Corcodavo in Costa Rica – south pacific

Corcovado National Park, on Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula, is a gorgeous place.

Sheltering one of the Americas’ most pristine rainforests, this remote strip of Pacific coastline near the Panama border offers world-class opportunities for wildlife viewing and jungle hiking. Since its founding in 1975, Corcovado has been attracting research biologists and nature lovers from around the globe. Thanks to its isolation and vast size (263 square miles), it boasts a level of biodiversity virtually unparalleled elsewhere on earth and provides dependable habitat for dozens of endangered species, including jaguars, ocelots and other large cats.

Tucked into the jungle on the ocean’s edge, Estacion Biologica Sirena — Corcovado’s administrative and research headquarters — is the logical base for exploring the park. Professional naturalists (and tourists willing to pay the stiff price) can arrive by small plane at Sirena’s grassy airstrip, but most visitors choose the more affordable, adventurous and eco-friendly alternative of hiking into the park. Multikilometer trails converge on Sirena from the north, east and south, each bringing you into intimate contact with Corcovado’s magnificent wildlife.

The most convenient starting point for hikers wishing to loop through the park is Puerto Jimenez, a rough-and-ready town on the Osa Peninsula’s eastern shores. Served by regular hourlong flights from San Jose, as well as by buses rumbling down the Interamericana highway, Jimenez has everything from simple cabinas to cushy beachside resorts. It’s also the perfect place to stock up on water, food and other supplies before hitting the trail into the wilds of Corcovado.

From Jimenez, colectivos (shared jeeps) make the twice-daily run over rutted dirt roads to Carate, a small settlement on the Pacific Coast at the park’s southern edge. The trail north from Carate to Sirena runs 12 miles along a stunningly wild stretch of coastline. It’s a hot, mostly shadeless slog up the beach, but there’s plenty to keep you distracted — rusty shipwrecks, coconut-laden palms and constant wildlife viewing opportunities.

Alert hikers will almost certainly spot scarlet macaws soaring from the jungle into the wide-open skies above the Pacific. With persistence and luck, you may also sight more elusive animals such as toucans or the endangered Baird’s tapir. Note that careful planning is critical here, as sections of the beach are impassable at high tide. If your timing is off, or if you simply want to linger before continuing to Sirena, you can take refuge in the cluster of eco-lodges near Carate.

Sirena, at the very heart of the park, is the ideal place to settle in for a multiday stay. With advance reservations, you can camp or sleep in basic dormitory accommodations and eat simple meals at park headquarters.

Easy trails through the amazingly tall, vine-draped primary rain forest offer a total immersion experience. Brilliant blue morpho butterflies flutter among the trees, spider monkeys rampage through the lower branches and howler monkeys send out their unearthly roars from the canopy, while industrious leaf-cutter ants and shy little agoutis march and scurry about the forest floor.

Near the mouth of the Rio Sirena, where sharks and crocodiles play, an elevated viewing platform allows you to melt into the forest as you look and listen for wildlife. Just beware the rustling noises overhead. Mischievous monkeys won’t hesitate to send missiles raining down from the trees above.

After several days in the jungle, returning to the outside world is a rude awakening. Thankfully, the trails out of Sirena allow plenty more time to contemplate Corcovado’s majesty.

To exit the park without retracing your steps, continue north 15.5 miles along the beach (passable only in the December-April dry season) to San Pedrillo ranger station, near the town of Bahia Drake, where flights depart for San Jose; or cut eastward 11 miles through the heart of the rain forest to Los Patos ranger station, then onward to La Palma, served by regular buses between San Jose and Puerto Jimenez.

Corcovado in Costa Rica is one of the rainiest areas of the country – up to 5500 mm in the hills higher – and its vegetation, one of the richest and most diverse of Costa Rica, has a great affinity with South American flora. The main habitats are the montane forest, which covers more than half of the park and contains the largest variety of species of fauna and flora of the area; the cloud forest, which occupies the highest and is very rich in oak (Quercus insignis ) and (Quercus rapurahuensis) and tree ferns; the forest of high plains, which holds the alluvial part of the park; the swampy forest, which remains flooded during all the year; the yolillal, with a predominance of the palm yolillo (Raphio taedigera ); the herbaceous freshwater swamp or the lagoon of Corcovado with more than 1,000 hectares in area, covered by grass and shrubs and is an exceptional refuge for wildlife; the mangrove, which is found in the estuaries of rivers Llorona, Corcovado and Sirena and finally the shoreline vegetation.

