Sitting in my Costa Rica home and thinking about the content for this article, I thought that starting with a quote that spoke of how the remarkable Blue Morpho makes one feel would be a good idea; because it’s the feeling that lasts well beyond the visual experience. My concern was, however, finding the right words that were as picturesque as the subject, or as joyful and accurate in helping describe the beauty and magic of these wonderful creatures would be challenging.
Then all of a sudden, like the flash of the Blue Morpho’s shimmering wing, there it was! I found my quote! I knew this was the perfect inspiration to start this journey to share with you. I am Jonathan Saborio Montoya and this is where we begin.
Butterflies are not insects, Captain John Sterling said soberly. They are self-propelled flowers. Robert A. Heinlein, The Cat Who Walks Through Walls
Upon reading this quote, multiple images and memories began to explode from my heart. Hundreds of small and large moments flooded my mind of the many times I walked over the many trails in Costa Rica’s wonderful National Parks where these creatures are so abundant. I visualized the many colors of butterflies, red, yellow, blue, a cornucopia of colors and spots, like shining precious jewels. They seem to appear out of nowhere–the flying flowers of the dense tropical jungles in this beautiful country.
I then began reflecting on my time working at a butterfly exhibition and how I was amazed at the incredible moments of seeing a flower waving its petals. Oh no wait! It wasn’t the flower moving, it actually was three or five butterflies feeding from the nectar of that flower. Even more impressive was when one of the butterflies flew away giving the illusion that a part of the flower had detached and flew up into the sky, escorted by the breeze. It seemed impossible, yet true! It happened right in front of my eyes!
Costa Rica is a country full of vibrant nature and much beauty. As a tour guide I’ve had many wonderful encounters and incredible experiences. I have gained a wealth of experience and insight of my country and its wildlife. I am grateful for the knowledge I have acquired through these experiences and the ability to share this with visitors. I found I can learn from the visitors too as they respond to their moments here.
My ultimate desire for visitors is they will experience unforgettable moments for themselves with life effecting encounters with our nature and culture. While working as a guide specializing in butterflies, I had some wonderful experiences. I will never forget the carefree children frolicking and playing in a joyful flight along with the butterflies, nor will I forget people laughing with the funny moments. In one instance a family was engaging in a jeopardy-like exchange as I posed questions. One question was how many wings a butterfly had.
The response was the obvious to them, two wings but I had to correct them that no, a butterfly has 4 wings. We laughed hard on this one! Or when I asked them to draw closer to the butterfly and view its tiny eyes. I explained though tiny, these eyes are capable of identifying colors and light. Foremost in my memory and one that left an indelible impression on me was the moment when someone thanked God for the experience they were living at that moment and for the awesome beauty of nature.
Another fond moment was an experience with a visitor from the USA. I refer to her as Lady Butterfly as she loved butterflies and came to Costa Rica for the sole purpose of butterfly encounters. I was her personal guide for the day. She had worked hard to get here and had great anticipation for this day and what she would experience surrounded by butterflies. I remember her saying as we started the tour, “This is my dream.” I knew then that I was the lucky one as I had the privilege of showing her this dream and to experience this moment with her.
Before continuing with the story of Lady Butterfly, I want to digress for a moment and ask you, the reader something. I hope you are familiar with the Blue Morpho (Morpho peleides) butterfly or at least have read or seen pictures of this magnificent butterfly. It is one of the most popular (although not the most abundant) butterflies in Costa Rica and one of the most amazing butterflies I have ever seen. Its inner wing side has a blue crystal translucent color that changes depending on the direction of light shining through its wings.The outside of its wings are brown with 14 eye spots as camouflage to scare predators away. For me, this butterfly doesn’t fly; it floats on air and is incredible to watch. Blue Morpho butterflies are actually very “shy” and they normally do not land on people as many of the other “friendly” butterflies do when you visit a butterfly house in Costa Rica. If you happen to be a lucky one to have one land on your head or clothing, or even your face (so tickling you have to see the kids laughing out loud when they have one butterfly on their small noses), they usually close their wings. This is done for protection so the camouflage hides its magnificent blue color and its mysticism.
