20 Exotic Animals I Saw in the Jungles of Buena Vista Costa Rica

  March 7, 2016 travel posts 🕑 8 minutes read
Animal #21. Blue morpho butterfly. ELECTRIC blue shade, floating on the breeze. But this guy was lunch for a golden orb spider. Oh well....

Animal #21. Blue morpho butterfly. ELECTRIC blue shade, floating on the breeze. But this guy was lunch for a golden orb spider. Oh well….


The bullet ant bared his terrifyingly intimidating jaws.


He snapped ’em. At me.


He’d had enough of my gringo nonsense.


As per custom, every 2-3 days a bullet ant revealed itself on the kitchen sink. Said anty became an infuriated insect after I attempted to relocate he/she with a dish towel. No way in holy hell I’d touch the guy with my fingers.


Would you?


Because these guys pack the biggest wallop of any insect on earth.


Nope, they didn’t gain the name because of their super hero type speed. These guys (and gals, to keep things politically correct) possess the most painful sting of any insect in the animal kingdom. Feels like you’ve been shot, after a bullet ant stings you.


During our recent house sit DEEP (caps for emphasis) in the jungles of Buena Vista, Costa Rica, bullet ants were a dime a dozen. Saw ’em everywhere.


The homeowner had been stung multiple times. He said it didn’t feel like getting shot. In the next breath, this colorful character plainly stated how it felt like a bee sting…..but the pain lasted for 36 hours straight.




Biddulph vs the Bullet Ant.


I did my dish towel dance of death any time I peeped the inch long, black, intimidating ant the moment this beastie traipsed in our tulip bed. Kidding. No tulips here. But the ants routinely marched along the rubber hose which snaked to the house from our water supply…..aka, the jungle stream moseying on down from the nearest hill.


“Exotic” in Title


Each animal listed below is exotic to a guy raised in North Central New Jersey.


I’m used to seeing squirrels. Not 3 toed sloths.


Our ants aren’t named after weapons.


Our snakes can’t put yo’ ass in the morgue.


So yeah, each critter listed below qualifies as being “exotic” in my Blogging from Paradise eBook.


Buena Vista


Picture one of the more remote regions in Costa Rica; the jungles between the southern Caribbean Sea and the Talamanca mountain range. OK. Good.


Now picture walking 3 miles into this deep, dense, threatening jungle.


Cross 4 streams. Walk 1 mile up a steep mountain, gasping for your dear breath as you fight against a 30% grade in some spots.


Then, you journey slowly down a steady grade until you reached the 100 acre plot of land where we house sat. Rugged, rocky, muddy terrain made this downward hike not unlike the descent into Dante’s Inferno.


Then, after that 2- 3 hour, hellish, brutal journey deep into the jungle (in perhaps the most remote region of Costa Rica) you’re home.


And you get to see these guys…..


1: Bullet Ants


Star of the show. Saw these guys in the house (with my own eyes, once, thank the gods), on the sink, and all over the freaking place.


I thought bullet ants were rare and endangered. Not here.


2: Poison Dart Frogs


Bright red. Tiny. Cute as can be. Until you touch their skin. Or (mistakenly, I hope to God) ingest one.


Touching can seriously eff you up. Eating a poison dart frog would most likely kill you.


Like the bullet ant, these jokers were everywhere. Hopping to and fro. Showing off their bright red warning sign, as if it advertised in neon red flights: “Eat me, and you’ll croak too.” (Note the croak/frog analogy).


One poison dart frog was *this close* to hopping into Thunder the Rhodesian Ridgeback’s mouth during a jungle walk. Froggy missed. Thunder lived.


Thunder the 90 pound Rhodesian Ridgeback. Queen of the Jungle.

Thunder the 90 pound Rhodesian Ridgeback. Queen of the Jungle.


3: 2 Toed Sloth


We spotted a rare 2 toed sloth early one morning, about 20 yards from the house.


Straight trippin'.

Straight trippin’.


Imagine if Sonic the Hedgehog smoked 120 spliffs. Then imagine if stoned Sonic hung upside done from a tree branch for 4 hours. There ya go.


4: 3 Toed Sloth


The gaudier relative of the 2 toed sloth (because he done went and got 3 toes) spent a few days on the property. This cutey scratched his arm pits and beard (?) while hanging upside down from the canopy, not unlike a bloated bro seated in front of the TV watching an NFL game on Sundays (minus hanging upside down).


5: Howler Monkeys


I thought King Kong stopped by on his way to Skull Island.


I searched frantically for a blond dame to sacrifice to this apoplectic ape; turns out, Naomi Watts was working on another movie……and the gigantic ape was really a Howler monkey.


