The time had finally come for Chris... he has been wanting to get inside of Corcovado National Park for many years, and even attempted to make it happen on his last trip to Costa Rica with no avail. The park has strict rules about how many people can enter at a time, and also that an offcial guide is required, so a chance at hiking around the "most biointense region in the world," (supposedly 2.5% of all the species on Earth can be found in the park) is nowadays an expensive endeavor. Given the cost and also the nature of the trip, Mallary hesitantly opted to stay bug free in a cabana while Chris ventured into the park for a 3 day adventure. Here are our stories...
With my backpack stuffed with three days worth of food, supplies, and several liters of water, I woke up to the alarm going off at 4am and was off to meet my guide Luis at the town bakery. Luis is in his mid 20's, and although young for a guide, he is licensed through Costa Rica's official guide certification program, not to mention he has spent his whole life running around in the bush and is quite the wildlife, insect, and tree enthusiast. From Puerto Jimenez the drive to Corcovado is over an hour long down a fairly scenic dirt road that ends at a beach called Carate. The only signs of human habitation here is a couple rustic ecolodges tucked away in the forest, a small tienda, and an unmanned tiny airstrip. After being dropped off we wasted no time in hitting the trail, though it's early the heat and humidity are already starting to build up. From this point, it is an hour hike to the park border where we check-in at La Leona ranger station. The goal of the day is to hike 12 miles to Sirena ranger station. Sirena is the only place in the park where visitors are allowed to camp, and also acts as a research station for scientists from all over the world. (N 8°28.791 W 83°35.376).
The trail starts off with a creek crossing and then into the forest where we are instantly met by the strange sounds of the critters that inhabit this untamed region. After checking in at La Leona I march on with Luis, proving his skills for honing in on wildlife via sight, sound, and even smell. We constantly encounter monkeys, various beautiful birds, packs of coati's, snakes, and poison dart frogs. At one point Luis stops in his tracks, "I hear something large further in the brush" he says. Excited about what it could be, we quitely creep off the trail towards it. Soon the shape of a large Tapir appears wallowing in a watering hole. Awesome! Tapirs are a rare animal that resemble a mix of pig and elephant, but are closer related to the rhino. It's never a good idea to spook a 500lb animal so we keep our distance. Pumped about the sighting, we press onward. Timing is important on this hike because sections of the trail are on the beach with ocean on one side and steep rocky cliffs on the other. At high tide these stretches are impassable, and if caught out during it, one could be stranded on the rocks or even swept away in crocodile and bull shark infested waters.
|A Tapir laying in the brush.|
|Poison dart frogs, racer, and an anole trying to intimidate us with it's colorful throat.|
|Coati's hunting for food.|
As the day went on, the sightings continued as well as the unrelenting humidity. To give an idea of how intense it was, the inside of my waterproof watch fogged up! All was going well, then Luis stopped in his tracks, "Smell that!? Cat pee!" I took a big whiff of the air, and he was right, there was definitely a lingering scent of cat urine. Six types of wild cats live in the park, including the large Jaguar and Mountain Lion, and seeing any one of them is considered a lucky outing. We continued on, moving quietly, and then we came across cat prints. Things are looking good and Luis seemed to think we were in it's home range. Five minutes later we spot two Mountain Lion cubs up on a branch!! It was a stunning experience seeing them in the wild! We waited a good half hour hoping that the mother would come around, but we weren't fortunate enough to see her.
|Getting our tracking on|
|I managed to snap this pic through a telescope|
|Sirena Ranger Station|
|Peccaries on their way to bully us away...definitely no time to try to catch a good photo!|
|view from my porch|
|Tracking animals is not our strong suit apparently|