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 😉

Raja Ampat archipelago in the Indonesian Papua: paradise above and under water

naturist 0002 Raja Ampat, Papua, Indonesia

Who wouldn’t like a full week spent at a tropical, green archipelago surrounded by pristine waters? Writing this makes me want to throw myself back to those worry-free 7 days (almost a year ago) of a sailing trip at one of the natural marine wonders of our planet.

clown fish coral reef 0001 Raja Ampat, Papua, Indonesia

This post comes all the way from the magnificent marine park of Raja Ampat in Papua.

islands view 0011 Raja Ampat, Papua, Indonesia

Raja Ampat is an archipelago on the northern tip of the Bird’s Peninsula on the island of New Guinea or Papua, as it’s locally called. It belongs to Indonesian territory and is one of the easternmost provinces in the archipelago. Raja Ampat is a local language for Four Kings. In terms of history, Raja Ampat Archipelago in the 15th century was part of the reign of Tidore Sultanate, a great kingdom centered in Moluccas Islands. The Sultanate of Tidore appointed 4 local kings to rule the islands of Waigeo, Batanta, Salawati and Misool, which are the four largest islands to this day. The term 4 Kings who rule the islands became the root of the name Raja Ampat.

We spent the whole week in Raja Ampat. We were a group of 6, sailing on a wooden boat to explore the archipelago. This is the best way to explore the area: since it is an archipelago, you need to spend most of your days on or in the water to get the best experience of Raja Ampat.

Raja Ampat is claimed to boast the richest marine biodiversity in the world.

clown fish coral reef 0000 Raja Ampat, Papua, Indonesia

Right from the moment I arrived in the islands, I couldn’t stop my admiration of the beautiful surroundings – its breathtaking landscape and waters just blew my mind away.

naturist 0001 Raja Ampat, Papua, Indonesia

Many locals claimed these islands to be a paradise on Earth, and I must agree with that statement!

islands view 0004 Raja Ampat, Papua, Indonesia

We started from the central islands of the archipelago.

islands view 0003 Raja Ampat, Papua, Indonesia

We were presented with a wide array of beautiful corals from the first days.

coral reef 0008 Raja Ampat, Papua, Indonesia

They were very colorful and in good shape

coral reef 0007 Raja Ampat, Papua, Indonesia

– encouraging to see that in the age when many coral reefs suffer from bleaching due to pollution.

coral reef 0000 Raja Ampat, Papua, Indonesia

The fish too were no less colorful, as if they were competing to win the best outfit.

coral reef 0002 Raja Ampat, Papua, Indonesia

Merely by snorkeling, you can see the best of Raja Ampat.

naturist 0005 Raja Ampat, Papua, Indonesia

Yes, you need very minimal 😉 gear to enjoy all that extraordinary underwater world!

naturist 0007 Raja Ampat, Papua, Indonesia

The next days were spent venturing northbound

islands view 0007 Raja Ampat, Papua, Indonesia

to get to Wayag –

islands view 0010 Raja Ampat, Papua, Indonesia

the jungle covered islets, that often appear in the internet as a classic example of ‘tropical paradise’.

islands view 0006 Raja Ampat, Papua, Indonesia

Swimming, snorkeling, sunbathing, fishing, are among the things you could enjoy in the sailing trips… In Raja Ampat, you can even feed sharks and swim with them too!

shark coral reef 0000 Raja Ampat, Papua, Indonesia

Well, they weren’t that huge, but at first it was scary and made me nervous… Soon enough though, I found myself mingle with those sharks at ease, which was quite fascinating.

There are lodges on the bigger islands, and some of them offer full packages, where you can do a lot of water activities. But for me, sailing trip seemed to be the best way to experience Raja Ampat, as it allowed to wander as far as we wanted.

islands view 0012 Raja Ampat, Papua, Indonesia

It was also great to have some breaks from being on/in the water, and explore the islands – even hiking naked in the tropical forest!

islands view 0008 Raja Ampat, Papua, Indonesia

While the rest of the group were not keen on disrobing, I managed to exercise some naturism, mostly away from the group. I must admit that I am a newbie to naturism, which prevented me from being myself and naked in the whole journey… but I still enjoyed a good portion of it in the buff! I still recall how nice it felt to be naked and let the tropical breeze sweep your skin.

naturist 0010 Raja Ampat, Papua, Indonesia

It was definitely hot, but enjoyable. As many have said, the sun is the best treatment.

