trekking through a biodiversity hotspot in Costa Rica


view 0000 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

In the previous blogpost from Costa Rica, we teased you with a prospect of a naturalist report, so here it is: we had quite a remarkable expedition in one the most biodiverse locations in the world! And well, you guessed it – most of this trek was done by me (and to a less extent by my friends) in the buff – so once again, we were mixing naturism with big interest in natural history.

Costa Rica is a favorite for nature enthusiasts, with the highest percentage of protected land in the world; but even by Costa Rican standards, Corcovado National Park on the Osa Peninsula is very special. There are simply not many places left in the world where tropical rainforest meets the sea, and this park conserves the largest primary forest on the American Pacific coastline. For better or worse, visiting this park is highly regulated, e.g., it is forbidden to visit without a certified guide. The good thing is that the number of tourists is maintained at low levels, so there is no risk of overuse, but this makes it expensive and dependent on finding a guide. In our case, this guide also had to be OK with the idea of free-hiking, i.e. hiking without clothes. We were lucky to find one (through CouchSurfing) – both open-minded and knowledgeable about local wildlife. If you want to have a similar adventure, we highly recommend Elias (you can contact him via WhatsApp +50683811556).

So, we could enjoy this amazing natural habitat in the most natural attire,

naturist 0000 Corcovado, Costa Rica

but thanks to our guide we could also see a lot of wildlife that would otherwise be nearly impossible to spot – like this Dendrophidion snake.

Dendrophidion snake 0000 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

‘Hot lips’ of Psychotria elata plant were much easier to notice, and they seemed like a nice greeting in the beginning of the trail from Los Patos to Sirena station.

Psychotria elata – hot lips plant 0000 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

The forest was dominated by massive trees,

tree 0000 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

but during the first hour or so, there was also dense vegetation around the trail.

naturist 0001 Corcovado, Costa Rica

One has to be careful not to touch tree trunks and branches without looking at them, as they may be covered in spines,

spiny tree 0000 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

and some look just vicious!

spiny tree 0001 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

The first bird on the trail was crested guan (actually 3 of them).

crested guan 0000 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

Our guide didn’t seem too excited to see them, as they must be very common, but to me even this relative of turkey seemed like a good start for birdwatching (and guan is quite different from the turkeys we see in North America).

crested guan 0001 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

The first section of the trail after Los Patos is quite hilly, so I was certainly glad to walk without clothes, as you get sweaty easily in those conditions (and I guess even more so when you go there after 3-4 months of the northern winter, as we did this trip in the end of March last year).

naturist 0002 Corcovado, Costa Rica

The next animal we spotted was a green parrot snake creeping up the tree (this was my first tree snake).

Leptophis ahaetulla – green parrot snake 0000 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

This plant creeper’s movement we wouldn’t be able to detect unless we used cameras over long time, but it was interesting to see how it was able to climb up the trunk vertically, with one type of the leaves attached to the trunk.

tree 0001 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

This lizard seemed to be quiet curious about us,

tree lizard 0000 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

and it was posing well for the camera while climbing up the tree.

tree lizard 0001 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

Meanwhile, another kind of lizard seemed to be a lot more timid and preferred to hide in the leaves on the ground.

lizard 0000 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

Then we saw plenty of animals of a specific kind that are not only not trying to hide but actually clear their path from dead leaves…

leaf-cutter ants 0000 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

while carrying freshly cut leaf pieces towards their colony for mushroom farming.

leaf-cutter ants 0001 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

It was interesting to see the work of leaf-cutter ants at different stages

leaf-cutter ants 0002 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

(though the final steps of mushroom farming are well hidden under ground).

There were probably many more insects that remained unnoticed, as most of them are well camouflaged

grasshopper 0000 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

… unless they have outstanding pink eyes, like this grasshopper!

grasshopper 0001 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

This shiny beetle didn’t bother to hide, but then it was quite well armored, as if made of metal.

beetle 0000 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

After three hours of hiking, we crossed the first stream. It was shallow, but the water was clear and refreshing. It was full of small fish (also well camouflaged).

fish in the stream 0000 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

After walking in the dense forest, it was nice to be in a more open space,

and even nicer – to cool off in the stream (skinny-dipping, obviously).

naturist 0004 Corcovado, Costa Rica

Here we saw another lizard, the iconic basilisk, but only young individuals (nothing like the dragon at the Villa Roca hotel).

basilisc lizard 0000 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

One of them was on the hunt for dragonflies,

basilisc lizard and dragonfly 0001 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

though not very successfully.

basilisc lizard 0002 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

Not too far from the stream, we saw a blue-crowned motmot (similar to the one I saw by the cenotes in Yucatan).

