Fantastic flora and wondrous wildlife

Costa Rica – the name alone conjures up visions of colourful toucans flying through emerald-green rainforests and monkeys foraging for tropical fruit – and these are sights that are virtually guaranteed on a tour of this spectacular country.

Verdant forests, eerie mangrove swamps, cloud forests and coral reefs are just some of the habitats that play host to a staggering 10,000 types of plants and trees, more than 200 mammal species, 850 indigenous and migrant birds, over 35,000 species of insects and so much more.

Here we reveal some of the wildlife that you may encounter on a holiday to Costa Rica, and that we think make this tropical paradise so special.

TapirWith a long flexible upper lip resembling a shorter version of an elephant’s trunk, the Baird’s tapir is the largest indigenous mammal in Central America – growing up to four feet tall. A ‘living fossil’, its body shape has changed little over the past 35 million years and this solitary animal can reach the age of 30. Keep a look out for them near to water – not only are they good swimmers, but they can actually sink to the bottom of a river to feed.

According to the World Wildlife Fund just 15,000 wild jaguars remain in Latin America, with habitat loss due to deforestation cited as the main reason for their dwindling numbers. Known to live in Costa Rica’s Tortuguero National Park, these big cats are naturally shy, so your chances of a sighting are slim, but with the right guide, you might just be lucky.

Other residents of Tortuguero are four of the world’s seven species of sea turtle. The park, which features a huge system of canals and creeks, was originally created to protect one of the main nesting areas of the green turtle. Hawksbill, leatherback and loggerhead turtles also nest here. Very lucky visitors may get the chance to see these creatures laying their eggs, and if you visit at night you could watch hatchlings making their way to the sea.

QuetzalThe aptly named resplendent quetzal is often referred to as the most spectacular bird in the New World thanks to its vibrant blue, green and red plumage. During the mating season, the males become even more beautiful as they grow twin tail feathers up to three feet long. Costa Rica’s protected cloud forests provide a safe haven for the birds and the opportunity of a lifetime for birdwatchers to catch sight of this threatened species.

If you’re lucky enough to spot a harpy eagle, don’t mess with it! This is one of the world’s largest and most powerful birds of prey and it sports talons that could give a grizzly bear’s claws a run for their money, growing up to four inches long.

Much more delicate are Costa Rica’s beautiful butterflies and moths. Up to 3,000 varieties flutter their wings through Costa Rica’s tropical vegetation – making up 18% of the world’s total butterfly species. As they go they feed on nectar and fruit, and pollinate many varieties of flowers.

Howler monkeyOn your travels through the rainforest it’s very likely that even if you don’t see one, you’ll hear a howler monkey. These are the loudest of all the monkey species of the New World. Their name is derived from the deep howls they make – through a specially-adapted bone in their throats – which can be heard for a distance of up to three miles.

Every Travelsphere holiday offers exceptional value for money. Included in the price are return scheduled flights/rail travel and internal flights, where applicable, overseas transfers and transportation, carefully chosen hotels, many meals and excursions and the services of a Travelsphere Tour Manager or Local Guide.