naturist 0004 Raja Ampat, Papua, Indonesia

Best part? Of course swimming naked and snorkeling in the most beautiful underwater world!

naturist 0009 Raja Ampat, Papua, Indonesia

If you are keen on spending some of the best days of your life in this paradise, I would surely recommend you to visit the islands. The authorities restrict the number of tourists visiting the islands, which is actually nice, as you can enjoy the islands almost all to yourself when you get there, especially, once again, if you take a sailing trip. The crew of the boat might be not too familiar with naturism, if you want to make it a nude sailing trip, but I think they’d be open enough if you could explain it to them.

 

text and imagery by Miko

Bare Burro – 5k trail run in SoCal on 23 Apr

Olive Dell Ranch in Southern California has announced a new course for its annual nude running race, the Bare Burro 5K. The new route will go through the trails and hills in the rustic Ranch, and the race has been re-named the Bare Burro 5K Trail Run. The 2017 edition of the race will take place 23 April.

“We’re adding the word ‘trail’ to the event to really emphasize that this is a 5K like no other,” Olive Dell Ranch owner Becki Kilborn said. “We like to change up the course every few years to keep it fresh, and this year we’re changing the name to reflect that, too.”

The Bare Burro Run started in 2010 and is now established as the premier nude running event in Southern California. The wild burros usually visible from the course inspired the punning name of the race, because competitors run the race bare… burro. Almost 200 runners completed the course in 2016, despite an overcast and cool weather. The Bare Burro has been featured in the calendar section of Los Angeles alternative newspaper LA Weekly, and last year’s Bare Burro was featured in OC Weekly and was the subject of a two-page article in the British naturist magazine H&E.

Running shoes are strongly recommended for runners but nudity is not an “option” at the Bare Burro, for runners or onlookers: It’s a requirement. “We’re a nudist resort, and we expect people to get with the program here. We’ve found that many dedicated runners are fine with that: ‘You want us to run with no clothes on? Okay.’ Then we don’t see them again until the next year,” Kilborn chuckled. “When it’s cool in the early morning, everybody — even our veteran nudists — are dressed, but by race time it’s usually warm enough. After a few minutes, everybody acclimates to being nude. You may forget to put your clothes back on until you’re on the freeway going home.”

Runners can register through the Olive Dell Ranch website. Registration for runners is $35 in advance, $40 after April 1, and $45 the day of the race, if space is available. Participation is limited to 300 runners, who will all receive an informational packet and souvenir reusable insulated bag. Registered runners may bring friends to cheer them on; they will be required to pay the Olive Dell daily entrance fee. Runners and their friends are welcome to remain on the grounds for the awards ceremony and use Olive Dell’s pool, hot tub and other facilities for the rest of the day.

 

Here is a promo video, but you may check out our announcement from last year for some more imagery.

 

 

Tyagarah lake, Australia

Tyagarah Lake is located in Northern New South Wales, Australia, about a 30 drive minutes from well known Byron Bay (and the very popular naturist spot Kings Beach). It is a picturesque small freshwater lake just minutes from the beach. A much larger lake is across the road next it but this is swampy and inaccessible.

view 0002 Tyagarah lake, New South Wales, Australia

Tyagarah Lake is a popular spot for locals and not a known tourist spot, as it’s off the main highway, on a dirt road and not near any towns.  But it is still easy to get to: turn off the Pacific Highway onto Greys Lane and follow it as it turns into a dirt road on the way to Tyagarah Nature reserve beach. Before you make it to the beach you will see cars parked on the road.

view 0005 Tyagarah lake, New South Wales, Australia

Look for the Tyagarah Nature reserve signs to find the path in.  It’s only a very short 3 min walk in to reach the lake.

naturist 0000 Tyagarah lake, New South Wales, Australia

While I like it as the main destination for the day it is also a popular stop when driving back from Tyagarah Beach (also a naturist spot!) to rinse off the ocean and sand on the way home.  It is such a beautiful peaceful spot.

naturist 0001 Tyagarah lake, New South Wales, Australia

The water is never too cold and is the perfect temperature to jump right in.

naturist 0003 Tyagarah lake, New South Wales, Australia

The surrounding trees go right up the waters edge providing many shady resting spots.

view 0004 Tyagarah lake, New South Wales, Australia

The surrounding trees are known as “Tea Trees” or “Paperbarks” (Melaleuca alternifolia).