Blue-crowned Motmot 0000 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

Back in the forest, we were impressed again by the trees and their roots. Those intertwining roots may create cozy niches for other plants

palm tree in ficus 0000 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

or anyone else willing to occupy them.

naturist 0021 Corcovado, Costa Rica

Some of those supporting, buttress roots were truly massive!

naturist 0006 Corcovado, Costa Rica

It’s worth noting, that to a large extent the roots wouldn’t be able to function without symbiosis with fungi, which do a lot of invisible job in the forest. We only notice them when they produce fruiting bodies for sexual reproduction, such as this purple mushroom.

purple mushroom 0000 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

At another spot, the ground was covered in purple flowers.

view 0001 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

This made us realize how much we were missing out by not being able to see the forest from the top. Quite a few of those trees must have been blooming, but the only way to see the flowers was when they would fall on the ground.

Besides the trees, lianas constitute a large and important part of plant life in the tropical forest,

liana 0000 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

and we saw really massive lianas in Corcovado, as thick as trees. And some had to take peculiar forms on their way up (a U-turn?)

liana 0001 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

Many lianas interweave and twist their stems, and this one on the photo below reminded me the double helix of DNA.

liana 0002 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

Sometimes it was even hard to tell the border between neighboring trees, or where their roots ended and lianas began – as if they were all interconnected.

tree 0002 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

And of course there were plenty of tree-dwelling animals that like this kind of mess.

squirrel monkey 0005 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

As we got across a big group of squirrel monkeys, it was amazing and amusing to see how easily they moved jumping between all those branches and lianas (on the photo above you can see how the tail is used for balancing).

squirrel monkey 0001 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

And they were equally good at using those brunches lounging =)

squirrel monkey 0002 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

It was hard to tell who was more curious: monkeys about us, or we about them?

squirrel monkey 0003 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

(Here you can see how the tail is used as a fifth limb.)

Though not all of them seemed that amused by the naked ape on the ground…

squirrel monkey 0004 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

While we were goggling at our fast-moving tailed and furry relatives, Elias noticed another creature in the trees – a sloth!

sloth 0000 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

It was sleeping (of course!) despite all the locomotion around.

The monkeys were in no rush to move away, and we could have spent much more time staring at each other, but we had to continue our trek.

squirrel monkey 0006 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

By that time, the forest became much drier (by rainforest standards), and flatter.

liana 0004 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

We passed through a grove of bamboos that were very tall but much thinner than typical species, but they were all intertwined and thus supported each other.

view 0003 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

Although by then we had seen and heard plenty of parrots, they were all in a distance; so when we encountered a scarlet macaw feeding calmly in plain view, it was a beautiful and rare sight!

Scarlet Macaw 0000 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

The next birdwatching opportunity presented itself shortly after and was equally exciting, though the bird wasn’t as bright except for the red face. It was quite excited about something too, as it announced its presence by piercing screeches (was it a warning for us?)

Mountain caracara 0000 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

It was a bird of prey, caracara, but I cannot tell the exact species. It looks most similar to mountain caracara, but this species is not known on the Osa peninsula… any specialists among the readers here?

The afternoon was quite hot, so when we crossed another river, it felt very timely.

view 0004 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

As the sun was setting, we had to continue to the campground at the Sirena biological station, but we were close already. That was when I realized I lost my shorts from the open pocket in the backpack! Unfortunately, the camp site is not clothing-optional here… but luckily one of my friends had a spare pair of briefs that looked like bicycle shorts.

At the approach to Sirena, we passed through a grove of fruiting pam trees with giant leaves.

palm tree 0000 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

The last animal we saw on the trail that day was a quiet bird tinamou.

tinamu 0000 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

But that wasn’t it for the day. As we were setting up the tent at the campground, a tapir ventured out in the open!

tapir 0002 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

I was stunned – this was the largest animal I’d seen in the wild.

tapir 0001 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

But the tapir himself couldn’t care less, was just passing the grassy area without much rush before disappearing in the forest again.

tapir 0003 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

As it was getting dark, we went to the cafeteria for dinner, where I had to explain that my boxers were shorts – you know, they still want to keep some style for dinners even  in the middle of the jungle 😀

At night we were enjoying our sleep despite the sounds of howler monkeys (which I first thought were jaguars!) and a thunderstorm. By the morning, everything was calm again. After breakfast, we ventured out to continue our trek.

view 0005 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

Almost immediately after the station, the trail comes to the beach and it goes along the shore, but as I mentioned, this is a place where the beach and the forest meet – so here you can enjoy them both. The sand is mostly volcanic black, though not as pure black as at Kehena in Hawaii.

