Monday, March 29, 2010

Manuel Antonio National Park, January 18, 2010


Manuel Antonio National Park is just south of Quepos, Costa Rica. Its beautiful white sand beaches and primary forest makes it one of Costa Rica’s most popular parks. In the tropical humid climate flora and fauna thrive. The sloths, monkeys, and birds make their homes high among the trees. It takes patience to spot the wildlife before they see or hear you.


The beaches at Manuel Antonio are exquisite with their clear blue skies and sparkling waters. As I stood gazing at the scenic oceanfront above, I felt as if I had stepped into a painting. Watching the the supple waters ripple, as they met the land, brought me peace and tranquility. The sounds of gentle waves and children’s laughter entered my ears.



This large iguana was soaking up the sun’s rays when I began to approach.  It was alert to my presence, but was not seriously bothered by my videoing and photographing. I learned that the iguana’s communication consists of various postures, movements, and head bobbing. The iguana above first glared at me and then began viscously bobbing its head as it stared up the tree trunk. I can only imagine what it was saying about me!

Three-toed Sloth

Three-toed Sloth photo courtesy of Todd Liotine.

Along the Sloth trail at Manuel Antonio, I was able to see and video a Three-toed Sloth. The sloth’s slow progression in the tree was entertaining. Watching it creep among the branches was almost suspenseful though, as I wondered if it could complete its journey. Please enjoy my video footage below.

Elizabeth’s Traveling Tips: At the entrance you will encounter tour guides who will try to get you to hire them. This is an additional charge separate then your entrance fee. We opted to go at our own pace and followed the professional photographers who spotted the creatures along the way. (Listening and observing what other people say and see is free!)

Friday, March 26, 2010

Plinio Hotel, Park, & Restaurant in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica


On January 18th our tour took us to Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica. My mom and I stayed at the enchanting Plinio Hotel. The hotel includes a restaurant, bar, pool, and its own private nature park. The open aired hotel is built up on a hill side and feels like a large tree house.


The restaurant specializes in Thai food, but also has a delicious Tico (the name referring to Costa Ricans) specials. My favorite drink was the mango smoothie which was a great energy boost!


The atmosphere at the hotel was very relaxing with the hammocks, rocking chairs, and pool. I enjoyed writing in my journal while swaying in the hammock.

Hotel Plinio Nature Park

IMG_4447 Red Ginger

One of the main reasons my mom chose this hotel was so we could enjoy the free nature park. We also wanted to be close to Manuel Antonio National Park. Though Manuel Antonio National Park was close by, it was still necessary to take a bus.


This tree housed a family of black vultures within its interior. My mom happened upon the father vulture and I’m not sure who was shocked the most!

IMG_4504 IMG_4487

The “Mother in Law’s Plant” hosted a spiny Saddleback caterpillar. I didn’t dare touch the caterpillar because the spines can inflict a painful sting to the recipient. The caterpillars bright green is a warning sign to viewers to step back.


I enjoyed photographing this unique Saddleback caterpillar in different angles. Its funky spines give it character and interest. I had been wanting to capture a photo of this specimen.

Butterflies, Moths, & Chrysalises in Nature Park

skipper skipper 2

moth butterfly

butterfly chrysalischryalis 2  

Elizabeth’s Traveling Tips: To avoid being spotted by insects and wildlife, so you can get the perfect picture, wear colors found in nature.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Elizabeth Mann Searches for the Rare Blue Morpho


For a year one of my dreams had been to see and film the Blue Morpho butterfly in its natural habitat. On January 13, 2010, I finally had my chance to search for one of the rarest Blue Morpho species, Morpho amathonte, in the jungles of Costa Rica. For five days I explored the jungles and climbed through waterfalls as I persevered to complete my ultimate goal. So far, I had only gotten a glance of the majestic Blue Morpho as it had glided through the rainforest canopy. Its brief appearance gave me the determination I needed to continue my search.

