Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Costa Rica: Corcovado

Our last leg of the trip was definitely the highlight.  OK, just to set the scene, after breaking my tooth and waiting a few hours to get it patched up, we drove 3.5 hours down to Puerto Jimenez, located on the Osa Peninsula in the south.  There, we checked into our room, ate dinner and packed as fast and as light as we could to get in a few hours of sleep before our 4:30 am alarm went off.  

At 5:00 am, we left to meet a guide who would take us into Corcovado.  Corcovado is the Costa Rica's largest national park and one of the most densely biodiverse areas in the country, hence our interest in this area.  We met our guide, Alvero, and were soon on a 45 minute car ride to Karate, the closest town that boarders the park.  The ride alone was pretty amazing and I felt almost fully satisfied with the wildlife we saw on our way.

The VERY FIRST thing we saw was this three toed sloth, not even 10 minutes into the drive.  This creature is the thing that I had been dying to see and, if I'm honest with myself, one of the primary reasons of even going to Costa Rica.  Let's just say I was flabbergasted with how easy we found it and how close we got.  From there, we saw all sorts of things...

Cute little Orange-chinned Parakeet

Howler Monkeys

More Howler Monkeys, using that tail that would be so cool to have if evolution would have just let us keep it.

And THIS guy.  Toucan!! We saw a bunch of them up in the trees, getting their breakfast on.  I honestly can't believe that I got this shot.  Casey and I both had a surreal moment while I was looking through my viewfinder as if this guy was posing for us with the crazy beak of his.  What a moment!

And after he was done modeling for us, he took off in all his glory.

We even saw a Squirrel Monkey, which is the rarest of the four monkey (all of which we saw) in Costa Rica.

The last thing we saw on our drive was this White Hawk.  It kept its distance in the shadows of the trees, so I didn't get a great shot, but I also didn't try that hard as I wanted to savor seeing it in person and not chancing it flying away and only seeing in through my camera.  What a beautiful creature.

After the drive, we hiked 2 km on the beach to La Leona ranger Station, where we cooled down a bit, got some water and after a bit of breakfast.  This was our view:
I felt an overwhelming sensation of jealousy and resentment towards the two very friendly gentlemen who call this their office.  After our pause, we started the real trek: 19 km (12 miles) into the rainforest.

First thing we saw as we hiked along that beautiful beach was this Scarlet Macaw.  It was funny to think of how hard we tried to find one of these in the other parts of the country as we saw pair after pair gliding through the air and perched in trees.

 White Faced Monkeys were abundant as well.  We stumbled upon this group as we entered the rainforest, taking brief shelter from the beaming sun.

Here's a baby causally hanging around, eating some grub.

This juvenile was pretty fun to watch as well.  

We almost walked right past this male Black-Throated Trogon.  I had just seen it in the corner of my eye and had a few moments with it before it flew away.

Another group of animals that we found abundant in Corcovado were Coati.   We actually saw our first one in Monteverde, rummaging through the recycling bin.  They are the raccoons of Costa Rica behave pretty similarly.  Curious, courageous and adorable.

These two came pretty close to us and seemed as interested in us as we were in them.  The one on the branch was scratching an itch, lost its balance and almost feel off the tree!  Somehow, I think he understood our laughter and seems somewhat embarrassed.  

Here's Casey under a very unique and puzzling tree.   It's strange how this tree grew to make such a perfect right angle, but from how large it was, it must have been some time ago.

More Macaws all over the place.

Here are a couple of sweet shots I got of this beautiful spider monkey.  Finding these guys made our count 4 out of 4 Costa Rican monkeys.

Spider Monkeys might have been my favorite.  Those large eyes are just so adorable.

 This is some sort of dark frog, although I'm not exactly sure what specific type.  Researching a bit leads me to think that its a Black and Orange Poison Dart Frog, which would be pretty cool since it would have been the only poisonous thing we saw.

Back along the beach, we saw this Brown Pelican,  resting after having done a few rounds of fishing just before.  I think this fallen tree must have been its spot since we saw it on the same branch on our way out.

I don't recall how we found these Tent Making Bats, but saw them under a leaf and just as I was about to take a photo, we scared them off.  Luckily, we saw there they landed and I was able to quickly catch this photo.

