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Macaws and Monkeys at Carara National Park and Cerro Lodge, Costa Rica

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Carara National Park in Costa Rica protects a good sized chunk of threatened, lowland rain forest in the southern Pacific region of this small, biodiverse country. Famous for providing refuge for one of the last, large, healthy flocks of Scarlet Macaws in Costa Rica, the forests of Carara are also a great place to see monkeys, sloths, toucans, massive old growth trees, and other wonders of the rain forest.

Carara can be easily visited on flat, easy-going trails (a major boon in such a mountainous, craggy country as Costa Rica). Partly for this reason, the rain forests of Carara see their fair share of visitors, including troops of tourists whose constant chatter and occasional brazen laughter is so loud that it would frighten animals in a zoo and should terrify rain forest wildlife. Incredibly, the wildlife at Carara have apparently accepted this people noise as a fact of their jungle-based life because unlike the timidity so typical exhibited by animals from other rain forests, they don’t seem to mind and practically pose for the camera!

The brilliant red, blue and yellow colored macaws are easy enough to see as they fly overhead or feed in the canopy of the forest but can be tough to photograph within the park because they show such a penchant for perching in the tallest of trees. At nearby Cerro Lodge, however, they do daily flybys over the hotel restaurant and sometimes alight in much shorter trees for excellent photo opportunities.

Cerro Lodge is one of the better sites for photography and wildlife observation near Carara National Park because of its location on a small hill that overlooks dry forest and distant mangroves. Visitors to the lodge can relax in the outdoor restaurant with a cold drink (always necessary in this hot place) while exotic birds such as macaws and a host of parrots and parakeets fly past at eye level. The lodge (actually a series of bungalows), is also working on becoming self-sustainable and promotes conservation efforts; an on-site organic garden is used for the restaurant, solar panels are used for electricity, and dozens of trees have been planted to aid with reforestation in the vicinity.

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