Shaking Frogs And Salsa Lessons

The thunderstorm raged through the night.  Rain pounded the roof and more than once, I awoke to the entire room illuminated from a lightning bolt.  It was wonderful.

The itinerary for our second day in Tortuguero included a nature walk through a frog pound and butterfly garden, all on the grounds of the Mawamba Lodge, followed by an afternoon cruise on the river where we would look for Costa Rica’s wildlife.  What we didn’t plan for was the rain.  Granted, we were the ones who decided to travel during the wet season so we knew what we were getting into.  Well, at least some of us.

On the way to breakfast, Karen and I grabbed Miss Bliss and as we were walking, the Biddies asked us, “It’s raining.  What are we supposed to do?”  Bliss’s response was perfect: “Go to breakfast.”  I knew that Karen and I were going to like her (and we did!).  Rain or shine, she was up for adventure just like we were and the threat of damp clothing and soggy hair was not enough to stop any of us from experiencing every aspect of our vacation that we set out to experience.

Not letting a little rain stop us: Karen, me, and Miss Bliss, sandwiched between the Biddies

Not letting a little rain stop us: Karen, me, and Miss Bliss, sandwiched between the Biddies

After breakfast, the five of us joined Carlos on a stroll through the grounds.  He pointed out native plants and met a grasshopper friend as he led us on a path to the highlight of our nature walk: the frog pound and butterfly garden.


A giant grasshopper


A red poison dart frog


Green and black poison dart frogs

The frog pound was delightful.  It took us no time at all to spot the vibrant green and black poison dart frogs.  Once you found one, it became that much easier to spot the others even though these amphibians were no bigger than half dollar.  The red ones were a little harder to spot, but Carlos managed to catch one for us so we could take a better look.

The trick to catching a frog and keeping it still long enough to take a picture: give it a little shake.  That’s right, you’ve got to shake them.  Picking it up like a hot pair of dice, you shake shake shake and the frog becomes temporarily disoriented, much like a child would after spinning around in circles.  The frog is not harmed in the process and quickly—very quickly, I must add—regains its composure and hops away.


Karen was a natural with the capture-and-shake technique.


It took two frogs to get this picture, but it was well worth it.

Once we had finished with the frogs, we headed over to the butterflies.  I had never been in a place where so many butterflies soar all around you.  They were beautiful and didn’t seem the least bit bothered by our appearance in their garden.  They happily snacked on pineapple and flew above our heads.  One of the great things about the Mawamba Lodge is that they actively try to prolong the butterflies’ lives.  The larvae and cocoons are carefully collected and placed in a secure area awaiting the next cycle of life.  When the butterflies emerge from their cocoons, they are released into the garden to live our the rest of their two-week lifespan.


Owl butterfly


Papa Carlos shows us one of the protected cocoons.


These cocoons will eventually lead to butterflies.


Fuzzy little caterpillar

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I was lucky enough to have a butterfly land on me. I consider that a very good sign.

The Butterfly Whisperers: Karen, Me, and Bliss Our secret for attracting the butterflies: we'll never tell.

The Butterfly Whisperers: Karen, Me, and Bliss
Our secret for attracting the butterflies: we’ll never tell.

We had some time to kill before the boat ride and since the rain had finally let up, we hung out in hammocks and lounged by the pool.  Realizing that my fair skin needed another coat of sunblock, I headed back to the room and came across a very unexpected and rather large animal.

Hammock1 IMG_0601 Pool


This iguana was huge! He’s very old and has been roaming free around the property for over a decade.

Iguana selfie

Iguana selfie

Our afternoon boat ride through Tortuguero National Park was rather spectacular.  Though the humidity was starting to get to me at this point, I stopped caring once we started spying animals including our very first sloth sighting of the trip.

Howler monkey

Howler monkey


The ladies and our amazing captain, Hemar

The ladies and our amazing captain, Hemar





Spider monkey

Spider monkey

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Spider monkey mama and baby

Back at the hotel, our whole group was invited to a cocktail hour where we all indulged in local drinks made from fresh ingredients and native liqueurs.  Guaro, a vodka-like liquor that is made from sugar cane, was the perfect addition to a caipirinha.  I may have had one or two before we went looking for tree frogs in the rain that began to pour at nightfall.

Carlos and his girls

Carlos and his girls

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We spent the rest of the evening at the bar getting to know the bartender, Jorge, the manager’s assistant, Oscar, and another worker named Francisco.  Though none of the boys knew very much English, Karen conversed with them in their native Spanish while I, with my three years of high school Spanish, followed along as best I could.  And for the most part, I understood what was going on.  A big thank you to Señora Madrigal!  I especially knew when it was time to dance and Oscar was more than willing to show both Karen and I some salsa moves.

Salsa Lesson2Salsa Lesson1
Though the mosquitoes loved me and the humidity got very uncomfortable, Tortuguero was a welcoming and wonderful place.  I wish we could have been there during turtle season to see the hatchlings make their way to the sea, but it was still an amazing visit.

Next time, I’ll be the one to shake the frog.

16 thoughts on “Shaking Frogs And Salsa Lessons

  1. Caitlin | belong with wildflowers says:

    This trip looks so amazing — and you’re so right, having a butterfly land on you is definitely good luck! I give so much credit to anyone who was brave enough to hold a poison frog… I’d be so scared! Love following along with your overseas adventures 🙂

    • Jessica | Defining Wonderland says:

      It really was an incredible adventure, Caitlin. Karen is super brave when it came to holding the critters (especially the bugs), but I was too busy trying to capture a photo of each moment. Next time, I’m going in for one of those frogs!

  2. The Regular Guy NYC says:

    Such cool pictures! I also love thunder and lightning storms. Just sucks when it rains on vacation but looks like you guys had a fun day. Those are some crazy critters. That giant grasshopper is nuts!

    • Jessica | Defining Wonderland says:

      The thunderstorms were great and even more spectacular once we got to the Pacific side. Rain certainly didn’t stop us from living it up. Funny thing about the grasshopper… Carlos grabbed him off his shoulder and threw him up into the air to show how they fly. Darn thing fell right to the ground with no aerial attempt at all. Lazy little guy!

  3. susielindau says:

    I loved your photo adventure! What an amazing place. I’ve ally been a nature girl and would really enjoy the wildlife.
    Thanks for coming to the party! Have fun!!

  4. claywatkins says:

    beautiful photos – the frogs and butterflies are amazing. I won’t tell PETA. I was floating down a river last week and the dragonflies and I tried to take photos of the insects and animals – but I needed to be much quicker than i was…I came over from Susie’s place and I recognize a few of the followers – glad I came over for the visit.

    • Jessica | Defining Wonderland says:

      Thanks, Clay! I know exactly what you mean about being quick to photograph the animals. You don’t know how many blurry butterfly photos I had to take before I could get one that was clear and recognizable. Thanks for stopping by the party. I’ll see you on the dance floor!

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