literally means "pure life," but it is used by Ticos in a similar way that Hawaiians use "Aloha." It can be used as a greeting, as a way of saying goodbye, best wishes, or all is well.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Earthquake destruction and renewal

Because I do not have any real photos of earthquake damage, I use this photo to illustrate the process of the earth's continuing changes, and the renewal of life. This is a photo of the wall of the Irazu volcanic crater, where nothing grows, with a lush valley of vegetation growing in the distance.

This is a photo of the Irazu crater taken from the same spot at the same time as the above photo. The top photo zoomed in on the top of the crater wall on the right side of the second photo to capture the crater wall with the clouds and valley beyond.

At the risk of getting too symbolic, the volcanic crater, like the earthquake that struck Costa Rica last week, is a manifestation of the destructive power of the earth, yet life, even lush vegetation, co-exists and grows along side the destructive power of the earth.

The rebuilding of the areas of the central valley of Costa Rica hit by last week's earthquake is underway, and people are rebuilding their lives. Some families have suffered the irreplaceable loss of loved ones. The newspaper reported yesterday that three more bodies have been uncovered, bringing the death toll to 22. An additional tragedy happened overnight early Monday morning. There were five more earthquakes around 3-4 on the Richter scale, which did not cause any known physical damage, overnight. Again, the earthquakes were limited to the immediate area near Poas Volcano. A 17 year-old girl became so stressed from the repeated tremors, however, that she died.

Although Tamarindo is a long way from the area of the earthquake, and the earthquake was not even felt -- physically -- in Tamarindo or the northwest Pacific coast resort area of Costa Rica, I am sure that all Costa Ricans felt or were touched by the earthquake emotionally. Costa Rica is a small country. The population is only about 4 million people, and the land area is the size of the state of West Virginia or the country of Switzerland. Although I am an American, I feel I can comment that that the Tico sense of national pride in the country's achievements is paralleled in a shared sense of loss in times of peril.

There are two stories about the Irazu Volcano that I would like to share in light of the photos above. Irazu erupted on March 13, 1963 on the same day that the late President John F. Kennedy was in Costa Rica to attend a meeting of the Organization of American States. For a small country, a Presidential visit and a major volcanic eruption were two major news events on the same day.

Irazu got its name from an indigenous word, Istaru, which means "mountain of thunder." There is a native legend that a local chief sacrificed his daughter to the volcano god, and during a later battle with a neighboring tribe, the chief called upon the volcano god for help. The volcano erupted on the enemy, and the volcanic mudslides destroyed the village of the enemy.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Angels of mercy for earthquake victims

I am offering this photo of the angel on the top of Our Lady of the Angels Cathedral, the most sacred site in Costa Rica, as a remembrance to the victims of the large earthquake at the end of last week and to thank the relief efforts of those who provide emergency services to the victims.

An update to the news that I posted yesterday about the Costa Rican earthquake is that the Red Cross has a confirmed death toll of 18, and has reduced the number of missing from 89 to 23. The major foreign embassies have reported that none of their citizens are among the missing.

The Costa Rican government has issued emergency declarations for several areas in order to speed relief and assistance to earthquake victims.

The areas subject to the emergency declarations do not include any areas of Guanacaste, the northwest region of the country in which Tamarindo and the international airport in Liberia are located. I mention this because I noticed that yesterday quite a few people landed on this website by doing Google searches regarding whether the earthquake affected areas such as Tamarindo, the airport in Liberia, Papagayo, or other beach resort areas, and the answer is that it did not. The earthquake could not even be felt in Tamarindo.

Hopefully visitors will not change their travel plans to come to Costa Rica because of the earthquake, as the country particularly needs the economic benefits of tourism now.

The Bank of Costa Rica has set up an emergency relief fund to help victims. The Bank will match any donations to the fund received before January 23, up to $450,000 USD. Information about how to donate money is available on the Bank's website.

