The Enchanted Green Leaves of Golfo Dulce, Costa Rica

This post is the latest in the series Places, Experiences and Objects to Dream About, which profiles marvelous locations, unique life experiences and objects of interest to modern explorers that Kike discovers during my travels.


After hiking for hours around endless stretches of rainforest, everything starts to appear magical. A bright green, lustrous leaf seemed to be moving towards me. Or so I thought. I kept my eyes on it and my lens ready. An exquisitely shaped Leaf Mimicking Praying Mantis then lifted itself slightly from the foliage and allowed me to document the close encounter.



Praying mantis, like many other insects, have evolved to become indisputable masters of mimicry and camouflage. They use their coloration to blend in with surrounding foliage, and this helps them avoid predators and become less noticeable when they strike their prey.  Through relatively sophisticated mimicry, they can be in disguise by looking like leaves, grass or even stones.


Golfo Dulce is an impressive large bay dotted with beaches and warm blue waters between the Osa Peninsula and Costa Rica’s south Pacific Coast. Aside from the landscape, very charismatic fauna like spider monkeys and morpho butterflies may be the first to capture one’s attention. But for me, this expedition to the Osa Peninsula was all about the magic that unfolds before your eyes when you stare at nature long enough.



Kike shares his expertise and experiences as a National Geographic Expert on several Costa Rica/Panama Lindblad Expeditions.



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Costa Rica:

National Geographic Traveler: Costa Rica, 4th Edition

Costa Rica Adventure Travel Map (Trails Illustrated)

Osa Where the Rainforest Meets the Sea


Macro Photography:

Fundamentals of Photography

Close Up Photography in Nature

David Busch’s Close-Up and Macro Photography Compact Field Guide (David Busch’s Digital Photography Guides)



National Geographic Traveler: Panama, 3rd Edition

By National Geographic Maps – Adv Panama: National Geographic: Adventure Map (National Geographic: Adventure Map (3101)) (2013)

Building the Panama Canal (Cultural and Geographical Exploration: Chronicles from National Geographic)

The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal, 1870-1914

The Birds of Panama: A Field Guide (Zona Tropical Publications)


Praying Mantis:

Keeping the Praying Mantis: Mantodean Captive Biology, Reproduction, and Husbandry

Manuelo, The Playing Mantis

Changing Planet

Meet the Author
Award-winning photographer, journalist, and author Kike Calvo (pronounced key-keh) specializes in culture and environment. He has been on assignment in more than 90 countries, working on stories ranging from belugas in the Arctic to traditional Hmong costumes in Laos. Kike is pioneering in using small unmanned aerial systems to produce aerial photography as art, and as a tool for research and conservation. He is also known for his iconic photographic project, World of Dances, on the intersection of dance, nature, and architecture. His work has been published in National Geographic, New York Times, Time, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, New York Magazine, Rolling Stone, and Vanity Fair, among others. Kike teaches photography workshops and has been a guest lecturer at leading institutions like the School of Visual Arts and Yale University. He is a regular contributor to National Geographic blog Voices. He has authored nine books, including Drones for Conservation; So You Want to Create Maps Using Drones?; Staten Island: A Visual Journey to the Lighthouse at the End of the World; and Habitats, with forewords by David Doubilet and Jean-Michel Cousteau. Kike’s images have been exhibited around the world, and are represented by the National Geographic Image Collection. Kike was born in Spain and is based in New York. When he is not on assignment, he is making gazpacho following his grandmother’s Andalusian recipe. You can travel to Colombia with Kike: