Last Updated: May 20, 2021
As the sun sets on the jungle of Drake Bay, the forest comes alive. Where only a few hours earlier there were birds and monkeys to see, suddenly a whole new world begins to creep, crawl, and slither into the night.
We recently took a night tour through this mysterious world with Tracie the Bug Lady and felt like we were on the set of the Discovery Channel. This tour may sound scary at first, but if you like nature like us, you’re sure to be astounded at what you discover and learn. Here’s what you can expect on the night walk with Tracie the Bug Lady.
Our tour began near the center of Drake Bay, a small village on the remote Osa Peninsula. Drake Bay borders a large swath of rainforest that is said to be one of the most biodiverse in the world.
Even as we were standing there, learning how to use our headlamps, we could already hear the forest start to perk. Most noticeable were the small chirps from frogs and insects that got louder and more frequent as the sun began to set.
In Good Hands
It helped to know as we began our trek into the darkness that we were in good hands. Tracie and her husband, Gian, work as a team and have been doing night tours for over 10 years.
Our small group first met up with Gian. He’s an experienced guide who is passionate about wildlife, especially frogs and snakes.
As he led us down a footpath from town to a nearby dock, he stopped to show us a roosting bat near the beach. Shining his flashlight into the palm tree above, Gian explained that this species was a tent-making bat. These bats bend the leaves of plants to make themselves a nice little house. We also learned that this was one of more than 110 different species of bat found in Costa Rica alone!
Next we crossed a small river by boat and met up with Tracie on the other side.
Tracie is a biologist who is passionate about entomology. As we stood in a semicircle around her, Tracie indulged the group in her specialty—insects and spiders. We learned that wherever we looked, there were tiny sets of eyes staring right back at us. The color, she told us, determined what it was. A green sparkle meant spiders, flecks of orange were moths, mammals shine a bright orange glow, and so on. As if by magic, a large beetle landed next to her and started flashing the two small dots on its back on and off like a signal light.
The Story Behind It All
The best part of the tour in our opinion was the detailed stories about each creature we encountered. Instead of just rattling off the name of a spider, beetle, snake, or frog and moving on, Tracie and Gian took turns teaching us why each one was special.
We heard elaborate tales about a frog with toxic skin that may contain the next Viagra-like drug, a spider that literally casts a net like Spiderman, and a snake that can extend its body perfectly horizontal to reach the next branch and catch its dinner.
One of our favorites was that first beetle that landed nearby, the bioluminescent click beetle. This little beetle might have changed the course of history, according to some journals.
The story goes that when the British were exploring and staking claim to territories in the Caribbean, they saw a lot of lights moving around on the island that is known today as Cuba. Thinking that the lights were the torches of Spaniards ready to fight, they fled and staked claim to Jamaica instead. The beetles had scared them off!
To make these beetles even more fascinating, we learned that in some cultures, including in Mexico, they are placed in transparent cloth bags and pinned onto the dresses of young girls. The bugs act as a glimmering brooch, making these ladies literally glow for their special occasion.
A New Appreciation
As the night went on, it was hard not to become excited about everything we saw thanks to the enthusiasm of Gian and Tracie. Forget those science shows on TV that have you falling asleep on your couch, this was real life, right in front of us. Even the people on the tour who were squeamish about things like spiders and snakes seemed to relax a bit once they got to know more about the animals.
This was especially evident when Tracie found a red-eyed tree snake next to the trail. She quickly grabbed the mildly venomous snake, held it high, and gave us a close-up view. The whole group, well just about everyone, was all smiles.
Even the night’s scariest looking creature, a tailless whipscorpion, had the group leaning in for a closer look. These guys might look dangerous but are almost completely blind and relatively harmless, we learned.
As we followed Tracie and Gian across a wobbly foot bridge, crossing over the river, we came right back to the place where we had started. Tracie explained that she and Gian do tours almost every night and they are always different. They find something new (even to them) every 10 days or so. Her point was that you never know what the night will bring and around every corner there is something exciting and exhilarating to discover.
We left, walking down the trail to our cabin, with this philosophy in mind and a whole new appreciation for the creatures of the night. And yes, we saw plenty of mysterious sets of eyes sparkling and staring right back at us.
Tours are offered nightly at 7:30 p.m. Advanced reservations are highly recommended as group size is kept small and this is a popular tour. Sometimes Tracie and Gian will open up a 5:30 p.m. tour if the later one fills up.
2.5 hours (approximate)
$45 per person. No discount for children.
4 years old
What to Wear
Lightweight pants and closed-toe shoes (no sandals).
Thanks to Tracie and Gian for hosting us on the tour. As always, all opinions are our own.
Last Updated: May 20, 2021
Have you been on the night tour with Tracie and Gian? What did you see? Leave us a comment below.
Looking for more information to plan your trip to Costa Rica? Check out these posts:
Drake Bay: Costa Rica Unplugged – Read our full guide on Drake Bay for recommendations on where to stay and eat, and other great things to do.
Packing for Costa Rica: The Essentials – Drake Bay is one of those destinations where you need a few specific items in your suitcase. Read our post for more details.
Manuel Antonio Trip Planning – Manuel Antonio is the perfect destination to visit before or after your time in Drake Bay. It’s another wildlife hotspot but with a lot more conveniences.