Welcome to the jungle! Costa Rica is packed with more than 500,000 different species of exotic and beautiful wildlife, many of which you can see on a rainforest wildlife tour with Bushmaster Adventures.
When I turned off my flashlight, it was pitch black. I couldn’t see a thing, not even my hand holding the flashlight. Rain drops pitter-pattered softly from the still dripping trees and dense foliage after the rain shower more than an hour ago. And I could hear chirping, croaking and humming from the myriad of frogs, toads and insects out there in the night.
It was thrilling to be in the middle of the rainforest hearing all of these sounds, knowing there was so much life around me. Quickly switching back on my flashlight, I hurried after my companions along the dark, damp forest path.
We were walking along rainforest trails by the Arenal Volcano in Costa Rica on a private guided wildlife tour with Bushmaster Adventures. Gary Kritzinger, Bushmaster Adventures owner and naturalist guide, led us expertly and safely through the jungle explaining the animals, plants and trees we saw along the way.
In Costa Rica, it is said that you haven’t seen the rainforest until you’ve seen it at night. When you walk through Costa Rica’s forests, the animals moving through the undergrowth and hanging out in the trees are not always easily visible. Night hikes have become popular because they sometimes offer better opportunities for spotting wildlife, especially animals you wouldn’t normally see during the day. Scientists report that more than 60 percent of the wildlife found in tropical rainforests is nocturnal … frogs, bats, snakes, insects, spiders, and nighttime mammals.
The Arenal Volcano area is an excellent place for wildlife spotting, both in the daytime and at night. Many of Costa Rica’s more than 200 mammal species live here, including sloths, white-faced capuchin monkeys, howler monkeys, coatis, armadillos, collared anteaters, deer, pumas and ocelots. Nearly 75% of the total 870 species of birds that have been identified in Costa Rica can be found in Arenal. Guided night hikes are great opportunities to see some of the 174 amphibian species that are native to Costa Rica, along with numerous snakes and other reptiles. Needless to say, Costa Rica’s insects far outnumber all the other animals.
Toward the end of our private tour with Bushmaster Adventures, we spied a Fer-de-lance, one of Costa Rica’s most venomous vipers, off the left side of the trail near a wide hole in the soft chocolate brown earth. A little over a meter long, by Kritzinger’s estimation, it watched us alertly from where it lay in a relaxed coil on top of a bed of wet leaves. Kritzinger was delighted – snakes are his favorite animal.
Being a snake expert, Kritzinger moved in closer to take photos while the rest of us kept a safe distance. He said he has big respect for Fer-de-lances, but does not fear snakes given his background in herpetology.
Kritzinger moved to the Costa Rica rainforest in 2013 from his home of Johannesburg, South Africa. There, he kept 18 snakes as pets, and was a certified venomous snake handler who did snake removals from people’s homes – a talent that has carried over to his new life in Costa Rica. He created Bushmaster Adventures to share his love of nature on private guided wildlife tours in Costa Rica.
We saw an abundance of wildlife on our tour that night. Before the Fer-de-lance, we had come across baby cane toads, a Forest Litter Toad, a Brilliant Forest Frog, Smokey Jungle Frogs, a geometric-patterned Hawk Moth, weird-looking spiders, and two doves sleeping on a high tree branch. We could hear the distinct song of Tink Frogs by the dozens, but they are very hard to see.
Bushmaster Adventures Wildlife Tours in Costa Rica
Bushmaster Adventures takes nature and animal lovers on private guided wildlife tours in Costa Rica – day and night. They offer birding tours, nature and wildlife tours, and herpetological tours. Kritzinger tailors all private tours to suit guests’ needs, interests and activity levels.
Kritzinger and his partner, Wendy Holt, operate the Villa Hermosa private guesthouse by the Arenal Volcano. Bushmasters Adventures wildlife tours are popular with guests who stay at the vacation rental. Right in the beautiful tropical gardens at Villa Hermosa, Kritzinger said he regularly sees tent-making bats, Red-eyed tree frogs, masked tree frogs, various hummingbirds, lots of beautiful butterflies and tropical birds, and even a resident armadillo.
To reserve your private guided rainforest wildlife tour in Costa Rica, contact Kritzinger directly at [email protected].
Article by Shannon Farley