The Night Has a Thousand Eyes

March 11, 2005

DRAKE BAY, Osa Peninsula – Before entering thetowering strands of primary rain forest, Dale Morrisinstructed us to place our flashlights next to our ears andlook for shimmering objects in the grass. A thousandlights blinked back at me.“Pick out the biggest one and take a closer look,” hesaid. It was a spider. Actually, it was thousands of them.“They’re wolf spiders and they’re everywhere, but theywon’t bite,” the guide explained. Then he took a close-upphoto and offered us a more intimate look at the insect.Morris is a professional writer, photographer, conservationistand naturalist guide. He and his wife SashaGilmore have worked on conservation projects aroundthe globe during the past 11 years. He’s been a scientificand research coordinator for many projects, includingan insect-based project in Santa Rosa National Park, inthe northwestern province of Guanacaste, which he calls“one of the greatest outdoor laboratories on earth.” Hehas the know-how.He also has the eyes. Morris, with help from hiswife, can spot a stick insect in a pile of twigs on the forestfloor. Guided by a contagious enthusiasm for the subject,Morris takes participants on two-hour hikesthrough the dark rain forest.“EVER since I was an embryo, I was interested ininsects. When other kids were watching Spiderman, Iwas watching spiders,” he joked.While on the tour, he spotted and nabbed a preyingmantis, a frog with hallucinogenic properties, anotherwith chemical irritants in its skin, a knob-headed snake,and many other tiny creatures. He’s brimming withinformation, from why Drake Bay doesn’t have anymosquitoes (you’ll have to take the tour to find out) tothe fact that you’re more likely to die from a fallingcoconut than a snakebite.Morris has a point: nature is fun and exciting, andnot as daunting as you might think.HE runs his tour out of Aguila de Osa Inn, an eleganteco-lodge located in Drake Bay, at the northern edge ofCorcovado National Park (see article on page W-6) onthe Osa Peninsula, in southwestern Costa Rica.Why run this tour in an area as remote as Drake?“This forest is wonderful,” the British national said.“It’s a wet tropical forest that never shuts down. The dryforest is incredibly seasonal and shuts down six monthsout of the year. There are no insects. Here you get lots ofactivity year-round. You’re always going to find stuffhere. Plus, this is an incredibly complex place, and younever know what you’re going to find. We get somethingnew every time.“Corcovado is just down the path, and it’s one of ourfavorite places on earth. Tourism is developing here, butin a way I’d like to see it move; people are here to experiencenature, not to play golf and drink cocktails onbeaches. We’ve got a beautiful area, great biodiversityand a captive audience.”At the end of the tour, guests stop at Aguila de OsaInn for water and cold drinks, sharing their experiences.Lauria Asperas Valeyer, from France, summed up ourgroup’s feeling.“(This tour) is like reliving things you’ve seen onwildlife programs as a child,” she said. “Except this isreal life.”

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