Central America, Panama

Don’t go to Corcovado National Park, Costa Rica

March 26, 2015
Esteban our guide
The most biologically intense place on Earth in terms of biodiversity
– National Geographic

 

The beach entrance to the park

This past year we’ve seen animals, lots of them so when we heard about Corcovado we were excited to discover tons of rainforest animals. Upon arriving to the beach entrance to Corcovado National Park we saw a Baird’s Tapir and assumed the siting would set the tone for the rest of our 4 hour tour (too short). After coming down from the shadows of Costa Rica’s highest mountain and seeing a ton of birds and some animals we were thrilled to continue this trend. Guests at the lodge we worked at raved about their trips in Corcovado but forgot to mention the need to stay longer than the day (really only a half day) tour.

We we’re picked up from our beach in front of Poor Man’s Paradise where we stayed for two nights. The morning boat ride over was pleasant enough with views of jungles running out of space and meeting the Pacific Ocean. Apparently there were some dolphins spotted by having one eye and on the wrong side I missed them. Take the boat ride between August and January and you have a great chance of seeing whales. No whales for us.
Medium-sized Baird's tapir

Not even haveing started our tour we ran into what was apparently only a medium-sized Baird’s tapir.

So now we’re beached in front of the jungle changing into our hiking shoes and we get the the disclaimers from the guides that whatever you’re expecting to see you may not and what you aren’t thinking about seeing may be what you encounter. Takes the pressure off them doesn’t it?  30 minutes into the trail we spotted a coati crossing our path, spider monkeys in the trees, peccaries waiting for food to drop down and heard howler monkeys in the distance. Then things started to slow down and we started birding a bit more. Our guide Esteban would set-up his scope and have us peer through the viewer. The most beautiful birds we saw throughout the day were from the Trogon family, the same as the Resplendent Quetzal we’d seen earlier this month.

After not seeing much for awhile our guide pulled down a hummingbird nest with two sleeping babies. Not wanting to disturb the little guys we took a few pictures and started towards a small creek.

After not seeing much for awhile our guide pulled down a hummingbird nest with two sleeping babies. Not wanting to disturb the little guys we took a few pictures and started towards a small creek.

Across the water was a caiman and more birds. A quick 10 minute break at the ranger station and we were ready to continue.

Across the water was a caiman and more birds. A quick 10 minute break at the ranger station and we were ready to continue.

We crossed the airplane strip (these shouldn't exist in places like Corcovado except for emergencies-  huge disturbance in the environment) and back into the jungle. For the rest of the nature observation we would switch from beach to jungle.

We crossed the airplane strip (these shouldn’t exist in places like Corcovado except for emergencies-  huge disturbance in the environment) and back into the jungle. For the rest of the nature observation we would switch from beach to jungle.

We ran into a population of a million army ants and observed for 15 minutes watching these little guys come down and through carrying lizard tails, cockroaches, and other dead insect parts. After another break on a shaded area where the river meets the ocean, we watched various sized hermits move about.

Going in and out of the beach we ended our tour mainly birding seeing more trogons and some other birds.

Going in and out of the beach we ended our tour mainly birding seeing more trogons and some other birds.

Lunch on the beach, though most opted off the beach as it was way too hot for sitting under the sun, and an hour ride to back to our hotel and that was our guided tour.

Zoomed into the center of the picture above

Now you see it, now you don’t

Can you find an animal?

DIY TOUR

This time we were dropped off at a neighboring beach as the wave and beach right in front of our hotel was no bueno for docking. A 15 minute walk from our spot turned into 30 minutes as we discovered beautiful beach/jungle landscapes, were enchanted with what could only be the dance of mating Scarlet Macaws, ran into a group of lazy monkeys, and then into another tree with about 8 other Scarlet Macaws making noise. We finally got into our room, had a quick change of clothes, and made our way back to the beach where we were dropped off. The transition from 10-22 ºC weather in the mountains to the Osa Peninsula’s hot, humid weather was tough. The sun was scorching after our tour and during our walk up and down the beach. Half an hour after we got in the super warm water we heard thunder and huge gray clouds rolled through and dumped rain on us. We moved our stuff into a covered area but it all got soaked. We stayed in the ocean for half an hour thinking we could sit out the rain and walk back until it stopped. It didn’t. After watching the drops fall and plop into the gentle waves we got out and walked back soaked but were relieved from the heat of the day. We could have easily stayed in the water longer but were getting cold from the rain. We would have loved to hike and walk around the surrounding areas looking for animals and knowing that there was a lot out there. We weren’t entirely happy with our Corcovado tour and would have definitely done some things differently.

DON’T GO TO CORCOVADO

  1. Without a (great) guide– This is now a requirement anyways. A great guide is approachable and knowledgeable. Come to these places with questions about the animals. Our guide Esteban
  2. If you’re planning on hiking during the day. Most people in Latin America are taking a siesta midday, so are the animals.
  3. If you are not willing to do a night tour–  Night time is the best for seeing animal activity. Animals are going out for dinner when it’s not so hot and easy to be detected.
  4. Unless you have a at least 2 days to hike in the surrounding areas– We later realized after short walks around are area that there’s great hiking for seeing monkeys, birds, and other animals.
  5. If you’re showing up without a reservation– In order to get a spot in the dorms  at any of the ranger station inside the park you should book a few weeks in advance.
  6. If you can’t time you river crossing– Assuming you are deciding to go for longer than a day it’s likely you will have to cross some rivers. There are bull sharks and crocodiles waiting to feast. There stories about people and sharks and crocodiles.DSC04561
  7. If you’re expecting an easy to get to destination– Simply getting into the park is a pain in the ass. Don’t fly. It’s messes with the environment when a loud small charter plan lands in the middle of the jungle.
  8. If you don’t like spiders, insects, and other creepy crawlers- Esteban told us stories of people who were arachnophobia. Why would an arachnophobic person go to Costa Rica?!?!11046380_1537886376474475_6338201341107016769_o
  9. In the wet season– You made the journey of getting there even tougher. What kind of terrain and hiking are you expecting it’s called a RAINforest.
  10. Without binoculars- This true especially for birding. You can hear so many beautiful birds and primates in the tree but to get a glimpse of their beauty and the detail of their face and physical body requires some extra help.DSC04507

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