Tea tree (paperback) 0001 Tyagarah lake, New South Wales, Australia

This is what makes the lake particularly special. At first glance the water looks brown and barely swimmable, but it because when Tea Trees grow beside a lake, their oil drips down into the water making it look like tea.

view 0001 Tyagarah lake, New South Wales, Australia

The water is very fresh and clean and the oil leaves a lovely moisturizing residue on your skin.

tea tree 0000 Tyagarah lake, New South Wales, Australia

Tea Tree oil has been used traditionally by Australian Aboriginal people as an antiseptic on the skin and as an insect repellant. Squeezing the small leaves releases the oil and a refreshing scent.

Tea tree 0002 Tyagarah lake, New South Wales, Australia

Tyagarah is named from an Aboriginal word meaning tussocks of sharp bladed grass. There is lots of grass of this description growing in the lake, so it is well named.

view 0003 Tyagarah lake, New South Wales, Australia

Other beautiful sights on the lake are the water lilies and dragonflies.

dragonfly on water lily 0000 Tyagarah lake, New South Wales, Australia

When it’s time to leave after a last swim and before you put your clothes back on, a short walk can be taken all the way around the lake and reveals and some smaller inlets and swampy areas.

naturist 0002 Tyagarah lake, New South Wales, Australia

Ramanat, Minas Girais

English

Ramanat é uma pousada nudista localizada em Minas Gerais (região
Sudeste) do Brasil.

naturist 0000 Ramanat, Minas Girais, Brasil

A guest house se desfiliou-se da federação naturista,

naturist 0002 Ramanat, Minas Girais, Brasil
mas ainda assim é um belissimo lugar com vários chalés, piscinas e
trilhas na mata para se caminhar.

naturist 0001 Ramanat, Minas Girais, Brasil

Infelizmente agora não funciona o website do Ramanat. Nós tentamos o contato com o Ramanat mas nenhum dos telefones estava funcionando.

André

Ramanat – naturist guesthouse in SE Brazil

português

Ramanat is a naturist guesthouse in the state of Minas Gerais, Brasil.

naturist 0000 Ramanat, Minas Girais, Brasil

The guest house is no longer affiliated with the naturist federation,

naturist 0002 Ramanat, Minas Girais, Brasil

but it is still a great place for a rustic getaway with pools and numerous trails to explore the forest.

naturist 0001 Ramanat, Minas Girais, Brasil

However, the website of Ramanat is not functioning at the moment, and we haven’t been able to reach them by phone either, unfortunately. Hopefully it’s just a renovation!

André

Gator Hook Trail, Big Cypress Preserve, Florida

And one more little adventure from my Florida trip a year ago. I already wrote about a scenic trail in Big Cypress National Preserve, but believe it or not, South Florida has a few more trails that prove that hiking on a flat terrain can be exciting, and here is one of them: Gator Hook trail. Maybe it’s for the better that Florida is not known for hiking, so you can often find the trail all to yourself… and enjoy it ‘as nature intended’, in the buff – as several of us did, lead by Dave from Florida Great Outdoors group.

view 0000 Gator Hook Trail, Big Cypress National Preserve, Florida, USA

We started off early in the morning,

view 0001 Gator Hook Trail, Big Cypress National Preserve, Florida, USA

but by the time we arrived the sun was already pretty high, and it was obvious we’d have a hot day ahead.

view 0003 Gator Hook Trail, Big Cypress National Preserve, Florida, USA

However, there was still dew all over the palm leaves

view 0004 Gator Hook Trail, Big Cypress National Preserve, Florida, USA

and the cypresses.

view 0005 Gator Hook Trail, Big Cypress National Preserve, Florida, USA

We were ready to disrobe right away, but then we heard cars approaching the trailhead, and soon a pretty big group of people arrived. Luckily, they didn’t go far, just to the nearest cypress dome (that is a grove of cypress trees around the swamp waterhole).

view 0006 Gator Hook Trail, Big Cypress National Preserve, Florida, USA

Afterwards, we had the trail to ourselves again.

naturist 0004 Gator Hook Trail, Big Cypress National Preserve, Florida, USA

It was quite dry (for a swamp),

plant 0000 Gator Hook Trail, Big Cypress National Preserve, Florida, USA

but a few puddles were scattered here and there.

