Saturday November 5th, Ryan and I finally got to go to this zoo in Santo Domingo (the city where Ryan lives) called INBioparque with our amazing tico buddy Alonso. We got really lucky and it was a BEAUTIFUL day. Sunny, about 75 degrees, clear skies and breezy – meanwhile, there’s snow on the ground in New York. Definitely loving the decision to spend these months in Costa Rica.
INBioparque (www.inbioparque.com) is a conservation/education center that’s conveniently located about halfway between Heredia and San José. It’s divided up into several sections: dry forest, rainforest, Central Valley forest, the lagoon, and the finca, or farm. Each section has various little educational stations, many of them hands-on. We didn’t need a guide because we had Alonso (a biology major and an absolute lunatic) with us, which meant that our experience was a little more hands-on than most (although unfortunately all of the iguanas moved too fast for Alonso to grab).
We got to see all sorts of crazy plants and wildlife, and it was nice to go at our own pace while still having someone knowledgeable with us. Some of the animals that we got to see included tarantulas, iguanas, caimans, white-tailed deer, sheep, goats, pigs, roosters and hens, peacocks, bunnies, turtles, a praying mantis, a stick bug, a barranquero (a colorful tropical bird) and some ducks that we ate lunch with, and a yigüirro (national bird of Costa Rica) that would only show us its bright yellow tail-feathers. My favorite station was the Serpentario, because I’m a huge fan of snakes. There were about twenty different native species, and because Alonso is even more of a herpetophile than I am, we spent a good amount of time in there.
If I had to pick the most surreal part of it all, I would have to pick the butterfly enclosure. There were butterflies wherever you looked, including the enormous and magnificent blue morphos. One of them even landed on my foot! Somehow, being surrounded by butterflies brings out one’s inner child, and within minutes we were all stretching out our fingertips hoping against hope that a butterfly would land on us. We managed to catch a few, but it was just an awesome, dream-like experience to look up and see them all floating around above your head.
I think Ryan’s favorite part though had to be the food! Every time we passed a restaurant, he was the first to point it out. We indulged him and got some local fare at one restaurant that looked particularly appetizing. We ended up all getting some combination of meat, tortillas, yuca, chayote, carrots, black beans, and fruit juice, all grilled to perfection. Well, except the juice, obviously. Then we stopped in the farm section to get granizados, mine with powdered milk and condensed milk, and Ryan’s with that as well as ice cream. They were absolutely delicious.
We finished up walking the paths, I totally beat Ryan in a race through a maze with Alonso as the official, and then we visited the gift shop. There wasn’t anything that was cheap enough for our end-of-the-trip budgets, however, even though I was highly tempted by a $20 bag made out of recycled Dos Pinos milk cartons. All in all, it was one of the best days I’ve spent in Costa Rica.
(Ryan’s note: they also have a sweet tunnel made from soda bottle tops)