The time I saw a monkey in Costa Rica was with no fence, no separating glass, and no zoo keeper. I know. Crazy. Welcome to Manuel Antonio.
Whenever I would tell my Tica family and my professor that I was going to Manuel Antonio, they ensured that I would have a great time there. I mean, it’s the beach. How could you not have a great time? But, it was much more than just sand and water. When we arrived on our group bus, per usual, we looked like the classic tourist attraction. The streets were so narrow, that I honestly didn’t think the bus would fit half of the time. But, kudos to the bus driver for making those street corner turns work. We passed an area that seemed to have no inhabitants. A few houses here and there, and then we passed this massive beach, turned a corner, and started seeing local shops and then finally our hotel. Our hotel was very nice. It was tall, red and yellow. And at the top of the hotel, it looked like it had some Asian influence in the design simply by the color and pointed structures.
The group all huddled near the entrance of Manuel Antonio in a line that stretched longer than the bus, waiting for our entrance tickets. The entrance tickets had different national animals on them. Mine was a parrot. I looked at the price and realized that converted to USD, the entrance price was around $32 USD. A mini-shock occurred as I started to mentally allocate my study abroad funds to this excursion. This was a bit pricey. When we walked passed the gates, there were many options.
Different paths to go on, so obviously, I choose the one that diverged nearest to the entrance so that I could make my way around the entire park. The path led to the waterfall. After walking up some stone steps and crossing a small wooden bridge, we made it to a wooden platform where we could see the waterfall. The waterfall was nice. On the medium side and a bit far away, but at that moment, it was closet I had ever gotten to a waterfall here. Unfortunately, I had by hair down and heat and water do not mix, so, eventually, I had to tie my hair up because it was getting crazy.
We turned around and began walking on the main path. I saw a monkey high in the trees carrying a baby monkey on its back. It was a bit difficult to get photos considering the monkey was moving and my lens can only go so far.
The trail was a mixture of stones and hard sand in the midst of an wild forest. Further along the path, I witnessed a deer which actually crossed the path. A woman standing in the opposite direction quickly took out her camera. It’s interesting, always wanting to capture what we see.
My main objective was to see a sloth, because, why not? They are one of the coolest animals in my opinion. But, the trail consisted of seeing small ants, spiders, and occasionally overhearing the tour guide pointing out animals to a group and just looking in that direction. Smart.
I was walking with another student who had years of learning and teaching. He was much older than I was, but he had so many stories to share and was genuinely interested in exploring the entire park as opposed to just heading to the beaches, which a lot of the students did. We came to a break in the path. You could go on one of two paths. At the break I ran into a member from the group and his roommate, who was a part of another student group. I explained that I was in search of sloths and he said that there was actually a sloth trail, which we decided to visit towards the end. We turned left. There was a wooden staircase which various steps. A lot actually. No step climber in a gym compares. As we walked up, we encountered a couple that warned there was monkeys coming up. They said that one of the monkeys actually stole a dress from a girl’s bag earlier that day. Okay. No biggie, right? Just walk past, close the bags, and don’t make eye contact. Whatever you do, DON’T MAKE EYE CONTACT. So as we walked, the monkeys started climbing on the boardwalk railings. I crossed my arms around my bag holding it closely while fearfully snapping photos of the monkeys. My heart was pounding and I was hoping, just hoping, that the shutter sound of my camera would attract their attention.
Then, a worker from the park who was headed in the same direction walked by and said, “Shh, vaya,” which means, “Shh, go,” to the monkeys and with that, they went away. Who knew it was that easy?