Benjamin Jones

Photographing The Biodiversity of Costa Rica

Home to more than 500,000 species, Costa Rica is often considered to have the highest density of biodiversity of any country on the planet. Comprising just one third of a percent of the earth’s landmass, it contains a whopping 5% of all species estimated to exist across the globe.

It’s geographical location on a spit of land which connects the North and South American continents along with its neotropical climate, have cultivated a rich environment where a wealth of species are able to thrive.

With hundreds of endemic residents such as frogs, lizards, finches, hummingbirds, gophers, mice, cichlids, snakes and gobies, there is little surprise that the country has become a heaven for wildlife enthusiasts.

Tropical rainforests, deciduous forests, canal networks, Atlantic and Pacific coastline, cloud forests, Mangrove forests, coral reefs and volcanic rims all offer sanctuary to a range of species thanks to the assortment of ecosystems thriving within the country.

Exploring the biodiversity of Costa Rica


The exact percentage of the world’s species that live on this tiny isthmus ranges between 4% and 7% depending on who you talk to, however there is no denying that there are plenty of opportunities for ecological exploration during your visit.

The geography of the country is almost as diverse as its inhabitants.

Its coastal plains are separated by two mountain ranges, the Cordillera Central and the Cordillera de Talamanca, which form a backbone through the centre of the country and divert the water from its rivers to either the Caribbean or North Pacific Ocean.

Coastal plains are separated by two mountain ranges, the Cordillera Central and the Cordillera de Talamanca, which form a backbone through the centre of the country and divert waters from the rivers to either the Caribbean or North Pacific Oceans.

Throughout this backbone lie areas of volcanic activity. With 112 craters and 7 active volcanoes Costa Rica is a seismic hub of constant activity.

Arenal volcano is the country’s youngest but most active, and is a constant threat looming large over the neighbouring town of La Fortuna.

Preserving biodiversity

At the forefront of the bid to preserve the world’s biodiversity Costa Ricans takes an active role in ensuring the resources of their rich country remain untouched.

Having already protected almost 30% of the country through the introduction of wildlife refuges, national parks and large reserves, the Government has recently introduced a scheme which encourages land owners to preserve existing areas of diversity.

biodiversity of costa rica photo essay

“We are declaring peace with nature,” said Mario Fernández Silva, the ambassador of Costa Rica, referring also to his country’s abolition of its army in 1958. “We feel a strong sense of responsibility about looking after our wealth of biodiversity. Our attitude is not progressive, it is conservative. Our view is that until we know what we have, it is our duty to protect it.”

By actively securing these resources for future generations the government is contributing to a wider plan to save the world’s natural habitats.

Each element of the country’s ecosystems contribute to the earth’s natural services such as nutrient recycling, pollinations and seed dispersal, climate regulations, O2 emissions and water purification.

Services that our earth would slowly suffocate without.

Natural Costa Rica


Costa Rica has seen an influx of eco tourists keen to witness the wealth of species to which the country is home.

One of the most notable elements of our 6 month stay, the wildlife really is something to behold.

Hummingbirds flit in and out of flowers buds, hovering as they drink the sweet nectar from within the vibrant petals. Giant Morpho Butterflies rest atop vivid green leaves, their iridescent wings glinting in the sunlight.

Everywhere you turn Mother Nature is lying in wait to surprise you with another example of her creativity.


Colour features heavily amongst both the flora and fauna. The rich climate offering the perfect place for evolution to dip its brush in multiple paint pots and sweep rainbow strokes across this pristine natural world.

I feel fortunate to have spent time exploring such a rich landscape.

Though rather a long visit our 6 month stay only offered a tiny glimpse into the country’s vast array of natural treasures. With so much left undiscovered I’ve no doubt we’ll be planning another visit to explore in more depth.

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Have you experienced Costa Rica’s biodiversity for yourself? Share your comments with us below.

Travel Blogger & Photographer
  1. Interesting article kids
    Incidentally I do read all despite not making any comment.
    Would never wish to be churlish….just a couple of small observations having declared myself editor in chief…………
    Also isnt it so…..that the Americas are one continent?
    Keep up the good work……excellent

    1. Hi Stan,

      I appreciate your kind words.

      Thanks for spotting that typo! Re continents, it depends whether you’re using the 5 or 7 continent model!! Some models collate the Americas whereas others separate them.


  2. love the iguana pic! I know what you mean about 6 months not being enough time to explore the whole country. Were you traveling the whole time or did you stay in one place for a while?

    …fyi, Costa Rica is bordered by the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea. The military was abolished in 1948. …I know way too much about Costa Rica now, maybe it’s time to move on ;P

    1. Ha! Thanks Erin! You’re a CR Encyclopaedia!!

      We spent most of our time house sitting in Liberia, Playas del Coco and Ojochal. In between our assignments we spent some time exploring and of course made a few visa runs to the Nicaraguan border during our stay. I wish we had dedicated more time to soaking up the various areas of the country. There is such a wealth of landscapes to explore!

  3. Costa Rica is definitely on my wishlist for this exact reason; the wildlife and biodiversity is incredible and I’d love a chance to take photos just as wonderful as your; so beautiful! 🙂

  4. Beautiful photos, though that spider is crazy scary! I love that the ambassador said they are declaring peace with nature and that it’s their duty to protect what they have. It’s a shame more countries don’t have that attitude.

  5. Beautiful photo essay, but you have a factual error right in the first sentence. Costa Rica is NOT considered to have the highest biodiversity of any country on the planet, not even close. There is a lot that can be said about Costa Rica – the world’s first eco-economy, a national park system that is a model for the world, etc; but ranking first in biodiversity is not one of them. For that, look to extremely megadiverse countries like Ecuador, Madagascar and the Philippines.

    1. Thanks for your comment Arlo. I appreciate you bringing that to my attention. Having reviewed my research I can see that I’ve actually misinterpreted the info. Costa Rica has the highest density of biodiversity in relation to its landmass.

  6. It’s so sad that Governments don’t see the value associated with preserving our earth’s natural resources

  7. I was coming back from the bar one night in Manual Antonio and there was the biggest toad I have ever seen in front of my room. Then there was a leaf on my front door that flew away. Just a small example of the biodiversity found in this amazing country. I saw plenty more when I trekked into the jungle.

  8. Great collection of photos Ben! I especially like the hummingbird shot.

    I’ve been bicycle touring through all of Central America and Costa Rica is by far the best country in this region for wildlife spotting. We saw monkeys, iguanas, sloths, crocs, toucans, tapirs and all kinds of exotic birds just from the side of the road.

  9. Beautiful images, but I can see it can be a challenge in dark, canopied forests. Would have preferred a little more info on gear, methods for photographing in difficult lighting, flash/no flash? Focal lengths recommended. I see a very wide range from 16mm – 600mm! Thank you!

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