Costa Rica has an emergency preparedness government agency, but the country does not have a military. It therefore does not have some of the heavy military equipment that is used by some other countries for logistics for disaster relief. The United States and Columbia have loaned to Costa Rica four Blackhawk-style helicopters, which are larger than any helicopters available locally. They have been used to deliver emergency supplies and to evacuate people and bodies. Heavy earth-moving equipment has been clearing landslides that have blocked roadways in areas cut off by the earthquake.

The newspaper carried a story that the first news and information about the earthquake came not from the traditional media of newspapers, television or radio, but was transmitted by ordinary citizens on the internet. The newspaper noted that networking sites on the internet have transformed regular citizens into participants, not merely recipients, of the dissemination of news during times of emergency.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Earthquake in Costa Rica

At the end of last week there was a terrible 6.2 magnitude earthquake in the central valley area of Costa Rica, 35 km. northwest of San Jose. That is a long way from Tamarindo, more than a 4 hour drive, and the earthquake could not be felt in Tamarindo. It caused extensive destruction and the tragic loss of life near the epicenter, with the Red Cross listing 19 dead and 89 missing, as of yesterday's newspaper.

Thousands were left without water and electricity and lived in areas cut off by damage to roads and bridges. The epicenter was 15 km east of Poas Volcano, one of the most-visited national parks in the country.

I do not have a photo of the earthquake scene or damage, but to illustrate the earthquake I am posting the photo above of the cracks in the earth's surface near the crater of Irazu Volcano, another large volcano near San Jose. Irazu is the largest and highest volcano in Costa Rica, with an elevation of 3,342 meters, or 11,260 feet. I do not know the geological explanation, but I assume that there is some connection to the fact that there are earthquakes and volcanic activity in Central America.

Earlier I posted photos and information about Irazu on October 6, 7 and 8, including
this link to a post that showed this photo of one of the 5 craters in the park.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Toucan painting at shopping center

Yesterday I posted a photo of a real toucan, so today I will complement it with a photo of toucans in yet another of the murals at the Plaza Conchal shopping center in the middle of Tamarindo.

This painting illustrates a toucan in flight and gives me a chance to talk about their long beak. It looks too large for the toucan to fly. Toucan beaks are mostly hollow, however, and are very light.

Toucans are popular, so it is no surprise that the shopping center would include them in their wildlife murals. Many businesses include include photos or drawings of toucans as part of their advertising brochures or website illustrations.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Toucan and Las Pumas Rescue Center for animals

This is a keel-billed toucan.
This photo was taken by our good friend, Sharon, who operates Phoenix Daily Photo, when she visited us. She and my wife went on a wildlife-viewing raft trip on the Corobici River and the guide parked the raft for a short walk to the Las Pumas Rescue Center, where Sharon took this photo. You can also visit Las Pumas by road.

Las Pumas is a wildlife rescue and rehabilitation center founded in 1982 by a Swiss woman living in Costa Rica, Lily Bodmer de Hagnauer. She started by taking in injured or orphaned animals, particularly jaguars and other members of the cat family, then local people started bringing her animals that needed medical care. She provided care for as many as 160 animals at a time. She passed away in 2001, but her wildlife rehabilitation center continues her work.

Information about the center is available on its website: The center dependent on private funds and donations. It is not part of a government agency, although it works in cooperation with government environmental authorities and the park and wildlife agents even bring injured animals to the center for care. Ms. Hagnauer's family continues to contribute money to support and improve the center.

It is a wonderful place to visit, as it includes a nature trail, educational activities, and a small souvenir shop, and visitors may get up close looks at the animals that are orphaned, injured, escaped from illegal poachers, or otherwise in need of care before being re-introduced to the wild. If you are not in the area, please check out the Las Pumas website and consider making a donation.

Now, for some information about toucans. Toucans live only in the tropical areas of the Americas, and there are six species in Costa Rica.

The most distinctive feature of the toucans, of course, is their long, colorful beak. It seems like an awkward feature, but evolution has adapted toucans well to their diet. Their favorite food is ripe fruit. Because their bodies are too large for very small branches, their beaks enable them to land on larger branches and to reach up to pluck the fruit hanging from smaller branches above the larger branch where the sit.