view 0008 Gator Hook Trail, Big Cypress National Preserve, Florida, USA

One of them hosted a water moccasin, which was a lot calmer than the ones we saw 2 years ago.

water mocassin 0000 Gator Hook Trail, Big Cypress National Preserve, Florida, USA

This time I was a lot luckier capturing another local reptile – Carolina anole, while he was flashing his brightly colored throat fan.

brown-anole-0000-Gator-Hook-Trail,-Big-Cypress-National-Preserve,-Florida,-USA-s

Besides this unidentified monster everything went quiet,

view 0007 Gator Hook Trail, Big Cypress National Preserve, Florida, USA

and we enjoyed the tranquility of the place.

naturist 0006 Gator Hook Trail, Big Cypress National Preserve, Florida, USA

We also paid attention to the local plants and were hoping to see a blooming orchid.

naturist 0000 Gator Hook Trail, Big Cypress National Preserve, Florida, USA

Some plants were rather typical for a tropical rainforest, like this strangler fig, reminding that South Florida is a tiny outcrop of the tropics in the continental US.

strangler ficus 0000 Gator Hook Trail, Big Cypress National Preserve, Florida, USA

This palm seemed to attempt a similar take-over of another tree, though without strangling roots, it would probably end up just growing next to it.

palm tree 0000 Gator Hook Trail, Big Cypress National Preserve, Florida, USA

There were also quite a few fern species,

fern 0000 Gator Hook Trail, Big Cypress National Preserve, Florida, USA

and the one below had leaves reminiscent of snake skin.

fern 0001 Gator Hook Trail, Big Cypress National Preserve, Florida, USA

Typically for this part of the world, many trees were covered by bromeliads.

naturist 0001 Gator Hook Trail, Big Cypress National Preserve, Florida, USA

Some were blooming,

bromeliad 0000 Gator Hook Trail, Big Cypress National Preserve, Florida, USA

others were already releasing their airborne fruit.

bromeliad 0001 Gator Hook Trail, Big Cypress National Preserve, Florida, USA

… and they provided a cozy habitat for grasshoppers.

grasshopper on bromeliad 0000 Gator Hook Trail, Big Cypress National Preserve, Florida, USA

We also saw a beautiful blue iris,

iris 0000 Gator Hook Trail, Big Cypress National Preserve, Florida, USA

I wish I could capture its sweet smell in the photograph too!

iris 0001 Gator Hook Trail, Big Cypress National Preserve, Florida, USA

Then we found orchids with their fruits already dry and open, so I though it could be too late to see any with flowers…

orchid 0004 Gator Hook Trail, Big Cypress National Preserve, Florida, USA

But then we saw quite a few blooming ones!

orchid 0001 Gator Hook Trail, Big Cypress National Preserve, Florida, USA

Not quite as spectacular as the orchids sold commercially, but it was exciting to see them in the wild. (I think this is a dingy flowered star orchid).

orchid 0002 Gator Hook Trail, Big Cypress National Preserve, Florida, USA

Not sure what kind of plant is this one below, but its tiny flowers were very pretty too.

flower 0000 Gator Hook Trail, Big Cypress National Preserve, Florida, USA

And hanging on it, there was another interesting encounter – a semi-transparent spider. What a way to blend in with the environment!

spider 0000 Gator Hook Trail, Big Cypress National Preserve, Florida, USA

So did we feel very connected to the natural environment during our naked hike!

Bare Burro – 5k running race in SoCal

There aren’t many better things to do in spring than welcome the return of warm weather with some nude recreation. If you live in Southern California, or plan to visit in early April, one of the best ways to do that is at the 7th annual Bare Burro nude 5k race at Olive Dell Nudist Ranch – on the 10th of April.

It’s become a very popular event, attracting over 300 runners,

Bare Burro racers start run

who challenge themselves on a run through the foothills surrounding Olive Dell Ranch near Colton, CA – just check out the aerial footage above! It’s a challenging course over dirt roads and trails, beginning and ending at the clubhouse and pool area. It’s become a favorite with several running clubs including the Los Angeles, Long Beach and Palm Springs frontrunners – meaning that there is some very spirited competition and highly competitive finishing times. It’s also popular with those who prefer a more leisurely pace, including some who use it as a great reason to do a 3.1 mile naked hike in the hills.

