Because Costa Rica is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world, it offers great opportunity for scientific exploration — whether you're a 4-year-old with a mom who's now developed a new appreciation for insects and arachnids, or whether you're a world-class scientist.
A small country, Costa Rica nevertheless has coastlines on both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and a variety of ecosystems which allow it to provide a home for a multitude of species. The backyard eight-legged friend we "discovered" was — if our identification was correct — a golden-orb spider. I originally thought that the smaller spider to the left might be its young, but the female of the species is considerably larger than the male, so it might be a male. If there are any entomologists out there, please feel free to let us know. Either way, a very cool spider though I certainly wouldn't take it in as a pet. Not only is it poisonous, but it's not a good idea to take animals out of their natural environments anyway — as we try to tell Conor, we're trying to observe and not disturb.
While we visited Costa Rica, we had the chance to go to the La Paz Waterfall Gardens in Vara Blanca. It's a private farm that's been turned into a beautiful preserve, complete with an aviary, butterfly observatory, and a well-kept path down to the waterfalls. The gardens provide refuge and/or rehabilitation for animals that for some reason or another can no longer be placed back into the wild (in some cases, they were rescued from illegal captivity or poachers or were injured).