Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Tamarindo beach at the Diria Resort

Yesterday I showed the ocean and beach in the middle of Tamarindo beach where the Diria Resort is located, from the ocean. Today I decided to show a view up the beach of the the same area in the middle of Tamarindo beach. The resort is behind the palm trees and the low white wall on the left of this photo.

As I have mentioned before, all beaches in Costa Rica are public. The Diria Resort puts these chairs and beach umbrellas out each day for hotel guests, but others are free to swim, walk along the beach and set up their own blankets and beach chairs in the same area. I have never seen the beach too crowded, even during the Christmas - New Year's holiday season when the town is always full.

We stayed at the Diria Resort during the New Year's holiday week during 2005 and liked it so much we bought a condo on the grounds of the resort and later bought a second condo on Langosta Beach.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Tamarindo beach in front of the Diria Hotel

How do you think I took this photo? From a boat? Wrong. This photo demonstrates one of the many things I love about Tamarindo beach. I walked out from shore and took a photo looking back to the beach.

Look how far into the ocean you can walk. I don't remember how deep the water was at this point, but you can see from the camera angle that I was still standing up out of the water when I took the photo. At most of the beaches I have been to in the USA, you can walk out only a short way before you are in too deep to stand up. It is delightful to be able to walk and swim in the water in a large area off the beach. The temperature of the water is also pleasant all year round.

In the background of this photo is a portion of the beachfront of the Diria Resort in the middle of Tamarindo beach

Monday, September 28, 2009


Tamarindo is best known as surfing town, so it is time to show another surfer. I took this photo at Playa Langosta, just a few steps down the beach from our condo.

This surfer is just getting ready to twist back towards shore after cutting back towards the crest of the wave.

Surfing looks like fun, but I am not a surfer and I don't think I am in good enough shape to start now, at age 58. My wife tells me that I need to do yoga to increase my flexibility, and I am sure she is right. There are yoga places in Tamarindo, but somehow I doubt that people go to them to get in shape for surfing.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Gonzalo, the lawyer

I recently showed several photos of Pablo, the gardener, so today I am showing Gonzalo, our lawyer, who I mentioned yesterday. His full name is Gonzalo Fajardo Lee. He was a diplomat before he became a lawyer, serving in the Costa Rican embassies in Rome and Madrid.

When buying property in a foreign country, it is certainly important to have a good lawyer you can trust. After selecting a property management company for our first condo, we asked them for recommendations for lawyers. They recommended Gonzalo, and my wife interviewed and selected him during one of her trips to Costa Rica.

Gonzalo has an office in Tamarindo and an office in San Jose, the capital, which is 4 hours away. He divides his time between his two offices. Besides being knowledgeable, providing good service, and speaking English well, one of reasons my wife liked Gonzalo is that his wife holds an important job in one of the televisions stations in San Jose. My wife liked it that Gonzalo was supportive of his wife's career.

Foreigners can purchase real estate in Costa Rica without the restrictions that exist in some other Latin American countries, such as Mexico. There are differences, however, and a local lawyer is a necessity. One of things that we found funny is that the real estate title documents are handwritten by the lawyers in a bound book. There are real property title records in the country and it is possible, and wise, to buy title insurance, and major U.S. title companies have offices in Costa Rica and insure the validity of the title for property being purchased.

Many Americans and Canadians have purchased vacation or retirement homes in either the Pacific Coast resort area, or the central valley near San Jose, which has an ideal year-round climate because of its altitude. The financial crisis and recession of the past year have certainly been felt in Costa Rica because not as many people are looking to buy vacation homes. For people who are open to living in a foreign country, the retirement funds will go a lot farther in Costa Rica than in North America. Furthermore, in the international indexes of the quality of health care, Costa Rica is tied with -- the USA!

Today is Sunday, so that means that my wife and I have posted a new set of travel photos on Viva la Voyage. Today we take you Colonia del Sacramento, uruguay, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with colorful, quaint colonial-era streets.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Typical Tico house

This is the house across the street from Pablo in his village. People seem interested to see photos of typical life for Costa Ricans, as I had a number of nice comments about showing Pablo's village and horse during the last few days, and I get a fair number of Google hits on my site from people searching for photos of typical houses in Costa Rica.