On my last day up in the jungles, January 16, I courageously journeyed out by myself to a river. My only form of protection was an umbrella and a whistle for my call of 911. As I entered the serene world of the Blue Morpho, I began to hear the roar of the flowing waters. The rainforest trees provided shade and the sense of protection. On this day, I deeply felt an assurance that I was going to have the chance to film the Blue Morpho. God had brought me this far and I knew that He was going to help me make it through to the end.

The environment was just right for the sighting of a Blue Morpho butterfly. I silently said a prayer before finding the perfect spot to set up my filming equipment. On the edge of the river, I found a large boulder which was level enough. As my feet dangled over the edge above the rushing water, I firmly griped my tripod and HD video camera. Now that I was fully prepared all I had to do was wait. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a fluttering brown object, but quickly realized it was only a leaf! Suddenly my heart began to quicken as a giant butterfly brilliantly decorated with iridescent blue wings glided above my head and then over the river. It was a rare Blue Morpho butterfly, the Morpho amathonte species!

My hands shook and my heart was beating rapidly as I switched on my video camera. Its giant wings were like a shimmering blue mirror that reflected the rays of sunlight. I was surprised when a second Blue Morpho came fluttering and dancing past. I felt very blessed to experience not just one, but two of the rare Morpho amathonte butterflies at the same time.  Their beauty was astounding and I suddenly felt tears filling my eyes. But I couldn’t let my emotions take over yet because my job was not complete.  I still had to climb up the river so I could get a closer view of this magnificent butterfly.

Please watch my adventure in the video below.


Once my filming was complete, I bravely decided to climb through the river so I could get closer and observe this amazing butterfly species. For this expedition I decided to take the dogs Mojo and Bamboo with me. With the dogs close by and my camera in my backpack, I began my slow and cautious journey up the river. The thick leaves in the water made it difficult to see what was in the water with me and the rocks made it slippery and treacherous. The vines above my head came to my rescue multiple times as I crawled over the rocks. In front of me the Blue Morphos beckoned me on as they fluttered and flashed their iridescent wings.

Finally I made it to the location of the river where they were flying. With my camera now in my hand I crept up on the Blue Morpho that had decided to rest (picture above). Its large brown wings blended in perfectly with the dirt, rocks, and dead leaves. The one clue of its presence was a sliver of blue wing that was now visible because a portion of its wing had been torn off. As I filmed this special moment (this video portion is in the video above at the very end), I reached out to touch it and at that moment its wings flashed open and then it flew away.

My eyes sparkled with joy and my heart skipped because on that day one of my biggest dreams had come true! Searching for the Blue Morpho strengthened my faith in God and helped me realize my passion. I had spent 5 days searching for the Blue Morpho butterfly and God led me to it and rewarded me for my efforts. I have learned to never give up on your dreams and keep pushing forward. My next goal is to live in Costa Rica so I can do butterfly research and share all my adventures with you.

Note: This discovery was the inspiration of my Blue Morpho Butterfly Dance which you can view on my YouTube Channel. 

I return to Costa Rica on March 11 and will be doing a presentation on my butterfly research at Earth University. I am another step closer to completing my next goal!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Internet Access in the Costa Rica Jungles 1/15/10 Part 4


Many of my blog readers are probably wondering how I was able to post my first two blog entries in the middle of the Costa Rica jungle. Well it was not an easy task! For my first trip to the internet, we hitched a ride in the back of an old pickup truck. It was pitch dark and we were riding backwards on a bumpy dirt road on the edge of a mountain.

Our destination for the internet connection was a school building out in the jungles. I was quite surprised when I realized we would be connecting to the internet on the outside, in the pitch dark, with only a small flashlight! The connection was a broken cable extending from the outside wall. After we checked for scorpions under the table and chairs, we plugged in and were thrilled that it worked. Our mini Dell laptop screen served as a light, but we quickly learned that the disadvantage was it attracted the night wildlife. They could see us, but we could only hear them! About this time our host decided to go pickup his motorcycle he had left at a neighbors house.

So here we are in the pitch dark with no form of protection. About the time our confidence had returned, we heard the crunching of leaves in the distance. With one hand my mom was squeezing my arm tightly and with the other hand she waved the baby flashlight thinking that the light would scare the crunching predator away. For once I was the prey instead of the predator! The crunching continued to get louder and louder. After what seemed to be an eternity, we finally heard the roar of a motorcycle in the distance. The sound was music to our ears! Obviously I survived because I am writing this blog entry.