Although their beaks look awkward, they are quite dexterious. Once they pluck a piece of fruit with the end of their beak, the next task is to get the fruit down their throat. They toss the fruit from the end of their beak into the air, then catch the fruit in their mouth in a position to swallow it.

I used this photo of Sharon's because it gave me a chance to talk about the Las Pumas Rescue Center, and because although I have taken a couple of photos of toucans in the wild, but they are not good enough to post. I posted a photo of the wildlife raft trip on the Corobici River on November 4. Tomorrow will be another toucan-related post.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Roseate spoonbill painting at shopping center

This painting of roseate spoonbills in flight also decorates the Plaza Conchal shopping center, which I have shown in the last few days. I am posting below a photo of a real roseate spoonbill in flight, so you can compare the shopping center painting with the real bird, similar to yesterday's post of a blue motmot painting and photo.

I posted the photo of the roseate spoonbill in flight
on September 23. Roseate spoonbills can be identified by their distinctive rounded, spatula shaped bill. I posted a photo of a flock of rosette spoonbills perched in a tree on September 22.

My guess is that Costa Rica is probably the only place where you could expect to see paintings of blue motmots and roseate spoonbills at a shopping center. Other paintings in the same shopping center, which I could also post in the future, show toucans, a humming bird, parrots, and other Costa Rican wildlife.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Blue motmot painting at shopping center

Yesterday I showed a view of the Plaza Conchal shopping center and mentioned that there are paintings of Costa Rican scenes at the shopping center. This is one of those scenes, showing two blue motmots, one perched and one flying, with a background of volcanic mountains.

This photo shows a larger view of the location of the painting in the shopping center. There are other small murals of Costa Rican scene in the other archways of the shopping center, above the first floor shops and below the second floor offices.

Below is a photo of a real blue motmot bird, which I posted on this website on August 25, along with information about the bird. It is easy to recognize the blue motmot in the painting because of its distinctive bare shafted racket tail.

People sometimes comment that artists like to paint what is familiar to them in their own surroundings, and it is therefore appropriate that in Costa Rica the artist decorated a local shopping center with murals of Costa Rican birds and jungle scenes.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Plaza Conchal shopping center

This is the Plaza Conchal shopping center in the the center of Tamarindo. The center includes 2 banks, an art gallery, about 4 or 5 souvenir shops, an internet parlor, a store than can send out Fed Ex packages, and professional offices upstairs for attorneys, etc.

The Bank of Costa Rica in the far end of this shopping center is an important stop for visitors to the area. Visitors can pay the $28 USD airport departure tax at the bank, thereby avoiding a possible line at the airport when leaving the country.

The sign in the middle of the photo asks people to use the walkways rather than walking on the grass. One nice, artistic local touch is that above each archway and just below the balconies are paintings of Costa Rican wildlife. Those paintings are not very visible in this photo, so I will show some of those in upcoming posts.

I realize that this photo is not as visually appealing as the scenes that I normally show of wildlife, the beach, ocean or tropical plants, but for balance and perspective I felt it was time to show another photo of the town and shops in Tamarindo.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Cows and condos

There are condos under construction near the point that divides Tamarindo beach from Langosta beach. Perhaps to save the cost of cutting the grass, there are several cows who graze during the day on the lawn of the condos, which are part of the Tamarindo Preserve project.

In the evening, this grassy spot and the woods across the street are home to fire flies and some croaking frogs. This animal life right in the middle of town helps add variety to the walk home from dinner when we eat at one of the restaurants in the center of town rather than one of the restaurants in Langosta.

When the condos are finished, undoubtedly there will be fewer animals, although the Tamarindo Preserve project promotional materials and website talk about how the development intends to preserve natural areas within the project, which is particularly important because it borders on the Langosta estuary.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Surf's up

As this photo shows, Tamarindo deserves its reputation as a surfing town. It is much more than a surfing town, however, as neither my wife nor I surf, yet we chose Tamarindo for our Costa Rica condos.

