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Wildlife in El Coco

When we first arrived in Playa del Coco (or 'El Coco' as the locals call it), I was struck by how little wildlife there was here compared to La Fortuna. We had become used to seeing our friendly sloth asleep in the tree outside the hotel, the pet hummingbird who used to sit on the same flower each morning at breakfast, and the resident iguana who would make a right racket scuttling up the tree.

As it turns out, I needn't have worried. The wildlife IS here, it's just that with so much more development and people about, it's a touch harder to spot. In other words, you have to keep your eyes (and ears) open.

Here's what we've managed to spot so far...


Okay okay so they’re not officially dinosaurs but they certainly look like them!

The first time we saw an iguana in Coco was when it fell out of a tree. Literally fell out of a tree. We were all in the pool at the time and heard this almighty crash. Next thing we know there's a rather embarrassed iguana running back up the tree!

Unfortunately no camera for that one (I do put it down occasionally!). But we do find we're getting regular visits from this bright green chappy each day.

I think he's just wanting to join in and have a swim.

That is until he spots me with my camera I seem to spoil all his fun!

We’ve seen so many iguanas here during our stay but this chappy was certainly one of our favourites. We had three that hung out near our apartment and we named them - Iggy, Greenie and Stubby.


Yes, vultures. Black vultures to be precise. We went exploring on the beach the other day clambering over rocks to see what was around the corner, and discovered an entire 'Dumbo' scene of vultures in the tree! I intended to go back and take the camera but we never did. However I did capture this 'little' fella was simply out for a walk outside our house!


To begin with we thought these were the elusive critters that we heard in rainforests everywhere but just could not see. Looking online though, these chaps don't appear to be cicadas. Which, now that I've seen them up close (literally on the plants outside our front door), I think I'm pretty relieved about. Imagine being surrounded unknowingly by these faces in the forest!


The squirrels here are not like the ones back home. We saw a pure black one in La Fortuna but here in Coco we keep seeing what looks like a reverse skunk! It's known as a variegated squirrel and this particular one is white with black stripes.

We also saw one that looked like a cross between a red squirrel and the variegated one.

Halloween Moon Crab

What a name right?! These little (well, not that little, they're about 15cm wide) live on the banks of a small rivulet that runs along the side of the road we walk along into town. They are FAST. So you need to look out for a flash of red then stay very still. We also saw lots of crab legs (just the leg not the whole crab) waving out of a bank the other day. Turns out they are Fiddler Crabs. The males have one claw bigger than the other and they wave it about to attract the females.


The first time I saw this lizard I was taking photos of the grasshoppers above. I spotted a slight movement out of the corner of my eye and thought I saw a green head, which quickly disappeared. I wasn't sure if it was a snake (it looked like the green vine snake I saw at that start of the Arenal 1968 trail) so, me being me, I decided to go hunting for what could be a poisonous snake! Luckily, it wasn't. Instead it was this little fella.

Animals I've not got pics of....yet

These are the ones we've either seen (and I didn't have my camera!!) or heard (and are unlikely to ever see)

  • Howler Monkeys - annoyingly close (annoying in that if I had my camera I could have finally got a good shot of them!). A group were making their way through the trees just on the side of the road. I heard a rustle in the trees, stopped and paid attention (something you learn to do fast in this place) and my attention was rewarded

  • Tungara Frogs - these elusive beasties sound just like a computer game. Researching them I doubt I'll ever get a shot of them as, when you get close, they go quiet. And they only come out at night, so wondering around in the dark with a torch could work but not sure I want to try! In the meantime, listen to this recording on YouTube to see what I mean by the sound!

  • Skunks - we only saw one, and it was dark so nearly made the mistake of going closer to check it out until Ali and Esme identified what it was! We did meet someone who has lived here for a couple of years though and he sees them regularly in his garden. He also said that he sees scorpions too and that he has to check his shoes each day to make sure there isn't a scorpion inside. Our answer? Flip flops man! Flip flops!

The above is just a selection of the wildlife we've seen here. There are many other animals that we've spotted in the sea (or just out of it!) too and lots of birds everywhere. We also went to a wildlife park but I've not included these here as feel that was 'cheating' as they were easy to take shots of. I'll do separate posts on those another day.

I have to say that the wildlife in Costa Rica has been possibly my favourite thing of this whole trip. And being able to capture some of them with my camera has been brilliant. It's sparked a whole new love of photography for me, and something I will be exploring further when I return home.

Until then, Pura Vida everyone!

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