The pictures below were taken on the second 15 minute walk to the school building. This time it was in the daylight and we were accompanied by two dogs !

colorful insect Insect

skipper 2 skipper 

Elizabeth’s Travel Tips: Don’t go out after dark without a VERY large flashlight and a dog!


Above is my new friend, Bamboo, Queen of the Jungle. The other dog I befriended was Mojo.

I leave for Costa Rica again in one week!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Cooling off in the Costa Rica Heat 1/15/10 Part 3


After a morning full of hard work, my mom and I would cool off by submerging our legs in the fresh creek water in the pool. An umbrella was a useful tool for protecting ourselves from the unforgiving sun. 


Coconut milk fresh from a coconut tree was another way to cool off. With the constant sweating, keeping hydrated is very important. We drank lots of water and consumed juicy fruits to supply our body with enough liquids.


At the VerdEnergia community we stayed at, the food is either grown on their land or purchased at the local market. The salad above contained greens from the garden, cucumbers, and was decorated with the purple flowers of a Butterfly Pea plant and the red flowers of a Hibiscus. The edible flowers were quite tasty!

beans in pod  IMG_4094

Another vegetable grown right in the garden were beans. The hundreds of pods had to be picked off by hand. Then the pods had to be opened, the beans were next soaked, cooked, and finally eaten! The beans inside each pod ranged in color from purple, to red, pink, and green. The remaining pod around the beans were recycled back into the compost pile.


An interesting fact I learned is that beans have to be soaked over night or at least five hours to release the gases.

Caterpillar Research

IMG_3810 IMG_4172

After some rest and food, I was ready to continue my study of the Dione juno caterpillars I had found eating the leaves of a passionvine plant. The previous morning (1/14/10) I had put some of the caterpillars inside a rearing container along with a fresh cutting of their food plant.


On that same day, I learned the hard way about the intensity of the sun. My caterpillars over heated inside the plastic container! I was very upset, but learned from my mistake and put the next caterpillars in a shady location.

IMG_4169 IMG_4170

Now fast forwarding back to the afternoon of 1/15/10 at precisely 2:50 pm, I was having greater success. Inside the container were three healthy caterpillars in their fifth instar nearing pupation. My goal was to photograph a Dione juno to share with all my blog readers. After several hours of waiting, the three caterpillars had made a silk pad and were now hanging. I was so excited! I had worked hard and waited days to reach this point. The two caterpillars on the right look like twins because the second caterpillar used silk to connect itself with the first hanging caterpillar. How comical looking!

hanging caterpillars

The arrow shows the first caterpillar who is becoming straighter and more outstretched making it look like an ‘l’. This means in is very close to making a chrysalis. The second caterpillar is still arched like a ‘J’.

The Mysterious Disappearance

To complete the story of the three Dione juno caterpillars, I will jump to the next day 1/16/10 at 11:12 am. I was entering the greenhouse where I had been keeping my precious caterpillars. I opened the container expecting to find three chrysalises, but instead to my horror I found an empty container! The two caterpillars that had been hanging on a stem inside were gone.

inside container

I frantically searched the container for evidence. In grief I picked up one remaining caterpillar that lay lifeless at the bottom of the container (arrow points to its body above).

caterpillar head damage 

The healthy caterpillar that had been hanging at the top of the container was now dead. Someone had ripped it from the top of the lid and in the process killed it. The arrow points to the damaged head. Red and green liquid oozed out of its body. Whoever had tried to free the caterpillars had ended up causing their death. There is a certain way to remove hanging caterpillars or chrysalises and they did not no how. This person’s beliefs that all creatures should be free actually cause it’s death and resulted in the destruction of my research project.

Fact: Only 10% of butterfly eggs in the wild survive to be adult butterflies. By raising them in captivity this percentage of survival is raised to about 90% percent survival rate.

On March 11 we are going to Costa Rica again! My father and I will be doing a presentation at Earth University.