Golfo Dulce, Casa Orquidea and Golfito

Dec 11, 2019 - National Geographic Quest

The last day in Costa Rica found us docked to the Golfito pier where we went through customs to leave the country. A small gulf within a large gulf, Golfito was once an important banana plantation area that went into a drastic economic crisis when the Banana Fruit Company was invited to leave the country. Nowadays, it is important locally because of the duty-free zone and the high degree of tourism. Just 30 minutes north from Golfito, we repositioned the ship to the amazing home of Ron and Trudy McAllister, Casa Orquidea Botanical Garden. Embedded in the green lush forests of the Golfito Preserve and Peñas Blancas National Park, this garden is for sure a highlight of the trip. Flowers, hummingbirds, palm and cannonball trees, basilisk lizards and the very rare sight of a couple of great curassows welcomed us into their realm; great opportunities of photos and unforgettable memories.

In the later afternoon, we took our choice of kayaking or Zodiac cruising along the mangrove coastline of the Golfito bay. A mangrove commonly refers to two different things: a tidal swamp ecosystem found in tropical deltas, estuaries, lagoons or islands, and the characteristic tree species populating this ecosystem. Mangrove trees have developed unique adaptations to the harsh conditions of coastal environments and live in the coastal intertidal zone; there are about 80 different species of mangrove trees. All of these trees grow in areas with low-oxygen soil, where slow-moving waters allow fine sediments to accumulate. As we explored the mangrove estuary’s edge, we saw many animals including little blue herons, whimbrels, mantled howler monkeys and green iguanas. What a fantastic way to say goodbye to Costa Rica.

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About the Author

Isabel Salas Vindas


Isa Salas is a Costa Rica born biologist, who loves her country and teaching about it.  Known for her professionalism and experience in the field of animal behavior, Isa earned her master's degree in biology from the University of Costa Rica, where she also engaged in research for the chemistry and biology departments. Isa has carried out specialized projects on mantled howler monkeys for Costa Rica’s National Institute of Biodiversity (INBio), and is one of the country’s experts on howler monkey sexual and social behavior. 

About the Photographer

José Calvo

Naturalist/Certified Photo Instructor

Nicknamed “Indio” (Indian) because of his powers of observation and quiet nature, José has almost two decades of experience working as a naturalist and photography guide; as well as being recognized as an expert birder and nature photographer in Costa Rica. Costa Rica is rich in biodiversity — over 893 bird species have been recorded in the country. Since very young José spent all of his free time in the outdoors in the forest, where he soon fell in love with the birds. He particularly enjoys listening to their calls, and watching their behavior. Oddly enough, another one of Jose’s passions is science and technology, and because of this, he was among the first in Costa Rica to experiment with digital photography. As the technology quickly improved so did his love for it.  He truly believes that nature photography is the perfect combination of both of his passions.

About the Videographer

Eric Wehrmeister

Video Chronicler

Eric began his life on the far western edge of Chicago, where the concrete meets the cornfields.  His inspiration has always drawn from the expansive beauty of the natural world, as well as the endless forms that populate it.

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