Olive Dell Ranch naturist resort California

After the run, all of the facilities of Olive Dell are open for the day. There’s a big swimming pool, huge jacuzzi, lots of lounge chairs and deck space, restaurant, refreshments bar, showers, and for those with extra energy – a chance to continue to hike and run the local hills.

Bare Burro run race Winner

Awards are presented to top finishers in all age and sex categories, with special plaques for the top three finishers overall.

Olive Dell Ranch welcome

Everyone is welcome! Runners range from around 20 to over 80. Men, women, gay, straight, singles, couples, anyone looking for a fun day of nude recreation with several hundred similarly minded people.

Registration is open on site at the Olive Dell Ranch or online. It’s $30 through March 31, $35 through April 9 and $40 if you register on-site and race day.

Here is a promo from the last year, but keep in mind that the date was different!

PS This is a guest entry from Don/Things To Do Nude/

Happy Nude Year! (after a somewhat pagan Xmas celebration)

naturist 0005 Harriman State Park, NY, USA

I rang in the New Year just as you’d expect me to do – in the nude! It was a fun Naked Comedy Show, and perhaps I’ll write about it in more detail later. But here’s a report from my Christmas day celebration, which came unexpected event to me – it was a naked hike in my beloved area of Pine Meadow Lake in Harriman State Park. With the current temperatures almost at their seasonal norm levels (cold!), it’s hard to imagine that we had those almost summer-warm days just a week ago. You might have heard that this December has seen record-high temperatures in NYC, so I decided to take advantage of the freak weather and get out for my first winter hike in Harriman park. I thought the previous post would be the last one about this place from 2015, but thanks to this winter adventure I can now say that it’s truly great any time of the year!

view 0001 Harriman State Park, NY, USA

Well, there were no blueberries or raspberries, but quite a lot of other small fruits decorates the bushes.

view 0002 Harriman State Park, NY, USA

Otherwise the forest appeared pretty dead… which felt even weirder because it was as warm as in late spring. Just a few trees kept the leaves, while almost all were naked – and we followed the case 😉

view 0003 Harriman State Park, NY, USA

It was actually nice that the trees were leafless, because the sun could go through – in summer almost all of this hike is in shade, but this time it was good to feel sun rays throughout the hike.

naturist 0001 Harriman State Park, NY, USA

The forest was very quiet and besides this friendly prehistoric crocodile that let me pose with him, we hardly saw or heard any animals.

view 0006 Harriman State Park, NY, USA

Maybe he also put this rock up like this?

view 0005 Harriman State Park, NY, USA

Mountain laurels were the only green bushes (besides coniferous), and they looked somewhat overoptimistic about the weather… Well, maybe they can keep their buds safe throughout the winter, but they looked like they were ready to open and grow.

We then noticed one tree had its tiny flowers open – most likely confused with the weather…

view 0008 Harriman State Park, NY, USA

Others were decorated with fruits that seemed to be more suited for winter.

view 0007 Harriman State Park, NY, USA

But once we got to the lake, we decided to decorate a small “Christmas tree” – with what we had: food, and berries from the plants around.

naturist Xmas tree 0002 Harriman State Park, NY, USA

Before you call our decoration blasphemous, you should know that it was approved by Jesus. And before you think I’m crazy, that’s a true name of my friend (too bad he didn’t want to appear on photos).

naturist Xmas tree 0000 Harriman State Park, NY, USA

In any case, the tradition of decorating trees has pagan roots, and our phallic theme referred to fertility and revival…

naturist Xmas tree 0001 Harriman State Park, NY, USA

Too bad there weren’t many fellow hikers to appreciate that, and we soon ate our decorations. There was a small group of hikers though, who seemed to be genuinely interested in why we were naked. We explained a little about naturism, and how we wanted to enjoy the rare occasion of being able to be naked outdoors in December in NYC area. I have a feeling I may see them hike naked next summer! Otherwise, our company was limited to squirrels, chipmunks and a woodpecker.

woodpecker 0000 Harriman State Park, NY, USAwoodpecker 0001 Harriman State Park, NY, USA

We walked around Pine Meadow Lake a little more, and discovered two interesting places. One seemed to be like a secret meeting point of a Stone Age tribe… or dwarves?) With stone chairs around a fire pit, it should be a great spot to camp out with a group!

naturist 0000 Harriman State Park, NY, USA

Then we saw a strange structure on the neighboring hill. This was particularly surprising, as it was in a part of Harriman State Park that I knew very well, having hiked through these woods many times. But only now, with the forest being naked, did we notice it. When we got closer, we started guessing what it could be.

view 0009 Harriman State Park, NY, USA

It was not an abandoned mansion, as we first thought, but rather a water tower.  Just to make sure it wasn’t some kind of giant sacrifice place, like mayan cenotes, we wanted to look inside.

naturist 0004 Harriman State Park, NY, USA

There was a fallen tree leaning against the wall, so we could actually climb it and have a look. No, it was a water tower after all…

view 0010 Harriman State Park, NY, USA

or a Phallus temple?