There are about 500 species of trees throughout the park, which represents a quarter of all tree species in Costa Rica. Some, like the endemic and rare gambit (Anacardium excelsum), reach and surpass the 50 meters in height, in the mountains there are two species of wild cocoa (Theobroma angustifolium) and (Theobroma simiarum).

The fauna of Corcovado is so varied and rich as its flora, is known the existence of 140 species of mammals, 367 bird, 117 reptile and 40 freshwater fish, and it is estimated that there are about 6,000 species of insects. The park protects the largest population of red macaws (Ara macao) in the country. Some of the endangered species that are here are the tapir (Tapirus bairdii), the giant anteater (Myrmecophaga tridactyla) and five of the six species of wild cats that are found in Costa Rica: the puma (Puma concolor), the manigordo (leopards pardalis), the lion Brenner (Herpailurus yaguarondi), the Caucel (wiedii leopards) and jaguar (Pnthera onca).

In the long beach Llorona spawn with relative abundance four species of sea turtles. In the marine area, in front of Corcovado, it is usual to observe dolphins, bull sharks (Carcharhinus leucas) and three species of whales, including the Humpback Whale (Megaptera novaeangliae). Given their extraordinary biological diversity, Corcovado is now as a major international center for research on tropical rain forest; in Sirena there is a biological station which has facilities to conduct investigations. This park and the rest of the peninsula became an important center for the investigation of pre-Columbian civilizations, there have been found archaeological sites on the banks of virtually all the trails in the park.

Corcovado is located at the southwest of Costa Rica in the Osa Peninsula. The administration is located in Puerto Jimenez. Sierra that is near Corcovado has a landing area and several trails are initiated there, the most important ones are Rio Claro, San Pedrillo (on the beach and the forest), Ollas, Rio Sirena, Rio Los Espaveles and Rio Pavos. There are camping and lunch areas in Sierra, La Leona, Los Patos and San Pedrillo, with tables, toilets and drinking water.

The access to the area of Sirena in southern Costa Rica can be achieved by plane from San Jose or can be reached by land from Puerto Jimenez – La Leona (44 km). There is a collective service Puerto Jimenez – La Leona. In Puerto Jimenez there are hotels, guesthouses, restaurants and markets, and in the vicinity of the park, nature reserves have been established with private cabins and biological stations. As a Costa Rica national park Corcovado do not have many accommodations for the tourist but in the nearby town is easy to find hotels and little cabins.

Tips for keeping SAFE while hiking Corcovado National Park

Your Safety should always be FIRST Priority

* Drinking water: The water at the ranger station is potable, but if you are concerned, bring some type of water purifier. The park recommends you carry 1.5 liters of water for the La Leona and Los Patos hike, but I’ve seen people drink this within the first 2 hours. Know your self and your water needs, dehydration and heat-exhaustion are common illnesses in the park.

* Sunscreen: It’s recommended to use sunscreen, a hat, and long sleeved shirt on the hike from Sirena to La Leona. While much of the hike is through the jungle, there are long stretches along the beach that benefit from sun protection.

* Insect Repellent: Recent outbreaks of Dengue Fever in Costa Rica are a concern. Currently there is no Malaria to be worried about. Also, bug spray helps with the sand flies and no-see-ums…

* Solo Hiking? No: It’s best to hike with a guide or a hiking buddy. There are several tricky river crossings and tricky rocky ocean/beach crossings that need to be navigated at low tide…

* No Swimming: Crocodiles and Bullsharks rule the ocean here and love to swim at the mouth of rivers. In addition, the currents and tides are quite powerful.

* River Crossings: Cross carefully and quickly, and never risk crossing the rivers at high tide or during heavy rain.

* Snakes: Watch where you step and touch. There are Fer de Lance and other poisonous snakes in the region. Be especially careful around rivers and streams where they come to eat frogs, especially at night.

* Ants: Seemingly harmless, their bites sting for up to one hour…

* Peccaries/Wild Pigs. There are two different species of peccaries in Corcovado, the Collared and the White-lipped Peccary. They run in packs and can be very aggressive. If threatened by a group of peccaries, climb a tree until you are six feet or higher off the ground.

These are just some of the most common things to keep in mind. Whatever you do – enjoy the magic that is Corcovado… Pura Vida…