Walking in a rainforest is a pretty incredible experience. But you really do need a guide.

It’s not because of forest dangers like snakes, spiders and poisonous plants, which no doubt exist (and we happily avoided). It’s more because the guides in places like Corcovado National Forest in southwest Costa Rica have eyes like hawks. They see things that you would never see on your own.

My friend Donna and I are following our guide Maria down the path when she whips out her binoculars and says, “Look, a toucan!” Squinting our eyes as we gaze in the direction she’s pointing, we see nothing but a confusing jumble of branches and tree limbs. However, when Maria shares her binoculars with us, by golly, there it is: a toucan, straight off a Fruit Loops box.

“Look, a red-tailed macaw!” Again, nothing but branches and leaves in sight for mere mortals like us. But through the binoculars: a beautiful, brightly-colored macaw. It’s like we’re in the world’s best aviary, with the world’s shiest birds.

“Look, an anteater.” Okay, this one we can see with our own two eyes. It’s 20 feet away, climbing down a tree: long snout, yellow body with what looks like a black vest on his chest. What interesting coloring! It’s a mesmerizing sight.

“Look at all the vines on this tree. There are over 150 different plant types co-existing with this tree.” That’s an astonishing fact. How dense the life is in the Costa Rican rain forest.

But again, you really do need a guide.