I’ve not necessarily had the luckiest holiday. I visited a beautiful volcano that I couldn’t see because the cloud cover didn’t lift for three days (I’m still not sure it exists, someone’s making a killing Photoshopping a big triangle into all the tourist pictures), stayed in a hotel that smelt of cabbage and – most egregiously – got fined $1,000 by the Panamanian authorities for their own mistake. So I look upon this l’il fella as a karmic compensation, the tiny red reward.
Red Arrow Poison Frogs used to be thought a separate, and incredibly rare, species – they’re still incredibly rare, of course, but they’re “just” a variant of the strawberry poison frog, which does its best to annoy the people that named it by publishing itself in a variety of designs, very few of which look anything like a strawberry.
The Red version can, apparently, only be found on Isla Bastimentos in Bocos Del Toro, Panama, hence its rarity. Once you’re on the island, however, they’re not all that hard to spot as the only other red things in the undergrowth are crabs (which run away when you look at them) and discarded cans of Balboa beer (which don’t, but are otherwise quite easy to tell apart).
The reason I was lucky is that this guy was out and about twice. Earlier in the day I’d headed down the beach to grab lunch, and saw him sitting on a fallen tree. I had no camera with me, so had to settle to admiring him with the old eyeballs. On the way back he’d gone, and was still gone when I returned, camera in hand, later than afternoon. I did spot another frog but, despite me wandering deep into snake-infested foliage, he stayed just out of range of a decent shot.
Distracted for a while by crabs and parakeets, I eventually headed back to camp, only to find Frog A back on his log, tantalisingly close to the path. Although he wandered down the length of his log when I started shooting, forcing me to clamber over branches and slip back into the long grass, he stayed cheerfully in full view until I’d had enough – though looking back he looks perfectly poised to do a runner at any second.