tree with yellow and red flowers 0000 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

There was a tree with flowers that were either yellow or red, which seemed very unusual.

tree with yellow and red flowers 0001 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

One possibility is that the color changes as the flowers mature, because the fresher ones tended to be yellow. Any other ideas?

tree with yellow and red flowers 0002 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

We had to cross quite a few river mouths, but they were all pretty shallow. I believe this may change quite a lot depending on rain and tide.

view 0006 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

This explained why there were so many birds on the beach that are more typical for fresh water bodies,

bittern 0000 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

such as these bitterns.

bittern 0001 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

At the beach frontline, coconut palms were often the prevalent species; we passed through a few groves of those.

naturist 0007 Corcovado, Costa Rica

And the conditions seemed to be good for coconuts to germinate there. We also found a coconut that was full of juice, and our guide opened it for us using rocks and a regular knife. That a was perfect refreshment.

coconut sapling 0000 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

But here and there the trail would go deeper in the forest, with its giant trees and their intricate root systems.

naturist 0009 Corcovado, Costa Rica

Don’t be surprised if you see something like this golden orb-weaver spider on the web between those roots.

golden orb-weaver spider 0000 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

Though if you are lucky, you may see something prettier. You don’t see many orchids in the forest, because most of them grow higher in the trees.

orchid 0000 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

But here at the edge of the forest, even epiphyte orchids can grow closer to the ground, with more light available.

orchid 0001 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

There must be a lot of competition between plants in this dense habitat which we don’t notice, unless it’s something more obvious like this menacing strangler fig getting a hold of another tree.

strangler fig 0000 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

The amazingly intertwined lianas allowed me to stay suspended in the air, and I let my inner Tarzan out =)

naturist 0010 Corcovado, Costa Rica

But this trail never went too far from the shoreline, so there was a refreshing breeze.

view 0007 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

And on the beach, there was quite a lot of shade in the first half of the day.

naturist 0012 Corcovado, Costa Rica

So overall, this section of our trek went a lot more leisurely; just once in a while we’d need go over or around the rocks.

view 0009 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

Even though it’s a rainforest, there are some trees here that are adapted for periods without much rain by accumulating water in their thick trunks. These are ceibas, and they can get very tall too.

naturist 0013 Corcovado, Costa Rica

And if you smack their trunks, you can here a ringing resound because of their hollow nature.

Ceibas have beautiful flowers, but we only found their leftovers with stamens.

fallen flower 0000 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

And there were more trees with impressive buttress roots.

tree 0003 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

As we were approaching noontime, the sun was getting very strong, and there was less shade.

naturist 0015 Corcovado, Costa Rica

But we found a good spot to take a break, dip in the ocean and roll in the warm sand…

naturist 0016 Corcovado, Costa Rica

and climb a tree too.

naturist 0017 Corcovado, Costa Rica

Then the weather changed rapidly, and we were afraid to get in a rainstorm, but it never got stronger than some drizzle.

view 0010 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

So far, that day wasn’t very rich on animal sightings, we could only hope to see something in the ocean – Costa Rica is a known whale-watching destination after all, but there was nothing to be seen in the water from the shore… Then, Elias pointed at a whale on the shore itself!

Well, it was a dead one…

naturist 0019 Corcovado, Costa Rica

Very much dead indeed, but it’s as close as I’ve ever got to touching a whale. And we can only guess how it got this far in.

At the same spot, we saw a family of curious spider monkeys,

spider monkey 0000 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

they might be wondering as to how we lost our fur 😀

naturist 0018 Corcovado, Costa Rica

But it’d be fair to say, I felt like they were recognizing some family resemblance. Later, we saw a much bigger group of monkeys, but too high up in the trees to take photos. However, they also got interested in us, and were throwing fruit to us (and it didn’t seem like it was done in an aggressive manner). This reminded me of a recent story of a girl that was lost/abandoned in the jungle but survived at least partially thanks to the food that monkeys shared with her. Unfortunately, the mangos that were offered by the monkeys to us were not ripe at all except for one that was only barely edible.

Our next encounter was not so sociable, but I was very glad to be able to see it – an anteater. It was a northern tamandua, which is not a rare species, but still very elusive, especially during day time.

anteater northern tamandua 0001 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

And it is quite an agile tree climber, using its tail as an additional limb.

anteater northern tamandua 0000 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

We also saw two common black hawks.

mangrove black hawk 0000 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

One of them was enjoying a meal.

mangrove black hawk 0001 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

We saw a plenty of flying scarlet macaws again, which was a beautiful sight, but they moved too fast for taking photos.

