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As I was saying yesterday, as much as I do not like creepy crawlies, I did a night tour around Pirate Cove in Bahía Drake, Costa Rica. My guide, Gustavo, and I were poking around the Rio Drake, looking for the glowing eyes of frogs, birds, crocs and insects, and then we walked along the road to Agujitas, spotting more frogs, spiders, owls, a toad…and, closer to the beach, a boa constrictor! You can just make it out in the photo shown above.

When I’d researched Pirate Cove, what stood out was the number of guests who’d said they’d seen boa constrictors and crocs while kakaying the Rio Drake. Now, I’m more afraid of snakes than Indiana Jones is! But the idea of seeing a boa constrictor and crocs in the wild was exciting, so I’d paddle down the Rio Drake daily, eyes peeled for a giant white boa constrictor in the trees and crocs in the murky water. I actually did see a caiman and was so rattled and panicked it would somehow manage to attack me while I was in my kayak. While my heart raced and I fumbled with my camera, it popped under the water to my right, with just its eyes peeking out, and stealthily swam a straight line to my left, passing in front of the boat. By the time I took a pic, hands shaking and heart in mouth, it ducked into the water and disappeared, and I paddled liked I’d never paddled before – faster than when I went whitewater kayaking along Palmer Rapids, up in northern Ontario!

You have to squint and use your imagination to see the caiman. In the centre of the photo, you can make out its eyes and the outline of its long snout pointing to the right. The pic's blurry because I was shaking when I took it!

And when I finally did see a large croc during a tour in Parque Nacional Corcovado (National Geographic has named the national park “the most biologically intense place on Earth”), out came the camera, and the lot of us just sat on the other side of the river, watching the croc while it slowly opened its mouth and kept it open for 10 minutes till it just as slowly closed it and slipped into the water without a splash. And we promptly realized maybe we better move away from the riverbank! You know, just in case that giant croc had decided that we would be his lunch.

Fascinating to no end! Unsettling how this croc kept his mouth open for so long. More unsettling when he slipped into the water as we sat on the bank!

As thrilling and as safe as it was to see a croc up close, I wasn’t so keen on coming face to face with that elusive boa constrictor. However, the boa turned out to be the highlight – and the last animal I saw – on the night tour I did with Gustavo, my guide, who found it on the ground near the beach beside Pirate Cove. Admittedly, the boa constrictor wasn’t a massive creature, but that didn’t stop me from squirming when Gustavo picked it up in his hands! And then he invited me to touch the snake’s skin, which I did, surprisingly after very little prompting on his part. OK, OK, in truth he had asked if I wanted to hold it, but I’m not that adventurous! I got enough kicks watching it slithering on his hands and even did pet it ever so briefly. Despite all the comments on the website, I think seeing a boa at Pirate Cove was a rarity, because Gustavo quickly pulled out his camera to take pics as well!

Did you spot the boa constrictor peeking out from behind the bamboo? Small enough to disappear in this cluster of bamboo stalks, it was still powerful: it could constrict its muscles to lift half of its weight. I can’t imagine walking past it and not realizing it’s there among the bamboo! Freaky, then, that this bamboo was only about 40 feet from where I’d eat dinner. I can’t believe I’m even posting these pictures. I shudder every time I look at them!

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