I have heard some observers comment that if investors want to get in on the ground floor and buy inexpensive land that years in the future may be able to be developed into resort property, look at the funky beach towns where surfers hang out. The surfers seem to discover ideal spots that are cheap because they lack resort amenities and infrastructure. Slowly, the surfing spots may attract a broader cross section of visitors, and as more upscale accommodations and infrastructure are developed, the land may be worth many times its original value. But, of course, the area may stay relatively undeveloped and the speculation may be too risky.

Up until the recent world-wide recession, I heard some people say that Nicaragua may be the next Costa Rica because it has unspoiled Pacific beach property, but most people find Nicaragua far too risky an investment compared to Costa Rica. The country lacks the infrastructure so attract and support many tourists, and the political reputation of Nicaragua lacks the stability and democratic traditions of Costa Rica that help make foreign investors comfortable.

Tamarindo has been discovered by the broader tourist and resort market, as reflected in the photos of some of the resorts I have shown on this website. The "get-in-on-the-ground-floor," speculative investment opportunities were gone 5 or so years ago. Nevertheless, the surfing culture and surfing opportunities remain an important part of the community.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Crocodile, up close and personal

This crocodile was in the wild. He was not in a fenced in enclosure in a wildlife park or zoo. To get a photo this close and at this angle, the driver of a wildlife viewing boat excursion on the Tempisque River at Palo Verde National Park beached the boat for a few minutes so we could watch the crocodile. After a few minutes, he scampered down to the river to swim off, and I got this photo looking down at him from a rather close up perspective. Another photo I will post in the future will be a picture of crocodile who was so cloe that he splatttered mud on my shirt as he scampered into the water.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Surf & Cabo Velas

Yesterday I showed Tamarindo beach from the ocean. Here is the ocean from Tamarindo beach, looking north across Tamarindo Bay to Cabo Velas. The ocean in this area is part of the Las Baulas National Marine Park, which is a national park that consists of the beach at Playa Grande, which lies between Tamarindo and Cabo Velas, and the off-shore ocean area. Playa Grande beach is the primary nesting site for the endangered leatherback turtles.

This photo also illustrates that the waves at Tamarindo have multiple breaks, which helps make the area popular for surgers. In adition to ehe more experienced surfing p

Friday, January 2, 2009

Tamarindo beach, from the ocean

Here is a photo of the heart of Tamarindo beach, taken from a boat leaving on a sunset cruise. The palm trees are part of the grounds of the Tamarindo Diria Resort. The combination of a beautiful beach, an ocean that is part of a national marine park, the amenities and restaurants of the town, and the attractions and activities in the surrounding area combined to cause Tamarindo to be described as Costa Rica's most popular beach town in an article in Forbes Magazine.

As I have mentioned previously, all beaches in Costa Rica are public property, which I think is a good thing. Although resorts may have a beach front location, people can walk for miles along the sandy beaches without having roped off areas at hotels that block access to the beach, as can be encountered in other parts of the world.

There are some small coves or pocket beaches that are located within master planned developments, such as the Four Seasons Papagayo that I showed a couple of weeks ago, that cannot be reached from land unless you have access to the development, but the major beaches are open for people to stroll, take long walks, swim, sun bathe, surf, etc.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Monthly Theme: Favorite Photo

Today's first of the month Daily Photo them is the favorite photo posted for 2008. My selection is a photo of my younger son, Stuart, taken against the sun setting off the Tamarindo/Langosta beach. This photo was not photo-shopped in any way. What you see is how it was recorded by the camera.

The effect of his disappearing feet, which makes it appear as though he is rising out of the ocean, was achieved by the fact that he was standing on a rock and the waves were splashing behind him higher than the rock.

Stuart works as a Quality Assurance Engineer for a high-tech internet company in Scottsdale, Arizona. He has photos of Costa Rica hanging at his cubicle. He reports to me that this photo attracts the most attention and comments from his colleagues.

Click here to view thumbnails for all participants
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