Then we passed through a banana grove,  to which we probably wouldn’t have paid much attention, if only to check if for any fruit to snack on (and there weren’t any ripe). But our guide called us to look under one of the leaves. And there was a group of bats! Only one of them stayed for the photos though.

tent-making bat 0001 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

These are called tent-making bats, as they roost under big leaves which they bite in central section so that it folds as if roof of a tent.

tent-making bat 0000 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

And since they a frugivores, bananas can provide both food and shelter.

By the way, although most of the Corcovado National Park is a primary forest, some sections on the shore, where this trail passes, go through former plantations. I’ve already mentioned mangos and bananas, and they are not native species there. And even though Costa Rica is the largest producer of pineapples, those are not native either.

wild pineapple flower 0000 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

I assume this is a flowering pineapple plant, but it might be another bromeliad.

The last animal we saw by the trail before reaching La Leone ranger station was a coati.

coati 0000 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

These relatives of raccoons are among the most ubiquitous mammals in Corcovado, and they usually live in groups, so it was ironic that we saw only one and by the end of our trek, after having seen plenty of more exotic animals.

After some rest at the ranger station (already clothed), we continued walking on the beach towards the nearest settlement – Carate. There, we had a nice dinner and a shower, and then camped on the beach (naked again).

view 0011 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

It was a pitch-black night, warm but with a breeze, and camping on sand was comfortable – all promised a good night sleep. But we didn’t realize that there were numerous crabs waiting to come out from their holes at night. And some of them happened to be under our tent. So if you camp on a beach like that, try to find a spot without any holes.

Next day, we planned to explore the forest along the river Rio Nuevo, but the car that was supposed to pick us up didn’t arrive, and there was no mobile phone service… Then someone came to let us know that the car broke on the way, so we had to take a bus to Puerto Jimenez.

Elias then organized another excursion for us in the afternoon. It was no longer within the park, actually next to cow pastures, but the prospect of skinny dipping in the river sounded good.

naturist + monstera 0020 Corcovado, Costa Rica

I found a fruiting monstera plant, and as I had tried this fruit for the first time just briefly before the trip and loved it (and it was very expensive at a NYC supermarket), I was eager to munch on this one in nature. Even its scientific name is Monstera deliciosa!

monstera 0000 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

But unfortunately it wasn’t fully ripe, and it still had some irritating scales 😦

When I walked along the river, I saw a basilisk again.

basilisc lizard 0003 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

And this time, I finally saw with my own eyes, why it is also called a Jesus lizard – it can walk on water! Well, not really walk but rather run –

basilisc lizard 0004 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

and so fast, that you can hardly capture it with photography (unless you are well prepared for it).

I also saw a couple of tortoises in the river. But in a hole on the riverbank, there was another iconic reptile of the American tropics

boa constrictor 0000 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

– a boa constrictor. Unlike with the basilisk, I didn’t see it in action. I actually noticed a few ticks attached to it – so instead of a boa constrictor sucking life out of its prey, I saw those small arachnids sucking on its blood.

boa constrictor 0001 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

So much wildlife in so many forms we saw in those 3 days in Corcovado National Park and its surroundings, it’s amazing! If you are a nature enthusiast, it is certainly a top destination. Hopefully, you’ll have a good guide too. And in case you lose your shorts, you may find mine somewhere on the trail 😉

walking through the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest

naturist 0010 Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, California, USA

The oldest living forest is as sacred as it gets for someone who is into natural history – and that is what Schulman grove of the ancient bristlecone pine forest is. Just imagine walking among the living beings that are as old the Egyptian pyramids! Discovery of these ancient plants was very important for dendrochronology, the technique of dating events, particularly climatic changes, by the characteristic patterns of annual growth rings tree trunks. There is a nice tourist information centre, where you can get brochures about these trees and maps with the trails. This is not an official naturist territory, but being a part of the Inyo National Forest, it is a federal land, and there’s no federal law against nudity; needless to say we wanted to experience the hike in this ancient forest ‘as nature intended’, naked. We of course picked the longest trail, which is ~4 miles, and didn’t see any other hikers.

cones 0000 Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, California, USA

Looking at the cones, you clearly see how this tree got its name. Young seed cones are quite brightly colored; it takes them two years to mature.

cones 0001 Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, California, USA

Pollen cones are also bright but much smaller and mature within one season.

cones 0003 Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, California, USA

Given very dry conditions in the area, fallen cones accumulate in massive numbers before decaying,

cones 0006 Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, California, USA

sometimes forming “rivers” of cones.

naturist 0005 Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, California, USA