This is a typical Costa Rican house. It is not large by American standards, but it is adquate, and it is better than you would find in most developing countries. Costa Rica is the most prosperous country tin Central America. Life is so good in Costa Rica comparied to other Central American countries that there are large numbers of people from Nicaragua who have sneaked into Costa Rica. Some estimates are that as many as 1 million Nicaraguans are among the 4 million people of Costa Rica.

There is a big difference in the housing in a typical local village and Tamarindo, which is a resort that caters to internatinoal visitors and residents. In Tamarindo the condos are built with the type of fixtures and appliances to apeal to North American preferences, wich as washers, dryers, dishwashers, disposals, granite countertops, tile floors and bathrooms. The difference is so dramatic that I remember talking to our Costa Rican lawyer one time and he told me that he does not live in Tamarindo. He lives in a nearby town for locals, not international residents/guests, becuase, he said, that he prefers "Tico prices."

Tico, by the way, is a nickname for Costa Ricans. It is not derogatory at all, as Costa Ricans often use the term and the largest international newspaper in the country is called the Tico Times.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Pablo's village

This is the street where Pablo lives in a typical Costa Rican village. It is not fancy, but it is a pleasant place to live.
Costa Rica is a developing country. It has only 4 million people in an area the size of West Virginia or Switzerland, much of it mountainous. You would not expect that rural villages would have paved streets like Costa Rica's larger towns and cities, but this small village does have street lights, as you can see in the photo.

Costa Rica is making progress in developing its infrastructure, particularly roads. The newspapers carry articles about roads that are to be paved, and the construction of an asphalt plant in the Guanacaste region that will make it more efficient to make road improvements.

One aspect of the public works infrastructure that is important for visitors is that, unlike many developing nations, in Costa Rica the water is safe to drink and the food is fine to eat for people from the USA, Canada and Europe. I drink water out of the tap, although bottled water is also widely available. I eat fresh fruits and vegetables. Neither I nor any member of my family have ever gotten food poisoning or a similar illness in Costa Rica. That is not true in other countries I have visited

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Pablo's horse

Here is a closer view of Pablo and his prized white horse. You can see why he is proud of such a beautiful animal. He has another horse, which he keeps in a stable in his yard behind his house. I hope that his other horse, which is a fine looking brown and white spotted horse, did not become jealous that Pablo led the white horse out into the street in front of his house to show it off to me.

This horse is so white that it looks like it belongs in a cartoon or movie galloping across the sky.

Pablo speaks English well. Before I posted my first photo of him about a year ago, I asked him if he had access to the Internet. He answered, "Of course." Foolish me. At least I evidently did not insult him, as he has remained very friendly and he extends such a cordial greeting every time I see him that I know it is going to be another pleasant day in paradise.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Pablo and his horse

Pablo, the gardener at our condo complex, works hard, as I showed yesterday. In talking to him about his life, it became clear that he is proud of his family and his animals, especially this beautiful white horse. I asked if I could drop by his village to see where he lives and to see his horse, and he graciously agreed.

It was perhaps bad manners for me to ask if I could stop by to see his horse, and I would not have risked being too assertive or intrusive if it had not been for my interest in taking photos for this Daily Photo blog. Some readers have left comments asking about typical life for Costa Ricans and some of the people who land on my site from search engines use search terms looking for typical "tico" houses. I therefore decided to see if I could stop by to see Pablo's horse and to see where he lives, even though Costa Ricans are considered to be very friendly people, but they do not typically invite foreigners to their homes.

Pablo lives in a village about 15 km (10 miles) inland from Tamarindo. Costa Ricans in small towns are proud of and retain their ties to a rural, agrarian life style even though tourism, not agriculture, is now the nation's number one industry. Pablo is a good example of this. He works in Tamarindo, a resort area. He worked in a hotel before he became a gardener for our condo building. Although he has a job from the resort industry, he still has two horses and lots of chickens in his small yard around his house. He owns a field just outside his village where his horses can graze in a pasture and he can grow food.

I will show a few more posts about Pablo's horse and village in the days ahead.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Pablo in action

Pablo, the gardener at our condo, works hard. Here are three photos of him trimming pinuelas plants with a machete.

