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Corcovado, the most intense natural reserve in Costa Rica

A river within Corcovado National Park, Costa Rica
Corcovado, the most intense natural reserve in Costa Rica

The biological numbers of the Corcovado national park (Costa Rica, As a whole, they overwhelm: more than 500 classified tree species, 367 different species of birds, 104 species of mammals (some endangered, such as the jaguar), 117 species of amphibians and some thirty different ecosystems, including mangroves, cloud forests and marine habitats, among others.

This tropical rain forest is one of the few that remains a virgin in Central America and represents an exceptional opportunity for observing animals in its natural habitat. Only accompanied by an official guide I was able to enter it to get to La Sirena, the station of the forest guards located in the heart of the park where I could spend a night in one of the most intense places, in terms of biodiversity, on the planet.

The park is located in the Osa Peninsula, southwest of Costa Rica. There is no direct way to get there, but there are several alternatives. The first, and most expensive, is to do it through Drake Bay, which implies reaching the town of Sierpe and, from there, by boat to the park’s shores.

The second option was more suited to my expectations: a two-day excursion from Puerto Jiménez to La Sirena station, which means walking 20 kilometers on foot along a path adjacent to the coast. I arrived by car to Puerto Jiménez and from there we moved by car to Carate, where I accessed the park on foot accompanied by the guide through La Leona station.

After some incidents years ago with tourists lost on the trails, the government of Costa Rica compels all visitors from Corcovado to be accompanied by an official guide who knows the ways and the species. The excursion can be easily hired from the agencies of Puerto Jiménez or Drake, although in high season (from December to April, when the weather is best) some advance is advisable, but only once you arrive in Costa Rica.

The station The mermaid has reduced places (around 40) and payments to reserve a bunk bed can only be made from a Costa Rican bank. For this reason, it is better to make the arrangements on-site through the agencies. In this sense, there are proposals focused on responsible tourism for the development of the community that also offer excursions to Corcovado, you just have to look for them.

The path through forests and virgin beaches

Elena Merín in Corcovado, Costa Rica
Elena Merín in Corcovado, Costa Rica
(E. Merín)

Snakes camouflaged among the dense vegetation, macaws flying in pairs above the trees, pelicans fishing in the surf. The entrance to Corcovado overwhelmed me after the few animals that I had seen in other parks in Costa Rica due to bad weather. Not too far from the trail (in fact, it is prohibited) to start to spot a tiny part of the animals that inhabit it.

The path begins by crossing the Madrigal River (in which the guides often joke about the presence of crocodiles) and continues contiguous to the coast within the forest, where the murmur of thousands of animals is constant. In some sections, you can only advance leaving the forest behind and stepping on a succession of spectacular virgin beaches such as Paradise Beach or La Sirena beach, all of them as wild as the strong currents that prevent bathing. Only hermit crabs scampering on the sand dare to get wet on the shore.

Animal sighting

Color frogs in the middle of the vegetation of the Corcovado natural park in Costa Rica
Color frogs in the middle of the vegetation of the Corcovado natural park in Costa Rica
(E. Merín)

The excursion is not easy because involves carrying the weight of water and clothing to spend a night in La Sirena, but it allowed me to see a good number of native species. Various coatis they got off the trees, anteaters crossed the path and colored frogs Fluorescent lights challenged my curiosity by jumping through the vegetation.

It is very difficult to spot the few cougars or jaguars that are hiding in the park, but with luck, you can find some other Amazonian tapir, a mammal that in Costa Rica lives mostly in Corcovado. After the step “Salt if you can”, in which the expertise of the guides is essential to overcome the tide, the roar between the trees of the hauling monkeys In order to attract the females, he welcomed me to the access road to La Sirena, which is made through a narrow airstrip for light aircraft where there is no asphalt.

Night at La Sirena station

La Sirena, the ranger station in Corcovado National Park, Costa Rica
La Sirena, the ranger station in Corcovado National Park, Costa Rica
(E.Merín)

La Sirena reminded me in a first impression of that remote hospital in the middle of nowhere and of the intensity of the Peruvian jungle where a young Che Guevara and Alberto Granado arrive after crossing Latin America in the film. Motorcycle Diaries. Ranger Station It is a group of white buildings located on a plain where the vegetation has been cut, but in which the noise of the jungle that surrounds it is constant. That sound surrounds you and intensifies as soon as it gets dark and the lights in the rooms go out.

A couple of the open buildings are enabled with individual bunk beds protected with mosquito nets for guides and tourists to sleep after the long walk. At sunset, it was nice to share dinner in the communal dining room with other travelers after a tiring day. Sleeping with that deep hum, which instilled respect and excitement in me at the same time, is my best memory of that day. In no case can the platform that connects the buildings be abandoned because it can be dangerous and the return is made at dawn along the same path.

Prepare for the excursion

Excursion in the national park of Corcovado, Costa Rica
Excursion in the national park of Corcovado, Costa Rica
(E. Merín)

The walk to La Sirena is not complicated, but it is tiring because many sections must be crossed on the sand of the beach. To save the cost of this excursion with a price from 200 euros, the agencies recommend to their clients the possibility of buying a light breakfast at the Puerto Jiménez bakery and of carrying lunch food, in addition to the water needed to complete the excursion. Dinner at La Sirena is previously paid as a supplement and is the solution I chose to avoid carrying too much weight.

It’s fundamental to lighten the backpack as much as possible It is charged during the excursion and bring only the essentials: a sunscreen, spare socks, and underwear, a light towel, sunglasses, dressings and mosquito spray.

Other options in the park

One of the trails in Corcovado National Park, Costa Rica
One of the trails in Corcovado National Park, Costa Rica
(E. Merín)

La Sirena is just one of the four Corcovado Ranger Stations. The park has an extensive network of trails that communicates the different seasons. Spending more days in the park implies a higher budget since you can only visit accompanied by a guide. To enjoy more days in Corcovado, you can visit any of these enabled paths. The hardest is the one that connects the station of Los Patos with that of La Sirena and that crosses through the interior of the park.

Climate in Corcovado

Airstrip in Corcovado National Park, Costa Rica
The airstrip in Corcovado National Park, Costa Rica
(E. Merín)

The weather in Corcovado is hot, rainy and very humid. The best time to visit the park and take this excursion is during the dry season, which lasts from mid-December to mid-April and registers sporadic rains. Torrential rains usually fall from October to November. During October, the La Sirena area is closed to the public and the Ministry of Environment takes advantage to make arrangements on the trails and in the facilities.

From May to September, the climate in the park also allows you to enjoy it, although some occasional rainfall is also recorded in July and August. The weather is everything to see animals, but you should not be frustrated by a rainy day. Nature never adjusts to our expectations and wishes, which does not mean that Corcovado is a unique place in its biological intensity to enjoy it.

What do you think?

Written by Noroman

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