We soon had to leave as it was getting dark and cold, but we still hiked naked all the way back. I think it might have been my most memorable Christmas day so far! And having spent the New Year’s Eve at the naked comedy show, I am sure this year is bound to have lots of fun in the buff, which I also wish to all of you!

PS Of course we also skinny-dipped, and the water was shocking-cold, so it was literally a dip. I plan to go to Sandy Hook on Sunday for Polar Bare Plunge for a more social winter skinny-dip – is anyone else up for it?

turkey and mushrooms in the woods of Harriman State Park

wild turkey 0001 Harriman State Park, NY, USA

After seeing the title of this blogpost, you probably pictured a naturist picnic at Harriman State Park for Thanksgiving – but no, this wasn’t the case. I had a traditional (and clothed) dinner. However, the Thanksgiving meal reminded me of sighting a few wild turkeys in the woods of Harriman park this past summer, so this is kind of a bonus to the previous post about my favorite outdoors spot around NYC.

wild turkey 0000 Harriman State Park, NY, USA

This was a fairly large group of adult females with the offspring – I shot just a few of them (I refer to photography). How many can you spot here? Turkeys camouflage pretty well, and if not the noise they had made running away from me, I wouldn’t have noticed them. I had seen wild turkeys on other occasions, but this was the first time I managed to take a photo of them. It could be sharper, but in my defense it was getting dark and they moved fast.

Another animal that I finally saw and photographed this summer was a snapping turtle.

snapping turtle 0000 Harriman State Park, NY, USA

I can imagine a few male readers cringe thinking that this is the same lake where we swim naked, but snapping turtle is quite a secretive animal and wouldn’t try to hunt you. I was happy to snap a photo of this prehistoric-looking creature though.

And if we talk about ancient animals, there are some more peculiar creatures, like the pretty impressive moss animal Pectinatella magnifica!

sponge 0000 Harriman State Park, NY, USA

Here is a pretty big colony from the Turkey Pond (I have some photos of us swimming there in the previous post, but that time we didn’t have a waterproof camera).

sponge 0001 Harriman State Park, NY, USA

These look somewhat like corals but are not related to them (well, not any more than us).

American five-lined skink 0000 Harriman State Park, NY, USA

And here is an American five-lined skink. It’s a young individual, as it still has blue colors. Adult males apparently have a red head, similar to another species of skink that I showed in the previous post.

American five-lined skink 0001 Harriman State Park, NY, USA

Chipmunk is nothing special in North America, but I like this photo of one sneaking out from under the rock.

chipmunk 0000 Harriman State Park, NY, USA

And again, with the reference to the previous post, I just mentioned there that I wished I had known local mushrooms – and this summer I finally started using the Audubon app to detect mushrooms, and we collected quite a lot of them on several hikes:

mushrooms 0004 Harriman State Park, NY, USA

e.g., chanterelles

mushrooms 0003 Harriman State Park, NY, USA

and various boletes in June around Pine Meadow lake. Actually I used some of the boletes right away for making a soup there.

In early October, Li and I ventured to a new lake for me – Island Pond, and one area on its shores was incredibly rich in boletes!

mushrooms 0000 Harriman State Park, NY, USA

These are no magic mushrooms, but they make a great soup.

Well, enough of naturalist photos, here is a couple of naturist ones:

naturist 0000 Harriman State Park, NY, USA

On the way to the Island Pond, there was a tree of a weird shape – almost perfect for taking a nap, if only it was softer.

naturist 0001 Harriman State Park, NY, USA

And right by the lake, there was the most interesting ruin that I’ve seen in Harriman park so far – a pretty well preserved fireplace with a chimney.

naturist 0002 Harriman State Park, NY, USA

I see some more photo opportunities for the future 😉