Concrete Jungle or Real Jungle in Sámara: Debating Crowds for Critters

River forming during the green season

Where would you rather live? In a metropolitan city or small tropical village? I struggle with this question often, so I kind of try to switch between the two when I travel. That means that I am going from a place where I can get just about anything I want, anytime I want, to a place that might be very limited (especially now in the off season when lots of places are closed!). It also means that I am going from a place of concrete and brick to a place of lush vegetation and critter watching. I love both types of places, so I’m really glad that I don’t have to decide permanently on one over the other.

The Village

I’m here in Sámara, Costa Rica at the moment. This place is tiny! I grew up in a small mountain town in Colorado, but they have nothing on this village. It took about 40 minutes to walk from one side of that mountain town to the other. Here, it only takes about 15 minutes. I should know as I walk it twice a day. Down to the beach, partially around the bay, back again. It’s a lovely walk and I usually see a ton of critters.

Mrs. ItchyFeet behind macaw sculpture
Scarlet macaws are definitely a favorite in Costa Rica. Keep them in the wild, people!

The town being so walkable means that I don’t have to own or rent a car. That saves me heaps of moneys. However, if I need something unusual (like a stock pot or drain cover), I have to catch a bus to a bigger town up the road. For being so small, this town still has a lot. Several grocery stores, fruit and vegetables markets, butcher shops, clothing stores, schools, post office, dentist, pharmacy, clinic with an ambulance, and loads of restaurants.

Plus, there is a ton to do here in Sámara, for it being so small. I mostly just stick to walking on the beach or swimming in the ocean because it’s amazing and free. Surfing, biking, hiking, bird-watching (of course!), kayaking through the mangroves, and a variety of excursions. The tours are what interest me the most. There’s this island just outside of the bay that apparently has snorkeling. It’s on my list! You can also visit coffee and cocoa plantations. I need to find a rum tour, but I think that is on the Caribbean side, not the Pacific side where I am.

Street art of woman in Sámara
My favorite part of travel is seeing all the amazing art that people create.

What about safety, you ask?

Everyone always asks the safety question. Every city in the world is going to have theft issues and there are always going to be areas that are unsafe to walk at night. I do a lot of research to find a safe neighborhood. Plus, I watch to see if older women and families with children walk around after dark. That tells you a lot about safety. Bars on the windows are wonderful for security or being on an upper floor. I don’t use A/C, so I need to be able to leave the windows open overnight.

Tire fire in Mazatlán
Pollution can be bad in both major cities and small villages. This unexpected tire fire behind Mazatlán caused a lot of issues for a lot of people. It took a couple of weeks to put out! I’m glad they could put it out before the eclipse.

But let me tell you, the most legitimate safety issue I have had in the last few major cities I have lived have been the sidewalks. They go up and down with large hidden holes and utility covers reduced to rusty rebar. Wires hang across, trying to spontaneously decapitate you! Do not walk while distracted! Good shoes are helpful. That’s why I loved The Malecón in Mazatlán so much. Safer walking right along the gorgeous Pacific Ocean.

So what about in a village? Well, here in Costa Rica, the primary concern with walking around the woods after dark is something might eat you… or bite you… or land on you! Venomous snakes and spiders, pumas, jaguars, crocodiles, coconuts, hammocks. A famous local footie player recently got eaten by a croc in this area when he jumped into the river to cool off. Plus, if something happens, you are a very long way from any hospital. It’s a risk, but so worth it for all the tropical beauty.

Iguana on tree
Look at the size of this green iguana on this Guanacaste tree! So big.

Time for some stories!

There I was, minding my own business, when I hear a great cacophony of birds outside my apartment. I run outside to see what the what. There are two birds freaking out and attacking a pretty sizable snake in the tree! I’m on the second floor, so the snake is right at eye level but moving fast. It’s clearly not a fan of the bird attack happening. I run back inside to grab my phone for pics for you all.

I get back, and the snake is now mostly concealed within the branches of the tree. I promise, I tried to get you a picture, but he was very well camouflaged. The birds gave up, and the snake continued to crawl further up into the tree. I googled him and it was a mica snake. They eat small birds and eggs. I can see why the grackles were so unhappy! Must have had a nest nearby.