Pinuelas plants are tough. They are a relative of the pineapple, but they have thick, pointed leaves with jagged thorns. They are used to separate the pool and back lawn area of our condo from the beach. They are well suited to be a barrier because people from the beach cannot walk through them to use the pool. They are like a living barbed wire fence.

So why does Pablo have to wade into these plants and whack the tops of the leaves with a machete? Because he is working to enhance the view of the residents and guests of the ground floor units. If the plants grow too high, the people downstairs from us, on the ground floor, will not be able to see the ocean very well from inside their condos.

In the third photo Pablo is pausing to sharpen the blade of his machete. I took these photos from the balcony of our condo. You can see how hard hard Pablo was working, just to improve the view of the people downstairs from us.

In contrast to my photos of Pablo hard at work, tomorrow I will show Pablo at his home doing something that he loves.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Pablo the gardener

This is Pablo, a gardener who does a wonderful job tending to the plants in the gardens that surround our condo in the Langosta Beach section of Tamarindo. I showed a photo of Pablo about a year ago. He had been away from work for quite a while due to a serious leg injury, but he is back performing physically challenging work. I will show a photo of his very challenging work tomorrow.

Pablo speaks very good English. He is friendly and always has a smile to greet people. I asked him to interrupt his work behind our condo and pose for this photo. I neglected to ask him about whether he is a fan of the University of Florida, as he is wearing a t-shirt commemorating their national championship in football. It is not unusual to see Costa Ricans wearing clothing from U.S. sports teams, although sometimes when talking to the person they will not know about the team.

Yesterday we posted some new photos on our Viva la Voyage travel photo site. This week we are featuring photos from New Zealand.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Activities galore!

What is there to do for visitors to Tamarindo? Well, of course there is the beach and ocean, with great swimming and surfing. But what else?

Here are the proprietors of an activities shop on the main street of Tamarindo. You can see them standing next to their poster listing the following activities: snorkeling; horseback riding; sailboat; catamaran; zip lines; kayak; mangroves; sport fishing; Palo Verde National Park wildlife tours; rafting; all terrain vehicles; excursions to Arenal volcano; excursions to Monteverde cloud forest nature preserve; diving; "super combo" (I don't know what that is); Witch's Rock surfing; and excursions to Nicaragua.

There are more activities besides those listed. For example, my son booked the gyrocopter tour that I showed several weeks ago through this activities office.

The couple who you see running the shop are foreign, like many of the shopkeepers in Tamarindo. The woman is from Toulousse, France, and the gentleman is French Canadian. The enthusiasm of the woman is so infectious, that if you were uncertain about doing any of the activities when you walk into the shop, after you talk to her you will feel like signing up for several of the activities before you walk out of the shop.

While we are on the subject of activities, I should mention that one week ago was the third annual Tamarindo Beach Marathon. I was not in Costa Rica last week so I could not get photos of it, but there were 900 runners, twice as many as last year, with runners from as far as the USA, Argentina, France, Germany, Mexico, Kenya. The winner was Bernard Kimwetich Sangoka of Kenya, with a time of 2:37:16.

Today is Sunday, so we have posted some new photos on our Viva la Voyage travel photo website featuring The Quaintness of New Zealand.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Leaving the Tamarindo Estuary

After we emerged from the narrow waterways of the mangrove forests in the Tamarindo estuary, our boat headed back towards the entrance to the estuary near the ocean. In this photo you can see the effects of the growth of Tamarindo. A few houses or other buildings have been perched atop the ridge line near the ocean, which I imagine affords a great view of the estuary mouth and Playa Grande.

I hope you have enjoyed my little photo tour of the Tamarindo Estuary. My sons and I enjoyed our boat tour. We did not see any crocodiles, although there are crocodiles in the reaches of the estuary. There is not as much wildlife as the similar boat tours in Palo Verde National Park, but the Tamarindo estuary tours cost less and are right next to Tamarindo, not one hour away.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Mangrove trees

After our short walk on our estuary tour, we got back in the boat and headed towards the ocean. The mangrove forests continued to impress. The maze of mangrove roots at water level are what you would expect of a mangrove ecosystem, but the tall trees with large trunks growing airborne supported by the tangle of roots is a tropical wonder of nature.