We saw the two types of wild boar, or Peccary, in Corcovado and both times knew they were close by their smell.  Interestingly, they have distinct enough of an odor for us to discern the difference, although both of them smell like pretty bad BO mixed with very ripe French cheese.  This species was the more aggressive of the two and kept huffing at as.

Our last leg of the very tiring hike was a long stretch along the beach.  Having seen such a variety of wildlife, Alvero concentrate on finding the Tapir, Costa Rica's largest mammal.  He kept leading us into the swamp areas and ducked in and out of the foliage trying to find one, always coming back with a disappointed look and an accepting shrug.

It was very low tide as we ended our trek.  

Our journey led us to Sirena Ranger Station, the only place you can stay in the park and pretty much the same distance from any of the entrances.
This view still brings me comfort.  Looking out to the sunset, we had taken a nice cold shower, drank water freely and were sitting with our legs up on the wooden platforms of the station smelling our dinner being prepared.  Hiking isn't the only way to get here.  You can hire a boat to take you around the park and drop you off OR you can rent a private plane and have it land on the strip of grass.  Our peers staying at the station that night were all backpacking looking folks and I think probably would have felt weird to be among a few that just flew in for the night.

The next morning we woke up at 4AM to get an early start, with the best odds of finding a Tapir.  To be honest, after the day before, I was totally over trying to find one.  If it were a cougar or a some cool raptor I might have been more game.  But it was a bit tiring looking for this weird animal that I had no clue about.

The morning sunrise was beautiful though.  This shot was taken after we had trekked a bit further down the beach in an attempt to find the wild Tapir.  Needless to say, we didn't see it..

There were a few points where we had to take off our shoe, hike up our shorts and cross some water.  Here, we stopped to eat our breakfast and watch (and hear) the wildlife wake up.  Not a bad breakfast with these Egrets flying past.  

We hiked mainly on the beach on the way back at a pretty decent pace.  Mainly, we had to get past a few points before the rising tide trapped us on one side.
I forget what these rocks were called, but man was it scenic.  I wish we had gotten stranded by the tide so we could swim out to this little island and have a picnic.  

Further down the shore we spotted a black hawk perched on some branches.  It seemed pretty content and unaffected by our presence.  I really wanted to see it take flight, so with the gentle of help of our trusty guide, I got a few action shots. 

I only wish I could have been on the other side to see it take flight.  I'm not complaining though as this was pretty spectacular.

Nearing the end of our 12 miles back, we started seeing other tourists with their guide on day hikes.  Every time we passed a group, Alvero would tell them he was looking for a Tapir and if they had seen one.  After a few, one of them said that he had seen one 5 minutes ago.  This put some pep in our step.  We came across another guide who said he had just seen one and that it was over the hill behind him.  Alvero told us as fast as he could with a huge grin on his face and we were off, literally running up the hill.
And FINALLY, we saw the illusive and really weird looking Baird's Tapir.  Part of the horse family, this strange cross between a pig and an anteater lives in the jungle but takes frequent swims in the ocean.  We kept seeing its tracks going in and out of the water and jungle, always knowing that we had just missed it.  But not this time!

After all of that searching and Alvero's excitement, it was pretty cool to finally see one.  We watched it for a while as it went on the beach to look for some food.  

After that, we saw a few more specifies before finally getting back.

 Here is a Golden-naped Woodpecker.

The terrifying Golden Silk Orb-Weaver

I'm not sure what this little guy is called, but from referencing Google Image, some seem to call it the Jesus Chris Lizard.  Seems like a pretty silly name, but then again, there are many silly named things.

And lastly, this Little Blue Heron.

I procrastinated a bit getting these photos up, but I'm actually happy that I did.  It was nice revisiting our epic adventure and spending some time with these.  That's it for Coast Rica (at least for this trip).  Can't wait to start planning our next destination, although with the wedding ahead of us, it probably won't happen too soon.


Unknown said...


Gummy Choco said...

Cool! What an adventure! Can't wait to see what it inspires :)

Unknown said...

wow those photos are awesome! looks like a lot of good painting inspiration :) Now i really want to go to costa rica!

celia said...

You and Casey certainly had a blast in Costa Rica - these wonderful photos and narrative certainly will keep those memories alive. What an adventure!!!

celia said...

I have to add what an experience to go to Corcovado's densely biodiverse community. You really captured it very well. Awesome!!!