Howdy Howler neighbors! Don't look at us so funny. It's awkward for all primates involved.

Howdy Howler neighbors! Don’t look at us so funny. It’s awkward for all primates involved.


Blessed – but normally late risers sure aren’t – with the loudest call on earth, male Howler monkeys can be heard from 3 miles away. Three miles!


A troop of Howlers regularly made their way through the canopy on the grounds. Los monos often peered toward the home, with a look in their eyes saying, “What the hell are you?”


6: Capuchin Monkeys


Often spotted tearing leaves off of trees, throwing said leaves at us and screaming up a storm, these monkeys were so unaccustomed to seeing people that we received a heel’s welcome whenever spotted by these feisty Capuchins.


Yes….this place was *that* remote. Monkeys weren’t used to seeing people.


A troop of some 20 monkeys put on an acrobatic show 2 days before we left, leaping between trees in death-defying fashion.


Capuchin monkeys are also called white-faced monkeys. Which is ironic considering how they treated us “jungle green” gringos.


7: The Predator (damn them for 7.8 out of 10 rating)


To see if you’re paying attention. Although I fully expected to see him.


8: Green Snake


No clue the species. I do know it fell from a tiny tree and slithered away.


9: Scorpions


Scorpions, scorpions everywhere.


When army ants – don’t worry, they’re coming up – marched through the house by the thousands, on a murderous, butchering rampage, we spotted 8 scorpions hiding for their lives in crevasses along the ceiling.


I spotted a less unfortunate soul being carved up beside the outhouse.


A mama scorpion with 4 infants riding on her back tap danced all over my Costa Rican cornflakes. I forgave her. Begrudgingly.


10: Centipedes


I played God to save my mortal enemy. Except centipedes aren’t really my enemy. But I may squeal like a stuck pig should a ‘pede speed into my personal space.


Centipede I saved from a spider web in the house. Yes I screwed up natural selection. Yes I was terrified he'd fall on my head from the ceiling.

Centipede I saved from a spider web in the house. Yes I screwed up natural selection. Yes I was terrified he’d fall on my head from the ceiling.


During the great army ant raid a centipede found himself trapped in a spider’s web. The spider wasn’t high; knew better than to challenge this impressive, horrifying warrior. But centi would have starved because he couldn’t break free of the web. 1 steno-lighter swipe later, the centipede twisted his body like a guy free diving from a cliff, before he belly flopped on the house/hut floor. He then scurried away like a snake with 100 legs giving him an unfair evolutionary advantage.


11: Army Ants


6 AM. Buena Vista time.


Me: “Kelli, wake up lovey. The exterminating service is here. Earlier than expected.”


Groggy Kelli: “Huh?”


Me: “This service rolls deep.”


I escorted Kelli into the next room. To see the thousands of army ants assaulting the jungle hut/home. Just like on National Geographic shows. Or Youtube videos. Thousands upon thousands of marauding ants systemically took apart (i.e., butchered) the bevy of insects squatting/renting space within the house.


Roaches ran for cover.


Hornets headed for the hills.


Moths made for the jungle.


Centipedes shimmied to the jungle floor.


Unfortunate wasp larvae were the dish of the day; every last larvae was taken, being fast food for these ferocious predators.


Intense moment; Kelli mistakenly walked through the army ant colony on her way to the “shower.”(Aka, hose from the mountain stream fixed above the head on the bottom side of the home.) Soldier ants sank their jaws into her skin. Locked on. She had to pull them off of her legs and feet.


12: Hawks, Owls and Possum




Not too exotic.


But I had to add ’em.


13: Mealy Amazon Parrots




I yelled the name. Indigenous folks would have found me mad. A gringo gaga over los pajaros.


But Pickles was one of the Biddulph family’s beloved pets. She was a Mealy Amazon parrot.


When I spotted 4 Mealy Amazon parrots I went bonkers. 1 of the thrills of my life, seeing these guys in their natural setting.


4 perching Mealies squawked vociferously above my dome. Watching the sunrise.




14: Oropendola


The throaty call of the oropendola embodies “exotic.”


Picture a black bird with bright yellow tail feathers and brilliant orange beak. Flitting from branch to branch, and making a humming ruckus when it broke into a full flight. I could hear the whooshing of oro wings some 100 feet below the canopy.


The oropendola crew blew through the grounds a handful of times during our 6 week stay.


15: Golden Orb Spiders


Sheilob had nothing on the golden orbs on the premises (LOTR reference for the day).


I counted 4 spinning poster-sized webs below the crib/house. I only slammed into the webs (like Frodo) 13 times. Including a particularly colorful experience when I went into a punch drunk fit trying to shed the sticky, adhesive mess before it mummified me.