It is scenes like these in Costa Rica that let visitors know, to borrow an expression from the Wizard of Oz, you are not in Kansas any more

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Howler monkey

This howler monkey remained perched on a branch just above us as our group of about 8 tourists walked through the forest in Las Baulas National Park on our Tamarindo estuary tour.

There is something very unusual about this howler monkey. No, it is not unusual to see howler monkeys in Costa Rica. And it is even more common to hear them. But this howler was perched above our trail all by himself. I have never before seen a solitary howler monkey, as they are almost always in packs of between 10 and 20 monkeys.

Our guide told us that there was a pack of howler monkeys living in the woods nearby, but we did not find them. We don't know how or why this howler was separated from the group.

The low roar of howler monkeys can be can be heard at a distance of 3 km (1.8 miles) in the forest or 5 km (3 miles) across the water. That is not a typo. It is amazing for such a huge sound to come from such a small animal. They are typically 55 cm (22 inches) long, and weigh between 4 - 7 kg (9 -16 lbs). That makes them the largest monkeys in the western hemisphere.

My wife, Julie of Scottsdale Daily Photo, is running an extraordinary series of photos of her trip to a slot canyon in northern Arizona. I highly recommend checking it out. This week we are showing photos of the polo scene in Buenos Aires on our Viva la Voyage travel website.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Bat, Up Close and Personal

Here is your chance to count the toes on a bat. I warned you that some of the animals on our estuary tour might not be attractive, and I trust you will agree that I kept my word. (Tomorrow's photo will be of a cute animal. I promise.)

I have never seen a bat flying in Costa Rica, but there are a few trees in the forest where bats perch during the day. Our guide on our Tamarindo estuary tour led us past a dead tree where some bats had perched on the inside of the hollowed out trunk.

Naturally, I had to walk close to get a better view for a photo. The hollowed out tree trunk was rather dark, so I used a fill in flash, which explains the shadow on the tree trunk in the photo. My flash disturbed the bat, and when he moved, there was an abrupt end to the bat's photo session.

This is a greater white-lined bat, also called a white-lined sac-winged bat. You can see their distinctive white lines on their back in this photo. I do not know if the white stripes are usually in a zig zag pattern, and I do not intend to go searching for other bats to find out.

It is interesting how different cultures around the world have associated bats with evil. Even the aborigines in Australia have a legend about how the first man and woman on earth encountered a bat that was guarding a cave. They had been warned to stay away, but the woman approached the bat it flew away, leaving the cave open. The cave was the cave of death, and without the bat to stand guard, death was unleashed into the world.

My wife and I have a painting in our house by an aboringinal artist depicting the aborigine story of creation, which involves two snakes. We will not be adding any paintings showing the bats of death.

One other bit of trivia about bats is that some bats seem to be afraid of predators, such as owls and even other bats, as they stay at home and are afraid to fly during a full moon. White-lined bats such as the one in this photo are not one of those, however, as they will fly around during a full moon.

The white-lined bats are only 5.5 cm (2 inches) long. They are locally called murcielago del saco, and the scientific name is saccopteryx bileneata.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Guanacaste: Costa Rica's National Tree

The national tree of Costa Rica is the guanacaste tree, also called an ear tree because its seed pods are the shape of an ear. The northwest Pacific province of Costa Rica where Tamarindo is located is also named Guanacaste.

Guanacaste trees are tall, reaching heights of 35 - 50 meters (115 - 165 feet). In the coastal plains, they typically have an umbrella shape to their branches and leaves, but the tree that I have shown in the forest in Las Baulas National Park had to grow tall to find sunshine.

The bottom photo shows the shape of the leaves, as it is a small guanacaste tree that has grown from a seedling. There are the remnants of a couple of the ear shaped seed pods in the shadow on the ground. I apologize that they are not shown well in the photo, as I was focusing on the leaves, not the ground.

Guanacaste trees drop their leaves during the dry season from November though April in order to conserve their moisture. I too these photos at the end of May, after the tree had about a month to green up with the occasional rain during that season.

By coincidence, I am showing Costa Rica's national tree on Costa Rica's Independence Day, September 15, Costa Rica is, I believe, the only Latin American nation that did not have an independence movement.

