“Keep close to Nature’s heart… and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean”. – John Muir
After watching the spectacular sunrise over the Osa Peninsula, we returned back down to Xiña’s cabin and ate a delicious breakfast of homemade pintos, eggs, tortilla and fresh fruit. I lavishly drank several cups of freshly roasted Costa Rican coffee and prepared for our day of adventure at Costa Rica’s crown jewel, the Corcovado National Park.
The Corcovado National Park was created in 1975 by the government to protect and conserve this amazing place which contains over 50% of Costa Rica’s biodiversity and is the last remnant of humid tropical rainforest on the Pacific Coast of Central America. The Corcovado National Park is enormous. It is the largest national park in all of Costa Rica and covers one-third of the Osa Peninsula. It is home to over 750 species of trees (1/4 of tree species in Costa Rica), 390 species of birds, 6,000 species of insects, and 140 species of mammals, and 116 species of reptiles and amphibians. It also is one of the only places in Costa Rica that has all four species of monkeys – howler, white-face, squirrel and spider, and has the largest concentration of scarlet macaws in the country. All in all, the Corcovado National Park is a pretty magnificent place and a natural treasure that is well worth protecting.
Our guide Rolando (who goes by the nickname “Toti”) was there waiting for us. Toti is from Dos Brazos de Tigre and lives just a few houses down from Xiña. He grew up in a mining family with the surrounding Corcovado National Park as his playground. After he finished school, he trained to be a certified guide for the park and began working with tourists once the new park entrance at Dos Brazos de Tigre opened a couple of years ago.
After breakfast, we packed our daypack of belongings, took a few last minute photos and said our goodbye to Xiña and her sister Nuria. We loaded up on bug spray, sunscreen and water for our six hour hike. The air was thick with humidity and I was already sweating profusely at nine am when we left Xiña’s cabin and headed back up the trail to the entrance of the park. It was going to be another adventure-packed day and I could hardly wait.
We walked for about 15 minutes along the dirt trail until we reached the entrance to the park. Ever since the death of a tourist a few years back, all visitors to the park must visit with a certified professional guide. Entering the Corcovado National Park is not something you want to take lightly. It is insanely hot and humid and there are lots of venomous snakes and spiders not to mention other large mammals. Furthermore with so many species of flora and fauna, it would be impossible to know what you are even seeing without a trained guide. I would soon discover that Toti seemed to have rather a sixth sense of spotting wildlife which made the experience even better.
For the next six hours, we tramped through the remote mountainous part of Corcovado National Park (CNP) following the seven-mile El Tigre Corcovado Trail (also known as “Le Sentier Brazos”. It was absolutely amazing as we did not see another soul the entire time we were there. Apparently, in the more popular parts of the park you usually see a lot of people and are rarely alone. Yet thankfully the park limits the number of daily guests for conservation thus hiking in CNP is nothing like it is in American parks.
We saw an incredible amount of wildlife ranging from a pair of nesting scarlet macaws, to a troupe of monkeys playing overhead while we ate lunch, to the surprise encounter with a herd of “chancho de monte or sainos” (collared peccary) whose strong musky odor was smelled before we saw them. We also lucked out by seeing a family of coatimundis rather nearby in the trees.
Around noon we rested for lunch under a canopy of trees and watched the spider monkeys high above us. I had to pinch myself to believe it was real. It was a pretty spectacular feeling and we had the entire jungle to ourselves.
Perhaps the highlight of the hike was when we encountered a pack of Sainos (Collared Peccary) . We were walking along the trail chatting away when Toti gave us the sign to be quiet and tiptoe slowly without making much sound. We followed his lead and then waited behind him in deep anticipation.
Toti was amazingly knowledgable and had a sixth sense for finding wildlife. I never heard the noises but of course he did and if we missed seeing what it was Toti knew the animal based on its sound or smell. He also spotted a pair of fresh puma tracks in the mud as well as fresh tapir tracks which meant these animals were somewhere around but we never saw them.
Towards the end of the hike we saw three sloths which is really rare and almost a strange coincidence as I had just said how bad I wanted to see a sloth and Eytan literally looked up in a tree and saw a mother and baby sloth. It was pretty amazing. They were all at least forty feet up in the tree so I couldn’t get a picture of them. Toti told us the most dangerous part of being a sloth was having to come down the tree to defecate. That was when a lot of them got eaten by pumas or other animals since it takes them so long to get back up the tree.
As we were reaching the end of the trail, we discovered the bones of a sloth that most likely died a month ago in the aftermath of the hurricane. Tito said that it rained for 17 days straight and tons of wildlife died in the Osa Peninsula. Here are some photos of Toti re-assembling the sloth.
Towards the end of the hike, I felt sad that our fantastic adventure had drawn to a close. Toti proved to be just as warm and delightful as Xiña. His love and passion of the jungle was infectious.
By three o’clock we had reached our car parked in Dos Brazos de Tigre. I was exhausted by invigorated by such a magical day in paradise. Little did I know I was in for an amazing surprise. Stay tuned.