Living in Costa Rica for over a decade includes fun and adventure. Sometimes, weird experiences happen. From wrangling snakes and spiders to survival for days in extreme heat & equatorial sunlight without running water. Luckily, nothing too dangerous occurs but I do find myself in many unexpected situations. Coming face to face with venomous wildlife I’m often desensitized! Other times I’m caught by surprise. While there have been a lot of changes and increased economic development on the Pacific Coast, we’re still submersed in tropical jungle. Find out what I think the most scary jungle critter is at the end of this post! (Hint, it’s not alligators or snakes)!
Here are 10 weird experiences to be had in Costa Rica:
10. No running water.
After this particular experience I never waste water. I once went 3 days without running water in “dry season” where, we have no rain and pure sun for many months in a row. It is not uncommon during this time for water to be rationed or wells run dry and must be pumped again, sometimes very slowly! This particular time the water didn’t come back after a couple hours. It was really tough not being able to wash things whenever I wanted. I should mention, the second day of no water coming out of the taps, I contracted severe food poisoning. I can remember being in the shower getting sick into a bucket while using a bag for my very upset stomach. There was no water to wash with. There was no toilet. This changed my life! I now act as if every drop is extremely previous, and it is!
Water is life. 🌎🌐🌍Every drop counts. Conserve h2O💧💫 (Green necklace is Moldavite from @therussianstone 👽 😌✌️@joeeigo pic.twitter.com/MtFotbrIzq
— Theresa Longo (@TheresaLongo) June 29, 2015
9. A pit viper in hand! While I am not the one to catch snakes, I did hold of him behind the head when safe to do so. I always opt to hold one if a local manages to catch it before letting them go on their merry way.
8. A giant cockroach bites my boob in my sleep. (Happened Twice). Yes, so gross. Truth is, you can be in a 5 star resort-like setting and ants and cockroaches or spiders are still inescapable. One can always find a way in somehow! While it is extremely rare for a cockroach to bite a human, I was breastfeeding and suspect the smell of breast milk is why a roach took a big chunk out of one of the softest parts of my body. Sometimes roaches love to sneak in and hide in clothes drawer or under seldom used items. Worse, if one decides your bed is a warm inviting place! I woke up with a very itchy, open (tissue necrosis), circular bite. One look at this the next day and my husband confirms the horrifying news. Since I stopped breastfeeding I have no more bites!
7. A parade of venomous, aggressive ants enter the bed!
Speaking of the joys of breastfeeding in the jungle. One time after pumping milk I became distracted and the bottle sat on the bed for about 10 minutes. This was enough to instantly lure a lineup of hundreds of stinging, violent small black “pica” ants into the bed to investigate it. (Omnivorous insects apparently LOVE breastmilk)! Of course, I had no idea this line of stinging ants already made their way to the breastmilk buffet. My husband became aware when he laid down on the bed and started getting stung everywhere! I grabbed the bottle of fresh breastmilk, shook all the ants off and began insecticide control. From that moment on I never let the milk sit anywhere, even for a minute!
6. A parrot bites my nose and draws blood.
Yes, a free range parrot loves to hang out for scrambled eggs and coffee but unfortunately for me I am not the “chosen human” of this bird. She accepts fruits by my hand but it has taken over 8 years to gain her trust. If I am lucky I can scratch her but she is quite feral & loyal to the only one person she really likes (it’s not me). My duty one day is to deliver (waitress) the food so I bend down a little too close to her placing the dish on the table and she lunges over at my nose and bites it! I am lucky her beak did not pierce my nostril entirely or slice through the entire nostril. It was just a little bit of blood and bruised ego!
5. A Pacific Coast parrot now says, “Hola Tere” and mimicks my reaction to it’s cuteness!
“Oooh!” I always say when I see her in a high pitched tone. I realize a couple years ago she listens to me closely that now when she sees ME she makes the exact same sound before I get a chance to. “OoOoooH”. I successfully have her saying “Hola Tere” and she says it constantly when I am around. I also have her saying “pew pew” and I hope she’ll go for “cluck cluck” . She takes off with a wild group more often and mimics their sounds more now; it’s bittersweet!
4. A Tarantula enters the bed.
Our bedroom is screened off and I have a magic mesh door but sometimes pesky mosquitoes still get in! Our toddler with her soft skin is often the target so I take great care to get rid of all of them. She wakes up with a bite and I know a mosquito is hiding somewhere. “Maybe under the bed”, I think! I start fumigating when I knew we are going out for a few hours. Unfortunately for me a nice sized tarantula with a home under there does not appreciate fumigation. She seeks refuge above the mattress — in the blanket to be exact. At bedtime, our toddler asks for a “shadow show” where we make shadows on the wall with a flashlight. Tired but I reluctantly oblige the shadow show. Well thank JESUS I did because suddenly I saw, crawling over the blankets where we would have been laying, a large crawly! My first thought is, “ew! it’s a roach” but after yelping I see it is just a large spider meandering along. I pick up the entire blanket and put it outside for her to find her merry way.
3. An orange and purple land crab enters the bed!
When the first rains arrive in late April/May there is a lovely phenomenon where colorful crabs come up from their underground homes in droves. They travel from inland burrows to the coast. It results in many crossing the road parallel to the beach and unfortunately getting hit by traffic but also causes many wayward crabs to go in unexpected places. Imagine my shock finding one clicking around in my bed! Of course if you try to chase or corner them, they run. The one in our bed was on the smaller side so she happily hitched a ride on my hand to be put back outside. When my mom visited us, I don’t think anything could have prepared her for the giant purple-orange crab entering the house. Seeing one really big one saunter inside really gave her a startle too!
2. Surfing with manta ray!
I have had the pleasure of surfing with many creatures like alligators, sea snakes, jelly fish and shark but one of the most amazing experiences was surfing with a giant manta ray, gracefully passing underneath my board. This experience was frightening at first due to her large size but I quickly forgot about it as the next wave came along!
1. Safely transporting a Brazilian wandering spider out of the house!
Once, I encounter (& wrangle) one of the world’s most toxic spiders. Woke up to use bathroom middle of night & there she is dancing at my feet. I know this one looks different from a ‘Pica Caballo’ tarantula when I see it, but NO IDEA it’s a Brazilian Wandering Spider. “Meh” I think as I let her scurry around while I decide what to do. I don’t even lift up my feet!
Eventually, I contain her, closed it off at the bottom and carry her outside with ease!
While all of these experiences are uncommon, it is important to immerse yourself in the harsh jungle ecosystem rather than try to fight it. Many times pollen, dust or pests will enter the home but it’s futile to freak out. Pura Vida all the way. I have to say, of all the creatures of the jungle, the ones that I constantly battle are ants and mosquitoes. Mosquitoes are the only insect/animal I kill on sight, every time. But, I would rather pet a wild shark or come face to face with a puma than deal with ants in Costa Rica. Ants out number me by thousands and it is so easy for a lot of venomous ones to decide your home is now theirs. Outside, if one isn’t careful you may look down at first pinch and suddenly see your entire foot has been overtaken by a handful of biting, itchy, venomous ants! Do the pica ant dance! Bullet ants are awful. Picas are my arch enemy. Leaf cutters have a nasty bite with the pinchers. There are even smaller ants almost so small you cannot see — ones that love to form a line to a drop of orange juice or whatever crumb the toddler may drop!
If you like my blog about life in Costa Rica read safety tips for having the best trip ever.