When Guatemala declared independence in 1821, it included Nicaragua and Costa Rica as well. No one in Costa Rica knew they were independent until October 13, when a messenger arrived and surprised the people with the news that Costa Rica was its own country and they would have to govern themselves. Costa Rica had been largely ignored by the Spanish because there was no gold. (It was given the name Costa Rica, or "rich coast," by mistake, as the gold worn by the natives who greeted the early Spanish explorers came from somewhere else) Costa Rica had been described as the poorest colony in the entire Spanish empire.

A few years after independence, the Guanacaste region of northwest Costa Rica, had an election in which the people voted to join the new country of Costa Rica rather than Nicaragua.

For English speakers (like me), I should point out that the "e" at the end of Guanacaste is pronounced; it is not silent "e." The scientific name for the guanacaste tree is enterolobium cycloarpum.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Green iguana

No walk through the forest in Costa Rica would be complete without an iguana. You don't have to go far to see iguanas. In fact, you don't even have to go into the forest. They are in town, along the roads, and even along the beach. They are harmless and leave people alone. They spend most of their time in trees. Their diet consists most of leaves, which probably explains why they are motionless most of the time and slow moving the rest of the time. Leaves are not a good source of nutrition for an animal this large.

This green iguana, also called a common iguana, is a classic of his species. This one is green, but often green iguanas are brown. They typically have a very long tail, and this one's tail looks to be about three times the length of its body. They reach about 2 meters (6.5 feet) in length. The color bands on its tail and the crest on its back are also characteristic of green iguanas.

The local name for iguanas in Costa Rica is garrobo. The scientific name is the rather uncreative iguana iguana.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Colorful crabs

When we were floating the estuary we could see little crabs on mud banks and walking along tree roots and branches. Most of the crabs were dark in color and blended in with the color of the mud and branches.

When we got out of our estuary tour boat for a little walk through the forest in Las Baulas National Park, we encounters lots of these much more colorful crabs. They had little holes in the dirt for their burrows, and they would run for cover at the entrance to their holes when we got near. They would at times stay at the entrance to their holes, so the could see us and dash down their holes if we got too close. This colorful crab did not have anything to worry about me, as I had no desire to get real close to him.

The area had lots of crabs even though we were at least 1 1/2 kilometers (1 mile) inland up the estuary from the ocean.

I would like to take this opportunity to wish a happy birthday to my wife, Julie, of Scottsdale Daily Photo. She is running an extraordinary series of photos of her trip to a slot canyon in northern Arizona. I highly recommend checking it out if you are not a regular visitor to her site, as she has some amazing photos coming up in the next week. (I should also mention that it is strictly a coincidence that I have showed a photo of a crab on my wife's birthday.)

Today is Sunday, which means that my wife and I have posted some new photos on our Viva la Voyage travel website. Several people asked us to show more photos of Buenos Aries after our post last Sunday, and we have obliged. We are featuring some photos of what is without a doubt the most monumental cemetery in the world.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Close-up of huge mangrove tree

This is a closer view of the huge mangrove tree that I showed in yesterday's photo. The small mangrove roots tangled in the foreground are what I would typically expect of mangrove trees. The large mangrove tree slightly behind the mangrove thicket amazes me.

It seems to defy the laws of nature and the laws of physics for such a huge tree to be supported up in the air by the elevated roots. With a little imagination, this tree looks like an animal such as a dinosaur or alien space creature walking through the forest.

Our boat pulled over to the banks of the estuary not too long after this photo was taken, and we took a little walk through the forest. Tomorrow I will show you the the most common of the animals we encountered. I will have to warn you that not every animal we saw was cute, but do not worry. It was not an insect.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Huge mangrove trees

I think of mangroves as bushes growing in the swamp-like conditions of an estuary, but this photo shows that mangroves in Costa Rica can be large trees. In the center of this photo you can see the distinctive airborne root structure of a mangrove, but it is supporting a large trunk towering skyward like a regular tree.

The most common of the 6 types of mangroves in the Tamarindo estuary is the red mangrove, which is also the largest. It can reach 90 meters (98 yards, or 295 feet) high. Imagine, a mangrove as tall as a football field!

