Much of Carara’s bounty of wildlife is of the unnerving sort: huge crocodiles lounge in the bankside mud of the Río Tárcoles (“Carara” means “crocodile” in the language of the pre-Columbian inhabitants, the Huetar), while snakes (19 out of Costa Rica’s 22 poisonous species) slither about. Mammals include monkeys (mantled howler and white-faced capuchin), armadillos, agoutis (commonly seen), aggressive collared peccaries and most of the large cats, including jaguars and ocelots. Birding is excellent, and this is one of the best places in the country to see the brightly coloured scarlet macaw in its natural habitat – at dawn and dusk, they migrate between the lowland tropical forest areas and the swampy mangroves, soaring over in a burst of red and blue against the darkened sky. Other birds that frequent the treetops include trogons (five species), toucans (both chestnut-mandibled and keel-billed) and guans, while riverside birds include anhingas (or snake birds), the coot-like purple gallinule and storks.

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