BY TARA BURKE
One of our main missions while visiting Costa Rica was to truly experience its rich biodiversity. Corcovado National Park spans just over 103,000 acres of tropical rainforest and holds a very diverse population of wildlife – 10% of all mammals that inhabit the Americas can be found within Corcovado National Park. In turn, we thought Costa Rica’s largest park fit the bill perfectly for exploring the rainforest.
On the day of our big hike we woke up to rain! As our hostel owner said, “Welcome to the rainforest!” With ponchos on we headed to the beach at 6:30am to catch the boat that would take us the hour long distance to the park. Since it was dry season, luckily the rain cleared up as we got onto the boat. We picked up another group of rainforest hikers and then we were on our way. Again, to get on and off the boats in this area you have to wade through the water to shore so water shoes or flip flops are great for rocky ocean bottoms. We’d definitely recommend getting to the park by hiking or boat. There is an airstrip where you can set up a private fly in, but it was really made for emergencies only and does disturb the wildlife, including many endangered species. Once we got there we changed into our trusty botas, or rubber boots that field workers commonly wear in Costa Rica for protection against snakes. You can easily get away with wearing normal hiking sneakers, but we heard that the guides wear these rubber boots, so we thought it was best to follow their example. We all found them to be very comfortable, not too heavy and they gave us ample walking security.
We had a small group of five people, so our guide started by taking us along the beach to give us some distance between the other groups. At first we didn’t see many animals, perhaps because of the rain, but our guide was extremely knowledgeable about Corcovado and its species, and with some persistence he was able to spot us some awesome animals. The first major one being the tapir! The tapir kind of looks like a pig or anteater with a small trunk. It is a pretty funny looking animal and is actually related to the horse and rhinosaurus. Our guide saw the tapir’s fresh footprint and searched all the areas that they like to find food, but to no avail. However, as the other groups got impatient and left we stuck around and before you know it our guide was pointing to a tapir swimming across the Sirena River right in front of us! We all got a chance to look at it through the guide’s heavy duty binoculars after it climbed ashore to snack on some leaves.
After that we saw capuchin, squirrel, and spider monkeys. We also saw a jacamar, a bird from the same family as the kingfisher and many rainforest turkeys.
Then it was time for lunch! We headed to the Sirena Ranger station and had a delicious lunch provided by our guide. On our way there we even stumbled upon some peccaries, which resemble wild boars. This ranger station is just one of five other stations, three of which have camping areas. When we were looking around the Sirena station there was a whole room filled with tents, mosquito net protected sleeping bags and makeshift beds from people doing overnight hiking trips.
On our way back to the boat to return to Drake Bay we saw a whole pack of coatis, which are part of the raccoon family. On the boat ride we took in all the beautiful Costa Rican scenery, like the amazing waterfall and cove below.
When we got back we were as sweaty and worn out as ever, but our wonderful hostel owners brought us fresh watermelon smoothies and it perked us right up. They were the sweetest! If you want to experience all the biodiversity that Costa Rica has to offer, definitely book a trip to Corcovado National Park!