This is from my balcony in Sámara! Monkeys! The entire family moved dramatically from the Guanacaste tree down to the mango tree. So much fun to watch!

Once again, there I was, sitting on my balcony, writing this blog for you all, when suddenly I hear something large in the palm tree not ten feet away. Howler monkeys! An entire family of howler monkeys is making its way down the palm tree to get to the amazing mango tree down the hill. Right in front of me! I got some really great video and a few photos for yours truly. That is what I’m talking about. You don’t see that in the city!

So many monkeys

I’m actually really surprised by how many howler monkeys there are in the area. They are called howler monkeys because the males make this very distinct howling sound, mostly in the morning and the evening. You can hear it for miles! It’s for claiming territory and probably impresses the ladies. Who doesn’t want to impress the ladies!?! When you get close enough, it sounds like you are about to be murdered by some unknown horror movie creature. But really, you just have to worry about getting peed on if you’re below them. Legit.

Tree frog wall art
I’m still hoping to see a tree frog in the forests around Sámara. How cool would that be?!?

Before you ask, no, this specific area does not have sloths. I wish! You have to head into the mountains for those delightfully adorable critters. But what you miss in sloths, the area more than makes up for in iguanas (which are just as adorable in my not so humble opinion!). They quite often have territory disputes. Sometimes on my neighbor’s tin roof.

I saw a very dramatic fight from my balcony just the other day. I heard this big nails-on-metal racket and looked over the edge to see two very large iguanas wrestling and biting each other. This went on for a really long time, as they were both about the same size. I can see having a territory dispute over the mango tree but not over that tin roof. Maybe there is a lovely female about?

Wrestling iguanas on tin roof
These two iguanas were really fighting! Must be some important territory.

What do you do all day?

Besides really enjoying critter-watching from my balcony, I don’t do a lot here. In Mazatlán, there was an endless procession of festivals, events, concerts in the park, and activities. That’s one of the great things about big cities. But here, I’m currently watching a leaf-cutter bee build a nest in a hole in my chair. She’s really nice about the entire thing. She tried to build it with leaves in the upper rails of my sliding screen door.

I kept wondering why leaves were falling on me every time I went out onto the balcony. I sadly had to destroy all of her hard work before she got too far along. She kept trying for a few days, then gave up. I’m fine with her building the nest in my metal chair. She will fill the hole with leaves and pollen, lay some eggs, the larvae will eat the pollen, and then I will get baby bees! How cool is that?!?

Termites building tunnel
If you don’t like critters, small village tropics might not be for you! These termites are building a tunnel so that they can stay safe and moist while collecting wood.

Okay, so really most of my day is spent watching for various critters. I even saw a coati the other day. Very fun looking long-tailed mammals with pointed noses in the raccoon family. In fact, in México, they are known as Mexican raccoons, but here they are called pizote. Adorable! I, of course, tried to get a picture, but only managed to capture a shot of his butt as he wandered off. Sigh.

Friends and family to visit

One of the main reasons that I picked Sámara is that I am meeting friends here in a few weeks. They had been to this town previously and really liked it. They are staying at a place with a swimming pool, which I’m hoping I can use! I’m also excited to hear about how much Sámara has changed since the last time they were here. It’s a pretty chill place without the massive growth like what I saw in Mazatlán. No major skyscrapers going up or anything of the sort.

This buganvilla is massive and gorgeous!

I’m also really looking forward to friends motivating me to go on tours and visit new restaurants. It’s not as much fun without visitors to go exploring with. Then, after they leave, I have a couple of cousins stopping by. One of my cousins actually lives in Costa Rica, but has never made it over to this area of the peninsula. They are also staying at a place with a swimming pool. In this heat with 210% humidity (okay, actually 80% but still!), a pool (or the ocean) is a must.

You can probably tell from this article that Sámara is a lot more laid back than the city life of Mazatlán. It’s great for me because I’m getting more reading done. But I do miss the excitement of the city. But how cool is it to see geckos running around in the evening!?! City or village? It’s so hard to decide. The one thing that I know for sure is that I want to be by the ocean. Just hearing the waves crash into land is magical, and I’m not willing to give that up. It’s an adventure!

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1 Comment

  1. Enjoy your visitors, y’all are going to have so much fun, monkeys, iguanas, snakes and the ocean oh my.

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