I want to encourage anyone visiting La Fortuna and the Arenal Volcano region of Costa Rica to sign up for a Jungle Night Walk at the Arenal Oasis. Arenal Oasis is an eco-lodge and wildlife sanctuary—privately run by the Rojas Bonilla family—that offers affordable (20.00 USD) 3-hour walks through the rainforest at night. Tours are run by a trained naturalist, and you’ll see things on these walks that will take your breath away.
I decided to do the Night Walk on my last night in Fortuna, and it was a perfect way to end a fabulous vacation. Our guide, Inti, was not only knowledgeable about the flora and fauna of the area, but his enthusiasm for interpreting and sharing his knowledge was infectious. We saw toads, lizards, insects (large praying mantis, walking sticks, leaf-cutter ants, etc.), snakes, spiders, a sleeping toucan, and the glorious red-legged tree frogs, all in their natural environment. While we walked the easy-to-navigate (flat) trails, with water and flashlights provided, we saw more than 26 new species we had not seen in the two weeks spent in the country.
Although we saw no mammals, Inti pointed out the rooting sounds of a nearby armadillo on the ground, and the sound of dropping fruit signaled to him that a mammal was foraging around above us in the canopy. And Inti also showed us a roost in large tropical leaves that tent bats had recently used for daytime sleeping.
In addition to animals seen in the wild, Arenal Oasis has display cases that feature other species held captive. Looking at hairy tarantulas and poisonous pit vipers, behind the safety of glass, at night, was eerie and exciting.
When I do return to La Fortuna, I hope to be able to spend a night or two at the Arenal Oasis eco-lodge. I believe there are 7 cabins there, and a small restaurant on-site. For me, access to the property and its wild nature would be a huge draw. (We also saw three bird species we had not seen before the afternoon we went on the tour, before the sun went down.)
In hiking the rainforest, most tourists do not venture out at night, when the jungle comes most alive. Don’t miss the opportunity to experience a nature hike like this. Having someone tell us what species made the various calls and noises we heard out there in the dark was a thrill, as was the opportunity to see colorful tree frogs straddling branches a few feet away from our face. We’ll be back.