Some lucky seeds would sprout in conditions where hardly any other would be able to…

view 0008 Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, California, USA

and eventually would grow for thousands years on!

tree 0010 Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, California, USA

Perhaps a part of the bristlecone pine can die, even a large part, but even then it can go on with whatever is left. We were hiking on a beautiful warm and calm sunny day… but at these elevations of more than 3km above sea level, conditions can change drastically from hot to cold – throughout the day, and throughout the year; and surely it can get very windy there too.

view 0010 Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, California, USA

There is hardly any rain, winter brings precipitation but as snow. As the brochure explained, the bristlecone pines reach their record age not despite these harsh conditions but rather because of them, because they have to grow extremely slow. However, even though bristlecone pines clearly dominate this ancient forest,

view 0002 Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, California, USA

there are some other plants too.

Rock Spiraea creates a very dense moss-like cover, soft to touch.

plant 0000 Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, California, USA

But it’s certainly no moss, with its flowers sticking out… and attracting flies. I thought that they would stink, as many flowers do when they use flies for pollination, but I couldn’t smell anything.

plant 0001 Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, California, USA

The bushes of mountain mahogany cover a few less steep slopes.

tree 0007 Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, California, USA

Their long fuzzy-tailed seeds drill into the soil, when moisture causes them to untwist (according to the brochure).

tree 0008 Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, California, USA

If you are not so much into botany,

naturist 0006 Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, California, USA

the views are pretty amazing too!

view 0004 Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, California, USA

And it’s just a very pleasant hike – not too easy, but not too demanding either. (But keep in mind there are also shorter trails, if you don’t have much time or aren’t adjusted well to lower oxygen levels at this altitude).

naturist 0011 Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, California, USA

Also keep in mind that sun radiation is much stronger at this altitude;

view 0007 Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, California, USA

so even though I’m not a fan of hats, I appreciated I had one on the hike (I hope that still counts as a naked hike).

naturist 0001 Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, California, USA

But you can always chill in the shade too…

Sitting on the roots of these trees, you can’t help thinking of their impressive longevity… or brevity of our civilization? The oldest known specimen has lived virtually throughout our entire written history!

naturist 0002 Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, California, USA

And some of them offer even cozier seats for lounging

naturist 0013 Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, California, USA

(or artsy photos, if you consider the first one of this blogpost as such).

PS For weather reference, this hike was done in early September of 2016.

recap of some naked surf fun and watching sea life at Black’s Beach

I’ve already written up about Black’s Beach twice – in general, and on our first nude surfing experience there specifically – but as I’m finishing the latest Californian series of blogposts, I can’t help adding some new footage from surfing there again, as well as photos of marine life.

Well, I guess I have to promise to post another video in the future when I improve both my surfing skills and using GoPro camera. It was my very first attempt to shoot a video with GoPro on a surfboard, so I’m pretty confident the next one will be better. In any case, it was still a lot of fun to play with the waves naked. And it was very liberating too, especially after that pretty long (especially when you carry a surfboard) hike down the dirt trail from the parking lot to the beach.

I was very happy to find quite a few other naked surfers (including one woman) on those days. And a couple of days ago, as I was preparing my footage for this post, I got across this recent video of a guy surfing naked at Black’s Beach.

Who knows, maybe some time soon those nude surfing contests will be back at Black’s Beach?!

naturist 0002 Blacks Beach, California, USA

Black’s Beach would be also perfect for a barefoot (or should I say bare all around?) running race, with its perfect flat wet sand (not necessarily submerged in water, as on the photo above, but running in water could be a sport of its own).

sand 0002 Blacks Beach, California, USA

Speaking of sand at Black’s Beach, it fascinated me quite a lot how those sand grains of different colors formed various patterns

sand 0000 Blacks Beach, California, USA

depending on the waves and tides.

sand 0001 Blacks Beach, California, USA

These patterns change from place to place as you walk along the beach,

sand 0003 Blacks Beach, California, USA

and throughout the day too.

sand 0004 Blacks Beach, California, USA

The symmetry of this pattern is amazing

sand 0005 Blacks Beach, California, USA

but inexplicable to me due to lack of enough knowledge in physics and geology 😎

Even more exciting view followed from the ocean, however!

dolphins 0000 Blacks Beach, California, USA

Well, it could also be a worrisome sight, if I thought those might be sharks… But dolphins are a lot commoner in these water, and the fountain from the blowhole revealed their identity with certainty.

dolphins 0002 Blacks Beach, California, USA

I’ve never seen wild dolphins in the ocean so close!

dolphins 0001 Blacks Beach, California, USA

(I have to specify “in the ocean”, because I did swim with wild river dolphins in the Amazon, and canoed next to sea dolphins in the mangroves in Florida.)