16: Leaf Cutter Ants


Do ya know what these ants did?


You have 3 guesses. First 2 don’t count.


Leaf cutter ants litter the jungle floor with…..tiny pieces of leaves. You won’t walk 30 feet in any direction in Buena Vista without seeing these guys.


Leaf cutter nests are impressive; these mounds were some 2 feet high and 10 feet wide.


17: Toucan


The showmen of showmen!


These guys made Liberace look like a bland, style-less bore.


I saw Toucan Sam a few times in Buena Vista.


The first sighting was awe-inspiring.


Check him out.


Toucan! Nature's showmen. I regularly saw these guys on my walks around la selva....

Toucan! Nature’s showmen. I regularly saw these guys on my walks around la selva….


The brilliant, eye-popping, electric yellow masking his neck and monstrously large, broad beak was complemented by an emerald green/aqua blue shade that Nature saved only for the toucan. Jet black coat, inquisitive eyes, and I went into fruit loops when I spotted this astonishing avian.


18: Tarantula Eating Wasps


I see wasps regularly in NJ. But these didn’t dine on tarantulas. While the bluish-tinged, large, threatening-looking wasps in Buena Vista regularly stowed away stunned, paralyzed tarantulas for later eating.


19: Skinks and Various Lizards


I spotted gringa skanks in Puerto Viejo. And lizard skinks in Buena Vista. Who told me the gringa skanks gave the skinks a bad name. Because 1 vowel should make all the difference. But it sometimes doesn’t.


Don't you dare confuse me with a gringa skank.

Don’t you dare confuse me with a gringa skank.


20: Hummingbirds


I see these iridescent, faster than the speed of sound, hyper hurricanes in NJ sometimes. So maybe they aren’t super exotic. But damn did I see gobs of these fascinating little birdies in Buena Vista.


Multi-colored, gregarious, bold hummingbirds often buzzed over our heads, like little military drones on reconnaissance missions.

  1. Randy Hilarski says:
    at 4:49 pm

    Wow, this location must have been really remote! Thanks for the fun read Ryan. I have never seen army ants here or bullet ants but leaf cutters are everywhere.

    • Ryan Biddulph says:
      at 9:24 am

      It was really, really deep in the jungle Randy. After you hiked thru rugged terrain for 1 hour you had to climb a steep hill. Insane. No people = loads of critters hahaha….Yep those leaf cutters are a dominant species. Everywhere!

  2. Sue Anne Dunlevie says:
    at 7:21 pm

    Oh my. I’ve only ever seen some of these guys in the zoo. And the rest I’ve only ever heard of.

    As always, thank you for the entertaining read, Ryan.


    • Ryan Biddulph says:
      at 9:22 am

      Actually Sue, me too for many of these guys before this trip 😉 Sure thing, thanks for reading!

  3. Muhammad Ahmad says:
    at 11:10 pm

    Heck! awesome, Ryan.
    Thanks for sharing.
    BTW, whats your next stop? 😉

    • Ryan Biddulph says:
      at 9:21 am

      NYC a few weeks down the road buddy. Thanks!

  4. Bethany Clochard says:
    at 10:42 pm

    Seeing animals in nature is so much better than in the zoo! As this list went on from sloth to toucan it got more difficult to pick which I would have been most excited about. Then came the bats. I love bats. A bat sighting always makes any trip better for me!

    • Ryan Biddulph says:
      at 10:20 am

      Hi Bethany, You’d have LOVED this place because the bats lived in the home with you 😉 Tough sit in some regards but the wildlife spotting was insane. Special trip and I loved it in so many ways. Thanks for commenting!

  5. JR says:
    at 7:42 pm

    Great tour through the wilds. I have seen a bunch of these on our trips but not nearly as many as you. The leaf cutter ants always immediately have me humming the Dave Matthews tune in my head as I see those little suckers filing through the rainforest in formation.

    Peace bro!

    • Ryan Biddulph says:
      at 9:52 am

      Hi JR, I like that 😉 Leaf cutters are everywhere. Everywhere 🙂 We saw them all over the jungle, building their huge nests. Thanks for commenting!

  6. Ben says:
    at 6:55 pm

    Hi Ryan. A while back you commented on one of my blog posts and left a link to this post through CommenLuv. I said I wanted to check this post out because my wife may be going to Costa Rica sometime for her job. She still hasn’t gone, but I have, finally, made it here to read and see the sights.

    If she gets to see the wildlife while she’s there I know she’ll most enjoy the birds, followed closely by everything else except for maybe the ants and scorpions.

    Thanks for sharing all of the sights, including the video of the army ants cleaning up your temporary home.