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Looking for the quetzal

Costa Rica has many activities to live unforgettable experiences for both visitors and locals. One of them is to appreciate the Quetzal, a very exotic and mythical bird with great significance for the Mayans and some other civilizations. We will tell you about our experience with this magnificent bird.

Pharomachrus mocinno - Quetzal common name
Pharomachrus mocinno - Quetzal common name

We left that day in January around 7 o'clock at night towards Cerro de la Muerte In San Gerardo de Dota. Traffic was flowing to leave San Jose that afternoon. We headed for the Interamerican route, with fog in some parts; the night was dark. We arrived around 10 at night to the lodge, a little tired to sleep so there was no room for dinner.

It was impressive to walk into the room and turn my eyes towards that starry sky. Countless stars I could observe, as I had seen many years ago as a child. I was fascinated and captivated by such a beautiful show. The person who received us at that time told us, "if you want to see the Quetzal, you must get up early, since one of the best hours is in the morning between 5 and 8 a.m." Ummmm! I had to get up early, I thought, I got to my room, it was very cold, I settled quickly, but not before going to the window and observing once again that beautiful starry sky. I was happy and maybe I would stay up all night watching my beautiful stars, even so, I had to sleep so I programmed the alarm clock on my phone at 4:45 a.m.

San Gerardo de Dota sunrise
San Gerardo de Dota sunrise

Early in the morning the alarm rang, and I really wanted to continue in the warm bed, even so, there was no option, I looked for the window and I loved the view I had, a beautiful sunrise with different tones. The meeting point was the restaurant where we had a cup of coffee to warm up. The guide greets us giving the necessary indications and we began the journey to the point where we had to stay still waiting for the Mayan god, the air god, the quetzal.

Tour instructions by the guide
Tour instructions by the guide

While we were waiting the guide told us the importance of quetzal for some civilizations such as the Mayans. He told the best time to observe it is between January to April. Quetzal arrives with the harvest of aguacatillo tree, which is one of its favorite fruit. The guide told us that the community of San Gerardo de Dota and Cerro de la Muerte have implemented the planting of this tree with crops at different times of the year to get closer the quetzal.

Waiting to see it
Waiting to see it

We continued waiting
with the guide and his explanations. He told us that the male is the one with
that large tail of colors, which he uses to enchant the female in the mating
season. Suddenly the guide gave us a signal of absolute silence, and then the
members of the group that we were there went one by one observing the beautiful
animal more closely. And as if he realized that it was observed, it rised and
leaved. No no no I thought, with this cold and this fog and our beautiful
quetzal goes away. Even so, we had to keep silent because the guide told us
that at any moment he would return. We stayed still, with any movement and
suddenly it appeared in a closer tree. I laugh in my thoughts and I said, but
this one that likes to be observed! It is something wonderful for anyone who enjoy
nature and to see the beautiful quetzal in its natural state with the
uncertainty that at any moment it will fly. It is an exciting experience with
great expectation that you can see it standing on the tree eating its fruit
with its beautiful colors.


The guide pointed us to another tree and there was another quetzal, same silence, same joy, the whole group gathered for the observation of the quetzal that seemed pleased with so much admiration. The goal was achieved!

We returned to the lodge a little hungry and cold, very happy because we could see this great bird. The guide was happy to please the group and grateful to the quetzal who showed up. He told us that the quetzals are faithful, they only have one partner for their whole lives. And, I thought that makes them more charming without a doubt. In addition, he told us that it is not a shy bird, which makes easier his observation and takes pictures.

Observation from the Lodge
Observation from the Lodge

The Mayans called the Quetzal the god of the air and was for them a symbol of goodness and light. Their green tail feathers were venerated as a symbol of growth in plants for spring. It is part of the mystical history of this emblematic bird that we have the happiness of being able to observe here in Costa Rica.

Story told by: Monica

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