dolphins 0003 Blacks Beach, California, USA

Another time, dolphins appeared at sunset.

dolphins 0004 Blacks Beach, California, USA

They were even more active, probably feasting on a shoal of fish,

dolphins 0006 Blacks Beach, California, USA

and I hoped to get a picture of a dolphin jumping above the setting sun 😀 Was that too much to ask? Well, I got pretty close to it!

dolphins 0005 Blacks Beach, California, USA

As a bonus afterwards, a seal came by as well, but it was getting too dark to take a decent picture of it.

seal 0000 Blacks Beach, California, USA

Once again, Black’s Beach proved to be an amazing site for beach activities and marine life observation. I can’t wait to go back!

Palenque – hiking in the rainforest around ancient Mayan site

naturist 0024 Palenque, Chiapas, Mexico

I visited several Mayan sites throughout southern Mexico, and Palenque definitely stood out thanks to some of the most magnificent ruins surrounded by equally majestic tropical rainforest. It is a popular tourist site, so don’t expect me to streak right there.

naturist 0021 Palenque, Chiapas, Mexico

However, I didn’t miss the opportunity to explore the jungle right around Palenque ruins in the buff. naturist 0023 Palenque, Chiapas, Mexico

Given the warm and humid tropical climate, this idea was nothing odd. The only tricky part was that I was going to get a guide, as I was alone this time and didn’t want to get lost on the unknown territory. Upon arrival to the ruins, I was immediately approached by one of many certified guides awaiting tourists. His name was Cruz; in case you happen to be in Palenque and find a guide with this name, maybe you’ll be lucky to have the same guy! He first offered a tour at the ancient site itself and just briefly mentioned the protected rainforest around it. I was intrigued about the latter, and he convinced me that it was actually one of the best preserved virgin tropical rainforests in the area.  However, I figured that I’d be able to get around the ancient site on my own and would rather need a guide in the forest. As we were discussing hiking in the areas where very few visitors ventured out, it wasn’t long till I asked Cruz my burning question: “Could I hike naked?” He seemed puzzled for a second, so I briefly explained him the concept of naturism. Also, in that weather, the clothes is definitely obsolete… “and, – I continued – that’s probably how your ancient Mayan ancestors explored the jungle too”. Cruz seemed convinced and even murmured that I wouldn’t be the first tourist to do so either.

So, after I was done with the pyramids, temples and castles, Cruz met me again, carrying a machete this time, and we headed to the trail. Well, actually there was no trail, we just walked by a small spring. There were clear signs of more ruins still covered by the forest, and Cruz said that was what satellite images suggested; the whole site was taken over by forest after it was abandoned, and only a fraction was cleared after its rediscovery.

naturist 0000 Palenque, Chiapas, Mexico

There were a lot of snails in the creek, and Cruz collected them for a later meal.

snail 0010 Palenque, Chiapas, Mexico

In some places, we had to do a little bit of rock-climbing.

naturist 0001 Palenque, Chiapas, Mexico

Maybe it was the sweat after all that, or my ‘ancient Maya’ argument was so strong, but when I told my guide that he should as well hike naked like me, he liked the idea. It seemed to me he only waited till I would suggest him to disrobe.

Somewhere midway up the hill, we left the creek bed and turned right into the jungle. That’s where Cruz made use of his machete, although he still lead the path up the easier way, e.g., along fallen trees.

naturist 0002 Palenque, Chiapas, Mexico

We saw some beautiful flowers on the way, like this heliconia, for example.

heliconia 0013 Palenque, Chiapas, Mexico

However, these blue leaves appeared far more extraordinary, as blue is not a very common colour even among flowers, let along leaves.

naturist 0014 Palenque, Chiapas, Mexico

Cruz told me a lot about local plants, but unfortunately I cannot recall most of it. I remember seeing papayas in places where sunlight wasn’t blocked by tall trees,

papaya 0012 Palenque, Chiapas, Mexico

but there were also some fruits that weren’t edible.

palm tree fruit 0011 Palenque, Chiapas, Mexico

I thought that this vine was a passionfruit, but Cruz said it was something else. I forgot if he said it was edible, although it did not look ripe in any case.

passionfruit 0015 Palenque, Chiapas, Mexico

It was great to see such a diversity of fruits, it made me confident that with certain knowledge I’d be able to survive there, if I were lost; especially papayas looked encouraging in that respect. That was a tropical rainforest after all! Though after very good blueberry season in New York last summer, I can’t complain here either.

