Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Love nature? Head to Corcovado National Park in Costa Rica

The coastline of Osa Peninsula is studded with palm trees and volcanic boulders.

For sheer diversity of flora and fauna, you can’t beat the “Amazon of Costa Rica,” Corcovado National Park. But it’s not easy to get to. In fact, our journey there from Tortuguero National Park on the Caribbean side of Costa Rica, was an adventure itself, requiring transportation by plane, van, boat, and tractor.

Our destination was Casa Corcovado Jungle Lodge on the Osa Peninsula, a shoe-shaped piece of land that juts out into the ocean at the southern end of Costa Rica’s Pacific coast.

The adventure begins
Taking to the air on the first leg of our journey to Osa Peninsula
First we flew via chartered plane to the peninsula. Then we rode by van to Drake Bay, stopping briefly in the village of Ajujitas to learn about perfectly round rock balls and their cultural importance in ancient times.

Lots of travel by water in this region
Next we boarded a motorboat that sped for half an hour through open water. Dense vegetation, beaches, and sea birds captured our attention during that ride. As we approached shore, fierce waves crashed against huge boulders that the captain had to maneuver around.

Because docks are not allowed in this remote area, we waded ashore and walked on a pebble-studded beach before boarding a trailer pulled by a tractor that carried us up the steep hill to Casa Corcovado. There are no roads to this deluxe outpost, but that allows nature to take center stage. 

Casa Corcovado Lodge is a luxury eco-lodge on the edge of Corcovado National Park, crown jewel of Costa Rica’s park system. Situated on a 170-acre private reserve, its hill-top location offers stunning views of one of the world’s last true wildernesses. From there we were able to explore the extensive rain forest, including some of the largest trees on Central America and the densest population of scarlet macaws.

Our cottage--luxury even in remote wilderness
Following a late al fresco lunch at the Lodge, we walked the Sendero Azul, a short private trail on the reserve.  Woody vines, towering trees, and massive palms lined the way. As we meandered along the route, we observed sloths, monkeys, and many intriguing species of birds--eventually capping the day off by watching a brilliant orange sunset glow over the ocean while sipping cool drinks from Margarita’s Bar.

Glorious sunsets provided a perfect ending to each adventurous day.
Exploring Corcovado National Park

Entering the rain forest where we marveled at  the variety of flora and fauna

The next day was one for exploration of Costa Rica’s last wilderness frontier and one of the world’s most biologically diverse regions. Corcovado National Park encompasses 103,000 acres and includes at least 13 ecosystems which provide protection for a multitude of endemic wildlife and plant species. It supports one of the world’s largest remaining lowland rain forests and species such as scarlet macaws, toucans, parrots, four monkey species (we saw all) and jaguars (rarely seen).

Trees are huge; in this case two grew together via a connecting horizontal root.
Our group trekked a challenging path made more uncomfortable because of the hot and humid weather (expected in a rain forest). Eventually, we arrived at the coast and enjoyed gazing out to sea, as the surf rushed to the beach, breaking over large lava boulders on the way.

Corcovado also functions as a marine sanctuary, protecting coral reefs, lagoons, rivers and estuaries, as well as 23 miles of palm-studded beaches. Crocodiles, whales, and dolphins can be found in surrounding waters as are all four species of turtles.
Nature shows off butterflies, birds, monkeys, and so much in Corcovado National Park. 

Snorkeling around a reef

The next day’s snorkeling adventure allowed us to sample more of the park’s pristine scenery,  despite getting drenched before leaving Osa Peninsula. Strong waves made the exit to open water so treacherous that the boat was inundated with water before we could begin the 45-minute cruise to Isla del Cano and the Biological Reserve there.

Larry prepares to snorkel at Isla del Cano.
But who cares when you going snorkeling? For almost an hour we splashed our way around a coral reef, photographing multiple species of fish (including a shark) that swim in and around the various formations. Pleasant water and a picturesque underwater tableau made this an adventure to remember.

Back at the Lodge, our group walked through a garden looking for hummingbirds. Later, at the solar pool on-sight, we spotted a rarely-seen speckled owl in a nearby tree. The local guides took much interest in my pictures.

A beautiful scarlet macaw.
After checking out the spring-fed pool on a lower level, we walked to Margarita’s for another glorious sunset and to ponder the wonders of Costa Rica that we had seen and experienced so far on this trip.

Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier

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