So with that said, let’s return to my story with Lady Butterfly. As we entered the green house at the butterfly exhibit where I worked, hundreds of different species of butterflies were flying about. I will never forget Lady Butterfly’s initial response. She froze as if in shock and could not speak—it was very dramatic. She just stood there in awe, frozen in a moment in time with absolute amazement. She was living her dream. I was the one who finally broke the silence and we began sharing our knowledge, our thoughts, and what this incredible moment meant to both of us.
While engaged in our conversation, Lady Butterfly put out her hand and out of nowhere a Blue Morpho butterfly posed itself on her hand. At that moment time seemed to slow down then without a trace of doubt the butterfly opened its beautiful wings displaying its iridescent blue color. I was absolutely shocked at what I was seeing as I thought this was actually quite impossible because this is not normal Blue Morpho butterfly behavior. They are even hard to capture a picture of! Lady Butterfly stared into my eyes and started to cry. It was one of the most incredible feelings I have ever experienced. She was like a child enjoying her moment with no fear, no mask, no lies–she became pure essence living the moment! This was by far one of the most beautiful moments of my life.
I do believe that many people in the world understand that butterflies are incredible creatures. Even if you are not a fan of butterflies, I am sure when you visit Costa Rica and see the many beautiful species, you will be amazed by their grace and beauty. The variety of patterns, colors, and defense mechanisms, are so interesting. In addition, their incredible magical life cycle from egg through larva to pupa and finally an adult along with the mating process and feeding habits contribute to their unique characteristics. These sensational insects are such a great source of learning and enjoyment.
You don’t know where to find them? Don’t worry just visit one of the thousand trails Costa Rica has to offer in their National Parks, Natural Reserves and Nature Refuges. I bet you will see butterflies. There are also many butterfly exhibits throughout Costa Rica where you can see a concentration of butterflies in one location. Sometimes in nature it is a bit more difficult to see a butterfly making these exhibits popular. As a butterfly and nature lover, I would very much like to invite you to come to this unique country and enjoy the happiness, the peace, and the love that nature provides us with.
Something to note is that Costa Rica has only two seasons—dry and wet. No winter here!
Either season is a great time to visit. Butterflies are seen during both seasons, but they are particularly abundant during the rainy season.
After sharing some of my experiences with butterflies, I would like to say not a “good-bye” but a “see you soon.” I would also like to share one last quote with you.
The butterfly counts not months but moments, and has time enough. Rabindranath Tagore
Do not wait for months. Let us count thousands of moments in Costa Rica and especially with these incredible insects. No. I am sorry–and especially with these “self-propelled flowers. Welcome to our country, Costa Rica! Pura Vida, Jonathan.
Editors Note: A Guide’s eye view on tourism and natural beauty. Jonathan Saborio Montoya is a creative and inspiring young man we had the pleasure to meet while on assignment in Costa Rica. It seems we were destined to meet. For the first time in many weeks, we had no appointments, schedules nor other places we needed to be, only the right amount of time to follow through on a promise made that we would find time to meet Jonathan in person.
About the Author: Jonathan Saborio Montoya
A special individual who thrives on sharing his land and its wonders with Guests. Jonathan is a brilliant bi-lingual, college graduate, artist, writer, designer and a licensed Costa Rica Guide (ICT#962).
There is much more to experience in and about Costa Rica than tourism zones. So wherever you’re headed, whatever you chose to do, be sure to include Jonathan because there is no better host to share Costa Rica. Fittingly, Jonathan worthy of Costa Rica Guest’s “Rafa Medallion of Friendship”. Jonathan can be reached through the magazine at [email protected] The signed piece “Blue Morpho” was painted by Jonathan as a gift to his father. Dimension: 4’x 6′.
Butterfly Farm: Sadly, the butterfly farm where we first met Jonathan closed its garden for tourism. It was a place of inspiration for those able to visit the Alajuela, Costa Rica site. However, we have confirmed that the conservation and breeding efforts of the company remain as Costa Rica Entomological Supply (CRES) and is still the world leader in the supply of tropical butterfly paupe for live butterfly exhibitions, zoos and botanical parks around the world.
Other: The Blue Morpho is often associated with healing beyond wonder. The movie The Blue Butterfly (2004) portrays a dramatic adventure about courage, redemption and love filmed in the rainforests of Costa Rica, and in Montreal, Canada.