Well, the forest wasn’t just full of plants, there were animals too, but most of them would rather avoid encounters with humans, especially during day. There was one notable exception, though – a spider monkey!

spider monkey 0000 Palenque, Chiapas, Mexico

We were already on top of the hill, and Cruz pointed up one tree. There was a spider monkey, really close to us, munching some leaves calmly. It was fascinating to see how easily he moved through the trees, not without help of his fifth “limb”, the tail.

spider monkey 0003 Palenque, Chiapas, Mexico

And it’s not like he didn’t see us, he stared at us curiously for a while and didn’t seem to be worried.

spider monkey 0001 Palenque, Chiapas, Mexico

He continued his business and then would only pay attention to us when Cruz imitated spider-monkey calls.

spider monkey 0004 Palenque, Chiapas, Mexicospider monkey 0005 Palenque, Chiapas, Mexico

According to Cruz, monkeys are the only wild animals in the area that feel at ease near humans, maybe because of our close evolutionary kindred. Then it definitely helped that we were naked. Have I mentioned he was naked too?

spider monkey 0002 Palenque, Chiapas, Mexico

After he left, I realised I was hungry too, so I happily got to my mangos and other local fruits.

naturist 0008 Palenque, Chiapas, Mexico

Although we were on top of the hill, we could not see much around because of the trees, and I didn’t feel like climbing those.

naturist 0016 Palenque, Chiapas, Mexico

It was time to go down, but we went by the other side of the hill, and soon reached the dry bed of another creek.

naturist 0009 Palenque, Chiapas, Mexico

We heard some loud animal calls, so I hid under the huge leaf of anthurium.

naturist 0005 Palenque, Chiapas, Mexico

It had two holes that perfectly matched my eyes… but no one showed up.

naturist 0017 Palenque, Chiapas, Mexico

We continued walking, and I was mesmerised by some very tall trees.

naturist 0003 Palenque, Chiapas, Mexico

Even some lianas grew as thick as trees.

naturist 0018 Palenque, Chiapas, Mexico

When we reached the spring, it was nice to refresh in its cool water,

naturist 0006 Palenque, Chiapas, Mexico

and we continued our hike down along it.

naturist 0007 Palenque, Chiapas, Mexico

We were approaching the border of the forest, however, so after some final naked shots, it was time to get dressed again.

naturist 0004 Palenque, Chiapas, Mexico

Then I took photos of the ruins in the nice late afternoon sun.

naturist 0019 Palenque, Chiapas, Mexico

Now I had a pretty good impression of what that wooded hill next to the ruins was like.

naturist 0020 Palenque, Chiapas, Mexico

It was hard to judge whether I was impressed more by the magnificent constructions or the equally splendid forest… Probably it was the combination of both that made Palenque very special.

hiking at Mount Tauhara, New Zealand

The central region of the North Island of New Zealand is known for its picturesque views of Lake Taupo, Rotorua, Mount Ruapehu, Waikato River and the famous Tongariro Crossing. While these places are worth a visit, there is another peak that is worth a climb.

naturist 0000 Mount Tauhara, North Island, New Zealand

New Zealand does not have any specific laws that prohibit nakedness in public, so I decided to climb Mount Tauhara near Taupo nude on a recent sunny afternoon.

naturist 0001 Mount Tauhara, North Island, New Zealand

The climb begins by opening a gate to a cow farm. The cows were staring and mooing at me as I passed. Watch out for the cow dung! The beginning of the hike is rather open, with little tree cover so I waited to disrobe until I was under cover (I forgot my sun cream). This section of the climb, through the farm, is the most strenuous as it is steep. This summer has been extremely dry and a drought has been declared in the area.

naturist 0002 Mount Tauhara, North Island, New Zealand

Once I reached the watering tanks, I removed my clothing and started through the lush green forest that surrounds the mountain. It was much cooler and my non protected skin was happy not to be completely exposed to the harsh sun. The covered section of the climb has some very gentle climbs and others that get much more steep. There is a waterfall during the trek up, but the drought has made it more of a trickle.At several points on the climb there are fantastic views of the city of Taupo, its lake, and on very clear days the peaks of Mount Ruapehu, Mount Ngauruhoe, and Mount Tongariro.

naturist 0005 Mount Tauhara, North Island, New Zealand

This day was a perfect. However, on cloudy or foggy days you can actually be above the clouds once you reach the top section. The 360 degree views are amazing. The peak has areas where you can walk and see other magnificent views.

naturist 0004 Mount Tauhara, North Island, New Zealand

The walk up the 1,088 meter climb is considered strenuous and takes approximately 90 minutes. It takes 45-60 minutes to climb down.

naturist 0003 Mount Tauhara, North Island, New Zealand

It is not well groomed and many locals are the people that climb it. Mount Tauhara is in a protected Maori area and access can be restricted by the tribe that protects it, so I was careful to have my shorts ready in case someone that protects the mountain objected to my nudity.

