Crazy Bird Dances and Other Adventures in the Costa Rica RainforestJune 7, 2019
From Moonwalking birds to beach walks to waterfall swims in the jungle, a stay at the Portasol Living eco-community in Costa Rica is a real adventure!
In the animal kingdom — and quite often with humans as well — males will often do extraordinary things to attract the attention of females of their species.
Red-capped manakins, for instance, stake out a staging area called a “lek” – a visible branch serves well – where they can show off to impress the ladies. While skittering in a frenzied sideways “Moonwalk” along the branch, males snap and pop special feathers on their wings, along with making buzzing and whirring sounds, to call females to their dance floor. They’re also telling other males to back off.
It was this showy mating ritual our small group of bird watchers hoped to see.
We had come to a small rainforest river valley on the central Pacific coast of Costa Rica, by Matapalo Beach, to Portasol Living sustainable real estate development. Portasol’s 1,300 acres of protected forest are smack-dab in the center of an active wildlife corridor between Manuel Antonio National Park to the north, the Hacienda Baru Wildlife Refuge to the south, and the Savegre Biosphere Reserve next door. It promised some lively birding.
While others in the group were seasoned birders, I was a complete novice. They had their special birding binoculars and came armed with a list of birds they wanted to see to add to their considerable repertoire out of Costa Rica’s 901 species. I didn’t know the difference between a Woodcreeper and a Warbler.
Led by our accomplished birding guide, Johan Fernández, we walked a path near Portasol’s private biological reserve while the 6:00 a.m. sun began peeking over the tree-topped mountains. A brown violetear hummingbird buzzed close, dipping its long beak and tongue into bright pink flowers on a tangle of vegetation. Posing perfectly for the group, everyone fired off shots on their cameras and cell phones of the jewel-toned bird.
A series of other clicking sounds caught Johan’s attention. It sounded like someone snapping his fingers rapidly. It was the manakin.
Johan persistently followed the sound and flashes of color through the dense foliage until we finally glimpsed the tiny black-and-red-capped songbird with his bright yellow legs. The manakin stayed still long enough for Johan to capture a photo of him with a cell phone held up to his Swarovski spotting scope, and we all took turns getting a quick glimpse. Red-capped manakin, check. While we didn’t see him do his dance, we had heard him in action.
During our two-hour easy ramble along Portasol’s forest-lined roads, we spotted 35 different bird species. There were impressive king vultures, golden-naped woodpeckers, white-crowned parrots, chestnut-sided warblers, a spot-crowned euphonia, a green honeycreeper, and many more. At one point, there were 10 yellow-throated toucans above us feasting on fruit in a large tree.
At the end of the tour, everyone – from the experienced birders to me, the novice – were content with the morning’s findings. Back at our spacious vacation rental, we tucked into the ample breakfast cooked by Portasol’s capable local cooks and swapped travel stories.
Staying in the Costa Rica rainforest at Portasol Living
Award-winning for its environmental and social actions, Portasol Living offers vacation rentals as well as phenomenal Costa Rica properties for sale in its private eco-community. There are hiking and mountain biking trails, waterfalls, and swimming holes in creeks and the Portalon River that borders the property.
I stayed in the large, three-bedroom Casa Monos Locos that can accommodate up to nine guests. Tall jungle trees cradle the exquisite two-story luxury home. Featuring open common areas and all the amenities, it is the perfect place to enjoy tropical living. Below the infinity pool and expansive pool deck on stilts, the verdant forest falls away to reveal the deep blue Pacific Ocean on the horizon. Yellow-throated toucans and fiery-billed aracaris use the huge tree by the pool deck as a clubhouse.
During our visit, we enjoyed beautiful sunsets, a long walk on nearby Matapalo Beach, watching the mist roll through the forest after an afternoon rain, and listening to the amazing sounds of the jungle around us. One evening we were treated to a fabulous gourmet dinner prepared at our villa by Portasol’s private chef, Alonso Orozco.
A jungle symphony of frogs and insects serenaded us while we dined al fresco on Casa Monos Locos’ second floor open-air living area. We feasted like royalty on roasted pumpkin soup and crispy kale chips, red snapper filets steamed in chiquasquil leaves (akin to wild spinach) with a pineapple-ginger reduction on a bed of caramelized carrots and accompanied by potato and sweet potato puree. Dessert was a heavenly, light mango cheesecake.
Alonso comes from a family of cooks and restaurateurs in Costa Rica’s capital of San Jose. He received his formal training, starting at age 17, in the National Association of Chefs of Costa Rica; and, at age 20, was the youngest board member in the organization’s history. Lucky for us, he moved to the coast several years ago and dedicates his time to private chef services and his own café, which serves 100% artisanal homemade meals made with organic products.
Portasol is all about amazing nature, gorgeous scenery, the pure energy of the rainforest, and peaceful living. On top of all that, it was the warm welcome and personalized service we received from start to finish at Portasol that made our stay truly memorable.
Be sure to read about 10 Reasons you should vacation at Portasol when visiting Costa Rica.