I have just returned from Costa Rica, the country about which I knew very little, despite it coming under my radar all the way back in 1999 when the “Africa – Birds & Birding” magazine published some of John Graham’s experiences from his visit in 1993. But, living in the Western Balkans, Costa Rica – and the entire New World – seemed not 14 hours of flight, but more like 14 light years away. My hopes of ever visiting it were not particularly high.
In the last days of August this year the birds were flying south and, bit by bit, the skies were getting emptier every day. I had the late summer blues, feeling that I should follow them into the tropics, when out of the blue came the call: Would you like to come to Costa Rica? The unspoken words “to watch birds” were left hanging in the air.
Would I? Does a baby go goo? Still, when something sounds too good to be true, it usually isn’t and I didn’t allow myself to talk about it (it’s like saying the “freak snow storm”) and get overjoyed until the flight tickets landed into my inbox! It was true!
As the thirteenth birder, I was invited to the first ever bird race in the country, the Costa Rica Bird Challenge organized and supported by the Costa Rica Tourism Board (Instituto Costarricense de Turismo / ICT) and Futuropa. Costa Rica, here I come!
Do I need any tropical gear that I may not have? The advice was, some light rain gear, an umbrella or a poncho, because September-October are a rainy season at the Pacific side. So I bought a poncho and haven’t used it once – there was hardly any rain.
Still, just ahead of the race, the tropical storm Nate made its brief visit to the country, causing 17 deaths, landslides and flooding. This last thing has allowed American crocodiles into new areas and the crocodile alert was issued. I cannot remember ever reading of Costa Rica in Serbian papers, but this caught the attention of the tabloid editors, even made it into a title. And who was going to read it? My mother, of all the people, who called me the next day to warn me of the crocodiles.