I have always had a meaningful experience on my 30 climbs of Mount Tauhara, and I am glad I finally completed the climb in the nude this time.   naturist 0006 Mount Tauhara, North Island, New Zealand

This a a guest post. Text and photos by Nick.

famous Black’s Beach!

In the mid-November, I was lucky to go with my new colleagues for the biggest conference in my field, the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience, and that time it was held in the sunny San Diego. Of course, it wouldn’t have been me, if I hadn’t planned to visit a nudist beach there, especially such a famous one as Black’s Beach. And I was double lucky that on the warmest day during my stay, when it was over 25ºC, the program seemed the least interesting so I skipped most of the day and headed to the beach (see the map for exact location).

As soon as I reached, it was pretty clear why this beach is so famous: it is, obviously, one of the biggest clothing-optional beaches and the view from the cliffs is stunning! It reminded me of the beaches of Meco in Portugal and Ga’ash in Israel.

I was surprised that on such an unusually warm day for November it was relatively empty, although it was Sunday, but I noticed some naked sunbathers immediately.

There are several trails leading down, and apparently I chose not the easiest one, but it was fun.

And I saw some lizards on the way down, apparently the enjoyed the sun too.
Soon I was walking on the soft beach sand, and look how the waves create a beautiful ornament of black and gold.
Then I saw that besides sunbathers there were surfers too!
But not naked :-/
Well, the water wasn’t too warm… But actually, first time I heard of Black’s Beach was because of the Nude Surfing Event. (check this link for more info)
Here is a video of one of the surfers.
Now, I’ve found that they actually arrange naked surfing lessons from July till September! I want to do that!!!
… but coming back to my calm day at the Black’s Beach, I was looking for a nice spot to lie down. I stayed near bushes and soon found that I had some neighbors: a rabbit (could not manage to take a photo of it) and a California ground squirrel that was quite tame and obviously was attracted to my nuts. (I mean I had some almonds with me 🙂

But then I got to know a bit more communicative neighbor, local visitor Alex. We chatted for a while, and it was him who disillusioned me by saying that such a hot day was not common that time of the year even in Southern California… But I still thought to myself that I might have made a mistake not applying for job at Salk Institute which is located practically on top of Black’s Beach, hehe. The idea that one can walk to such a beautiful beach for a lunch break sounds tantalizing! I did go to a lake for lunch breaks in my first year in Berlin until our lab moved, but even then my work was not that close to a naturist retreat like here.

Later in the afternoon I went jogging all along the beach and this gave me the real impression of how huge the beach is! But, apparently not all beach is officially a clothing optional area. When I ran in the northern direction one elderly man waived to me and told that I was way beyond the nude-friendly area and might get fined! If I understood correctly, the clothing optional part ends to the north of these rocks. But there was no sign. In any case, I didn’t feel bad, as only 2 or 3 people saw me in that section of the beach and there were either coming from or heading to the clothing-optional part, so I doubt they would be shocked by seeing a naked jogger.
Other people that I met gave me much more pleasant news. I saw one guy practicing some capoeira moves, but unfortunately he had to leave soon. I still haven’t mentioned that I did swim there too. The water was a little chilly, but I could stand it for 20-30min, amongst few others. And then, the only neighbor of mine, who went for long swims too, was coming from the sea almost crying. Don’t worry, he wasn’t bitten by a shark, those were tears of happiness as he saw a school of dolphins right next to him! He said it was one the most beautiful moments in his life, and I was very disappointed at myself that I left the ocean just about 10min earlier… I have swum with dolphins once, but that was in murky waters of Rio Negro in the Amazon basin so I couldn’t really see them underwater…
And when I was going back at sunset I saw a group of people playing volleyball, in the buff of course. This beach certainly seems to be perfect for many kinds of naturist activities 🙂

Before I was going to wear my clothes, I saw a threatening warning ‘Unstable Cliffs. Stay Back’
And I did so and enjoy one of the most beautiful sunsets 😎

One of the next (colder) days, I went there again with my colleagues for a short hike in Torrey Pines Park. When we went down to the beach I took some more photos, like this one with giant algae brought by waves on the shore.

And these are sandpipers; the smaller ones always run somewhat clumsily trying to escape the waves, while the bigger one stay calm.
And once in a while there were flocks of (probably) pelicans…
So overall, Black’s Beach seems to be perfect for nature lovers and active beach-goers. I hope to go there again, perhaps for a class of naked surfing!