Personal Journey: Breakfast with Costa Rican critters

Horses romp in the waves near a resort in Montezuma, Costa Rica. Also visiting at breakfast-time: Crabs, mantled howler monkeys, a blue-crowned motmot, a lizard walking on water.
Horses romp in the waves near a resort in Montezuma, Costa Rica. Also visiting at breakfast-time: Crabs, mantled howler monkeys, a blue-crowned motmot, a lizard walking on water. (MARK DAVIS)
Posted: September 18, 2011

It's breakfast time at the Ylang Ylang Beach Resort in Montezuma, Costa Rica, and that means not only fabulous food but also exotic entertainment. Hannah, my 7-year-old daughter, is enjoying tropical banana pancakes, while I savor the tipico breakfast of beans, rice, eggs, tortillas, and plantains. Perched on the back of the third chair at our table is a white-throated magpie-jay. The thunder of Pacific Ocean waves breaking 90 feet away bothers neither us nor the bird. Adjacent to the patio restaurant where we sit, a large spiny-tailed iguana ambles across the lawn.

Suddenly, loud, guttural howls emanate from above, sending the magpie darting into the sky. Hannah and I race onto the lawn and scan the surrounding rain-forest understory, and soon spot a group of mantled howler monkeys high in the trees.

"Howlers are one of the world's loudest animals," I explain to Hannah. "They can be heard miles away."

"Nothing to fear," I reassure her over the noise, "the male monkeys only howl to claim each tree as their territory."

"Come on, Dad, we see these things all the time in Costa Rica," Hannah bravely responds.

The howling subsides as the monkeys vanish into the forest. Our gaze lowers and we discover new wildlife roused by the racket. We see red (variegated) squirrels in the trees and an agouti scampering on the ground. Numerous birds, including a blue-crowned motmot, soar around us. A bare-throated tiger heron lands next to a green iguana, which has joined the spiny-tailed iguana on the lawn.

Excited squeals draw our attention to the loft above the restaurant, where participants of the morning yoga class point toward the ocean. We turn to see four horses sprint out of the rain forest and into the surf. We watch in wonder as they wallow in the water and leap into the walls of waves like little kids. After a spirited swim they shake off the sea and return to the forest.

"OK, that was new," my daughter concedes.

Returning to our breakfast, we find that colorful tajalines (or Halloween crabs) now dash about the restaurant floor.

"Halloween crabs walk a straight line from the rain forest to the beach, where they lay their eggs," I lecture Hannah. "They pass through anything in their way - bedrooms, bathrooms, even restaurants. They're harmless, though, unless threatened."

Feet raised, she merely shrugs.

We finish breakfast and set out for our hotel room. We pass the pool and observe a basilisk lizard running across the water.

"It's nicknamed the Jesus Christ lizard," Hannah reminds me. "It walks on water."

The footpath is a crowded thoroughfare teeming with butterflies, birds, lizards, and crabs going about their morning business.

Treading carefully, we eventually reach our room. Hannah brushes a lizard from the porch hammock, climbs in, and inquires:

"So Dad, what new and exciting things do you have planned for us today?"


Mark Davis lives in Marlton.

 

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