In a few days I will show you a photo of a tree that we saw on our hike in this visit to Las Baulas National Park that is even larger than the mangrove shown today. IN fact, it is the Costa Rican national tree.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Termite mound in the mangroves

What could live in the dense mangroves? I already showed you an attractive kingfisher. I apologize, but here is the unattractive dwelling of unattractive inhabitants -- a huge termite mound perched in the mangrove branches.

Mangrove forests must be a great place for termites, as there is lots of wood and lots of places to hide from predators.

With termite mounds like this, I am glad that both of our two condos in Tamarindo are built of concrete. The exterior and interior walls are reinforced concrete, so there is nothing structural that would appeal to termites, and nothing structural to burn, and the construction is strong for earthquake protection.

I promise that I will not show any more insects or insect dwellings during my photos of the estuary, but I will not promise that all of the animals I will show will be attractive.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Dense mangroves

I promised you some mangrove trees, and today I deliver. How would you like to try to walk your way through these mangrove wetlands?

These mangroves are short, but some are tall. I will show you those in some of my upcoming posts.

Most of Las Baulas National Park is the ocean area off shore. Most of the part of the park that is on land is impassible mangrove habitat for wildlife.

Mangroves are very beneficial for the environment, particularly for fish. Mangroves improve water quality by reducing sediment runoff, keeping the water clearer and cleaner. The tangle of mangrove roots also provide areas for fish hatchlings to live in relative protectin from predators.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Ringed kingfisher

I mentioned that the Tamarindo estuary was habitat for 57 species of birds. Here is the ringed kingfisher, which is the largest kingfisher in Costa Rica, reaching 41 cm (16 inches).
The ringed kingfisher is distinctive because of its long, sharp bill, its reddish belly, and green-blue wings, back, chest and head, and the white ring around its neck.

It hunts in both salt and fresh water, and estuaries are a perfect habitat for it. The ringed kingfisher tends to hang out on higher branches than smaller kingfishers and plunge into the water for prey. I imagine that the still waters of the estuary make it easier to spot its prey.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Mangroves in the estuary headwaters

We are now in the headwaters of the Tamarindo estuary. Unlike the wide expanse of water shown the last two days, we are now snaking through narrow waterways of still water lined with dense mangroves.

Most of this area is wonderful habitat for wildlife, but impassible for humans. The mangroves are so thick that it would be impossible to get out of the boat and try to walk through them.

I have read some articles about how mangroves are depleted in the southeastern USA because of the population growth of Florida and development of coastal areas. Costa Rica has set aside 25% of its land area as national parks and wildlife refuges, more than any other country.

Although Tamarindo has grown a lot in recent years, it is comforting to know that on the northern edge of town there is a large natural area such as what you see in this series of photos, set aside for wildlife, and on the southern edge of town is the Langosta estuary, whcih is not as large but is also a mangrove estuary.

If you missed yesterday's post, this is a little reminder that we did a new post on Sunday on our travel photo site, which is and this week we are showing photos of Buenos Aires.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Low tide in Tamarindo estuary.

You can tell that it is low tide in the estuary by the gap between the water level and the trees. We are still in the wide part of the estuary, heading from the mouth by the ocean up into the backwaters, which I will show tomorrow.

At the right edge of this photo there is a hint of the dominant vegetation to come, which are the mangrove trees that I mentioned yesterday.

Our Tamarindo estuary tour took several hours. It included a stop and a walk through the forest as well as the boat ride gliding through the still waters and looking for wildlife.

Today is Sunday, so my wife and I have a new post on our Viva la Voyage travel site. Today we are featuring one of our favorite cities, Buenos Aires, Argentina, including a few photos that show the pulsating action of the city. It is quite a contrast to the slow pace of life in the Tamarindo estuary.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Tamarindo Estuary

This is the beginning of our Tamarindo estuary tour in Las Baulas National Park. This photo was taken near the mouth of the estuary, and you can see that it is wide, allowing ocean water to flow in at low tide and allowing fresh water to flow into the ocean.

The Tamarindo estuary ecosystem is dominated by mangroves lining the shore. All 6 of the species of mangroves native to Costa Rica can be found here, although I will have to confess that I can't tell one mangrove from another. I will show some close-up photos of the mangrove forests in my upcoming posts. I hope you will be surprised.

