3 mins

14 magnificent photographs of Costa Rica's wildlife

We sent last year's Photo of the Year winners to Costa Rica to capture this wild and wonderful country. These stunning snaps by Viv Leese and Alexander Metcalfe prove they were very worthy winners...

Sunrise over Rincon de la Vieja — worth the early start and the negotiation with security to get the best views (Viv Leese)
A hummingbird buzzes about at breakfast time (Viv Leese)

A hummingbird buzzes about at breakfast time (Viv Leese)

A laughing falcon searches for its next snake snack on the Tempisque River (Viv Leese)

A laughing falcon searches for its next snake snack on the Tempisque River (Viv Leese)

For a concentrated dose of wildlife watching and amazing photo opportunities, the highlight was a trip on the river at El Viejo reserve, where in two hours we experienced a cornucopia of birds, bats, monkeys and reptiles

— Viv Leese

A rufous-tailed hummingbird takes flight on another feeding frenzy (Alexander Metcalfe)

A rufous-tailed hummingbird takes flight on another feeding frenzy (Alexander Metcalfe)

A chestnut-mandibled toucan perches at the Arenal Observatory Lodge (Alexander Metcalfe)

A chestnut-mandibled toucan perches at the Arenal Observatory Lodge (Alexander Metcalfe)

A howler monkey takes a nap (Viv Leese)

A howler monkey takes a nap (Viv Leese)

A mantled howler sits at Hacienda Pozo Azul (Alexander Metcalfe)

A mantled howler sits at Hacienda Pozo Azul (Alexander Metcalfe)

Then there was the moment when I was hiking alone on the jungle trails of Pozo Azul, looking for shots, when I came across a troupe of mantled howler monkeys cavorting around in the treetops at sunset. They were making a hell of a noise.

                    — Alexander Metcalfe

A two-toed sloth nonchalantly grazes by the roadside of Puerto Viejo de Talamanca (Alexander Metcalfe)

A two-toed sloth nonchalantly grazes by the roadside of Puerto Viejo de Talamanca (Alexander Metcalfe)

A racoon fishes for coconut flesh on a beach in Cahuita National Park (Alexander Metcalfe)

A racoon fishes for coconut flesh on a beach in Cahuita National Park (Alexander Metcalfe)

A night in the tiles for a black iguana at Hacienda El Viejo (Viv Leese)

A night in the tiles for a black iguana at Hacienda El Viejo (Viv Leese)

A green iguana by the Tempisque River (Viv Leese)

A green iguana by the Tempisque River (Viv Leese)

An eyelash pit viper — tiny but deadly — curled up in the undergrowth of Arenal Volcano National Park (Viv Leese)

An eyelash pit viper — tiny but deadly — curled up in the undergrowth of Arenal Volcano National Park (Viv Leese)

I'm fascinated by snakes, so seeing a couple of eyelash pit vipers was a highlight. One was gently waving its tail as a lure in front of its coiled head, ready to strike when something took the bait

— Viv Leese

A cicada sings in a deafening chorus in the Arenal Volcano National Park (Alexander Metcalfe)

A cicada sings in a deafening chorus in the Arenal Volcano National Park (Alexander Metcalfe)

A glasswing butterfly feeds in the botanical gardens at La Fortuna (Alexander Metcalfe)

A glasswing butterfly feeds in the botanical gardens at La Fortuna (Alexander Metcalfe)

A locust covered in dew dries itself in the morning sun in Braulio Carrillo (Alexander Metcalfe)

A locust covered in dew dries itself in the morning sun in Braulio Carrillo (Alexander Metcalfe)

Golden silk orb-weaver spiders like to spin webs across trails in Cahuita National Park (Alexander Metcalfe)

Golden silk orb-weaver spiders like to spin webs across trails in Cahuita National Park (Alexander Metcalfe)

The photographers 

Viv Leese 

Viv Leese won the Wildlife category in the Wanderlust Photo of the Year 2017 competition 

“We’d been to Costa Rica ten years ago, but this time we were in different areas. I was hoping it hadn’t changed much – one of my lasting memories of before was stopping by the road to see sloths in a tree; I was so pleased when we had the same experience again.

I took my Nikon D810 with a Nikon 200-500mm, Nikon 80- 400mm, a Nikon 24-70mm, a Nikon 16mm fish-eye and a GoPro. Most importantly, we took ponchos to keep everything dry when we weren’t shooting.

For a concentrated dose of wildlife watching and amazing photo opportunities, the highlight was a trip on the river at the El Viejo reserve, where in two hours we experienced a cornucopia of birds, bats, monkeys and reptiles.

One afternoon we went mountain-biking with Eduardo, a local guide. The trail was a great mix of fast and technical with plenty of singletrack thrown in and fine views. Eduardo was keen to show off his biking skills whenever the camera came out, so I got some nice shots as well.

The other photographic experience that sticks out was a walk along the beach from our hotel at Playa Potrero to find ice cream. Over an hour and a half, we photographed terns fishing in the sea, kingfishers fishing in a lagoon, ibis, motmots, raccoons and then an amazing sunset. Although many of the photos were discarded as unsuccessful experiments, the variety of subjects and the fact we weren’t expecting to take any photos made it memorable.”

“Costa Rica has it all – though I was mostly trying to capture the country’s diverse ecology. I shot on my Olympus OM-D E-M5 MKII, mainly using my M.Zuiko 40-150mm f2.8 Pro lens for close-ups of the wildlife.

I travelled with my Dad, who’s a keen twitcher. I wanted a shot of a hummingbird in flight, so lying in the grass of Arenal Volcano National Park photographing them as they zipped past was a real highlight.

There were so many great photographic experiences. For instance, as we drove from the town of La Fortuna, our guide Jove pulled over and excitedly jabbed towards Arenal volcano, which had begun to appear as the cloud lifted. It had been raining heavily and the steam was rising ethereally from the rainforest, shaped by the microclimate of the volcano. Horses grazing below helped to layer the shot, making for a magical composition.

Then there was the moment when I was hiking alone on the jungle trails of Pozo Azul, looking for shots, when I came across a troupe of mantled howler monkeys cavorting around in the treetops at sunset. They were making a hell of a noise.

I learned a lot, too. The canopy and mixed cloud cover meant some unpredictable lighting situations. I shoot manually, but next time I would change the ISO and white balance to auto so I could focus more on composition. These are lessons that I hope to take on my next trip, documenting a climbing expedition to the Himalaya.”

Alexander Metcalfe

Alexander Metcalfe won the Active category in the Wanderlust Photo of the Year 2017 competition 

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