After nearly three months of surfing epic waves, catching and working with captive crocs and snakes, hiking through some of the most beautiful jungles Costa Rica has to offer, and making some great friends along the way we still found ourselves far from our goal of seeing as many venomous snakes in the wild as we could. Although this might not sound like a goal many would strive for, and with good reason, my brother and I love snakes with a passion and want to know everything about them so that we can protect them.
We consulted with some locals and our guidebook then decided that Cahuita National Park on the Caribbean Coast of Costa Rica was our best choice for accomplishing our last goal. Allegedly some snake species are quiet common in this area and can be seen in abundance.
When looking for venomous snakes in the wild, proper clothing is a necessity. A pair of pants is defiantly preferred, but a good pair of shoes is essential. When millimeters can mean the difference between envenomation and safety, it is always important not to sacrifice price for protection. Grip is important as well because I make it a personal rule to step on logs instead of over. The last thing I want in any herping trip is to fall off a log onto a snake and get bitten. I prefer a shoe that is durable with good grip, shaped more like a running shoe, but one that still gives me the freedom to run down the odd snake or even pursue it up a tree if needed.
Once we compiled all of the essentials, shoes, pants, camera, field guide, and snake hooks we were ready to head into the park. We began our journey at about eight in the morning with high hopes of seeing a lot of snakes. Although we were looking for everything, monkeys, sloths, birds, and other animals the main focus of our day long expedition was for Eyelash vipers!
Eyelash vipers are a beautiful snake that is named after the eyelash like scales that form over the eyes and help to camouflage them. These “eyelashes” assist in breaking up the distinct shape of the head. They come in many different colors from yellow, red, green, grey, pink, brown, to even mixed. Ever since we first started working with them in Costa Rica they quickly became one of my favorite snakes and I could not wait to see one in the wild.
While scouring every branch, leaf, log, and tree with a quick yet careful glance, we made our way from the park entrance down the jungle paths that paralleled the beach. After making it all the way to the river, it was clear that spotting the snake, we were looking for, would not be as easy as we once thought. Hopefully on the other side of the river we would have better luck, but now the only option was to roll up our pant legs and get a little wet.
After making it to the other side across the short channel of water, we proceeded down the main path once again. It was already twelve noon and we decided to forgo eating, not something we do often, to continue our epic quest for the beautiful eyelash viper. Many false sightings later, we were beginning to lose hope. We heavy-heartedly began to realize that we may not find what we had came in search of.
Just then Morgan spotted something that he thought looked promising, a bit of yellow tucked up under a green leaf. We stepped closer and to our immense joy there it was. In all of its glory, as yellow as the purest gold or brightest sun contrasted against the color of the green jungle. It was so small. It could have easily been overlooked had we not known what to look for. Truly an amazing find by Morgan! Others had passed it all day and never seen it, however we just saw our first eyelash viper. The downtrodden spirits that had begun to arise previously were vanquished. We were stocked to see the viper and had newfound enthusiasm.
Something must have happened after we saw our first one, maybe our eyes became attuned, or maybe the little guy was a just a good omen. Afterwards we saw not one, but five more ranging from the same bright golden yellow to the dark color of freshly brewed coffee. For each snake, we took multiple pictures so we could share the beauty of this awesome animal with friends and family back home.
In the end, the day was a huge success! In total, we were able to see five eyelash vipers, four vine-snakes plus lots of monkeys, sloths, birds, and some other very interesting rainforest creatures. The Eyelash vipers in Parque National Cahuita are some of the most beautiful in the world. Morgan and I were extremely lucky to witness them in person in their natural setting. Check out the video below to see some of the amazing animals we encountered during our time in Costa Rica. By the end of our trip, one of our first goals was achieved, and we can finally leave in peace. Now it is time to move on to our next big adventure back home in Florida… any suggestions?