The mangrove estuary provides excellent habitat for wildlife, including 57 different species of birds. I will show a few photos of the animals during my upcoming photos from our boat trip up the estuary.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Las Baulas National Park

When I began the series of aerial photos of the Tamarindo area taken from the gyrocopter a couple of weeks ago, I showed a few photos of the Tamarindo estuary. The estuary is part of the Las Baulas de Guanacaste National Park, which also includes the leatherback turtle nesting grounds on Playa Grande and a marine sanctuary in the waters off shore.

This is the sign for the La Baulas National Park posted on the side of the road as visitors enter Tamarindo. The park office is only about 2 minutes form the center of Tamarindo. You can walk along the beach from the main part of Tamarindo beach to the entrance of the Tamarindo estuary.

As shown on this sign, there are a variety of activities in the park. I will next share with you a series of photos from the estuary tour. The turtle tours mentioned on the sign are led by park rangers at night during the nesting season from October to March.

The park and estuary form the northern border of Tamarindo. The park protects 379 hectares (936 acres) of land and 22,000 hectares (54,000 acres) of ocean habitat.

Las Baulas translates to English as the leatherbacks. THe full name of the park in Spanish is Parque Nacional Marino La Baulas de Guanacaste.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Guaitil Pottery Bowl with Butterfly

This is another example of Chorotega pottery made in Guaitil, Costa Rica, about a half hour inland, or east, from Tamarindo.

This is a more contemporary design, made to appeal to tourist tastes, rather than the more traditional design that I showed yesterday. The pattern around the border of this bowl looks traditional, but I doubt that in pre-Columbian times the indigenous people of Costa Rica made pottery with butterflies against a swirling background, and I am positive that they did not write expressions such as "Pura Vida" on their pottery.

Pura Vida is the national slogan of Costa Rica. It is Spanish, of course, for "pure life." Costa Ricans, who are also called "Ticos"use "pura vida" in ways similar to "aloha" in Hawaii. It can mean hello, good bye, all is well, I'm fine, or just about any other friendly greeting. It sums up the national attitude that helped make Costa Rica ranked number one as the happiest nation on earth, according to a major study by a foundation in London.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Guaitil Chorotega Pottery Bowl

Here is a sample of Chorotega pottery from Guaitil. You will notice the earth tones and the reddish color from the red clay in the riverbank used for making the pottery. The artisans today continue to use pre-Columbian motifs in the decoration of the pottery.

The name Chorotega comes from a Choltec word that translates as the people who fled. The name results from the migration of the ancestors of the Chorotega native Americans who fled conflicts in their homeland in Mexico to resettle in Costa Rica about 800 A.D.

I did not mean to confuse you by the desert plants in the background of this photo. This photo was taken in Phoenix, not Costa Rica, as we have tropical, not desert, plants in Costa Rica. I took this photo at the house of a friend to whom I had rented our condo in Tamarindo, and when we sent to her house for a party she showed me some of the pottery she purchased in Costa Rica, which I photographed to post on this website. I will have another example tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Sept. Theme Day: BIG wave

The September 1 worldwide Daily Photo Theme is BIG. For me, that presented a challenge. What is big in Tamarindo?

We don't have big buildings. The biggest are 7 or 8 story condos. We don't have big streets. We don't even have any streets big enough to need a traffic light. I don't think that there is a 4-lane road within an hour of Tamarindo.

We don't have any big monuments. In fact, I think Costa Rica is the only country in Latin America without any statues in honor of a liberator from colonial rule, as Costa Rica never had to fight for its independence. Spain simply gave up Costa Rica, and Costa Rica did not even learn of its independence until several weeks later when a messenger arrived from Nicaragua, but that is another story.

So, what is big about Tamarindo? People come to Tamarindo in part because it is not big. Even though it has been described in Forbes Magazine as Costa Rica's most popular beach resort, it is not a big place. Tamarindo is popular in part because of surfing, so it seemed to me that one thing that surfers wish for is some big waves. So, for the Daily Photo Theme Day of "big," I decided to post a photo of a big wave.

Rather than a traditional wave photo from shore, I took my little point-and-shoot waterproof camera and waded out into the waves to get this angle for a photo. I did not go out on a day with particular big waves, as I am not a surfer and I did not want to get crashed around in the surf. Nevertheless, I hope you enjoy this perspective of the swell that precedes the break of a wave.

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