This time around, our curiosity to see more of our country brought us to one of the largest districts, one that covers 80% of the total area of the Heredia province – we’re talking about Sarapiquí.
As soon as we were told about Don Leo Herra’s “Hormigas Town”, we didn’t hesitate to find out for ourselves why it captures the attention of tourists visiting the area. So we got ready for our adventure with a fresh change of clothes, sunblock, and a good hat.
Leo, a 47-year-old father of three decided to leave his old job and dedicated himself to his passion: investigating the world of ants.
Leo began the pursuit of this dream in 2006, but it wasn’t until 2008 that the tour picked up momentum and gained popularity.
With training at the Organization for Tropical Studies (OTS), field observation in the forest, his own research, and of course looking things up on the Internet, Leo took about 2 years to learn more about these small insects.
Perfect for the whole family
This tour is highly recommended for the whole family and we don’t have the slightest doubt that the little ones will love it. Even we, the adults, found it jaw-dropping!
The day of the outing, the weather was spectacular and the warmth of this beautiful district didn’t leave our side for a single second. We were ready for the tour!
In about 1 hour we found out why ants don’t eat leaves, and why there can only be one queen in a colony.According to the people who told us about Leo, who also took on the role of tour leader, there are approximately 12,000 species of ants in the world, and about 600 ant species in Costa Rica.Ants also have the most members per colony out of all the insects.
In the “Hormigas Town” tour, you will see 3 established colonies that Leo designed in a very natural system that simulates what happens with these small insects in the forest. Usually they can travel 300 meters from where they collect their fuel (leaves) back to their colonies. Here on the tour, however, they only travel 80 meters. There is also a part at the beginning of their route called “El Súper” (“the supermarket”), which is where the ants get the raw material to make the fungus that they eat. You didn’t misread! If you thought that the ants ate leaves, you’ve been living a lie. The leaves are just the raw material that allows them to cultivate the fungus that is seen in the colonies. Certain worker ants are in charge of making food for the other ants by using leaves and their saliva.
Colonies can have up to 6 million ants
These insects have very important missions to accomplish. The worker ants mentioned above are the ones that cultivate the fungus for their food. Another group of worker ants are the ones in charge of getting the leaves. A third group of worker ants act as soldiers protecting the queen. They stand guard, looking out for intruders from other anthills. It’s also worth mentioning that they have Herculean strength, capable of carrying 300 to 400 times their own weight!What’s more, the queen plays such an important role for her colony that if she dies, her entire colony will perish too. We’re talking about a colony that can have 5 to 6 million ants within 5 years of being established – impressive!
While we toured the facilities containing the city of ants, Don Leo explained that once a year, a miracle of nature happens: “the nuptial flight”, in which the queen is fertilized by the male. This provides her with millions of sperm so that she can lay eggs throughout her entire life. Once the male succeeds in his mission, he dies.
There’s no doubt that we learned a lot, and we know that you’ll enjoy it as much as we did. And if you have a niggling curiosity about how this queen is doing, there’s only one way to find out – traveling to Sarapiquí. Don Leo will surprise you with more interesting facts about these little friends.
The tour takes place within the property of Aguas Bravas Rafting, one of the companies affiliated with Vamos A Turistear, so you can take the opportunity to go on adventure tours too.
Aguas Bravas is located in the town of Chilamate, about 10 minutes from the intersection of Puerto Viejo de Sarapiquí. At Aguas Bravas, you can enjoy tours such as: the very popular rafting, Canopy Zipline Tour, Night Safari, Safari Float, Sarapiqui a la Carta, Sarapiqui a la Carta Plus, Eco Rafting on the Sarapiquí River, horseback riding and you’ll find accommodations too. They also have a new experience that’s now available to the public – a special rural tourism offer. They definitely have everything you need to have an incredible weekend surrounded by the purity of nature.