It’s that time of the year. Woke up again this morning, around 5 am or so, to the deep-throated growling and hollering of the “congo” or howler monkeys. It went on for quite a while and it’s one of the most amazing things about living here, and absolutely one of the things we’ll miss. Deeply.
I defy you to have done much research into Costa Rica and not have come across the term “howler monkey” and it’s very possible that if you’d come here as a tourist, you would have, indeed, heard their unique sound.
But if, like us, you came here without doing the usual “tourist” things, it’s very possible that (like us) you’d heard the name “howler monkey” and perhaps even formed an idea of what sort of sound this animal would make.
Well, if you’re like us, you have NO idea what they sound like. The name “howler” to us, doesn’t even begin to describe the sound. It’s not “howling” at all. It’s a guttural, incredibly loud … well, “grunting” for lack of a better term. Definitely evocative of a gorilla (or, perhaps, what I imagine a gorilla to sound like!) or some other wild jungle animal.
So, like everyone who’s every read about Costa Rica, we had “heard” for years about the howler monkeys, but had never heard them or even given them all that much thought in our initial “non-tourist” years here. It was therefore with huge surprise, on one of our first visits to this A-frame which was to become our beloved home that we were on the back porch and heard this incredible sound coming at us from across the nearby jungle.
“What in the world was that?!?” we asked each other. (Okay, the actual expression was more like WTF, but this is a family-rated blog, so I’ll leave it up to you to explain what WTF is to your minors who might be reading!) But, truly, WTF is an appropriate expression because we could hardly imagine what had made that sound. It’s truly “other-worldly” at first sight. No, I guess that’s at, what, “first hearing”??
In the years since then, we’ve come to know that unique sound as belonging to the howler monkeys, or — a name we much prefer in this case — the spanish “congo” which somehow sounds much more appropriate. Somehow their call definitely evokes images of the deep Congo.
However often we hear this marvelous, mysterious sound, we rarely ever (okay, NEVER) see them. But our dear friends and neighbors, Paul and Michele, have found themselves in the magical spot of being able to not only see them, but even photograph them.
(Paul and Michele are building their home right at the entrance to our collectively-owned property, but while their house is being completed, they’ve been living at our other dear friends and neighbors, Julie and Jamie’s house, just down below us. Julie and Jamie have built in the spot that we’d initially pegged as our own, and is, indeed, a wonderful and unique location. Among its attributes is that the house is somewhat “in the trees” and gives this amazing view of the wildlife.)
The truth is, we’re quite unique in seeing any monkeys at all — and we continue to appreciate the marvel of each and every sighting.
We get white-faced monkeys (capuchins) much more regularly as far as seeing them goes, but there’s just nothing to beat that sound of the howlers.
Since we’ve YET to ever actually see them, we give great credit to Paul Gawenka for his photos of not just the elusive howler (as if that weren’t amazing enough) but also a rather exotic parade of critters past their porch.
For instance, although we love the playful appearance and cheerful “stand-up tails” of the local “raccoon” — the pizote, or coatamundi — we’ve yet to capture one on film (pixels?) around our land. But Paul managed and we love the picture, not only for its own creative value, but also just as reinforcement to us that these fun critters are, indeed, right here in our yard!
So, while I’m sure we’ll find new and fun critters to enjoy in our home at the base of the Wasatch National Forest in Utah, we will absolutely miss the unique sounds of the howlers, along with our other more exotic neighbors. (More, in fact, on those to come.)
But in the meantime, for the last little while that we’re here, I’ll hope to wake up again tomorrow morning, early, to the totally unique sounds of the howler monkeys.