Thursday, 2 March 2017

COSTA RICA: Visit Corcovado National Park

While the park is one of the more remote in the national park system, Corcovado provides excellent wildlife viewing opportunities.

Flora and fauna
National Geographic called Corcovado National Park the "most biologically intense place on Earth" and this is no exaggeration. All four of the monkeys species found within Costa Rica (Mantled Howler, Squirrel Monkey, Spider Monkey and White-faced Capuchin) exist in large numbers throughout the park. Two crocodilians (the occasionally large and saline tolerant American Crocodile and the small Spectacled Caiman) persist within all of the park's major waterways, as do Bull sharks.

The Jaguar population within the park is the healthiest in all of Central America, however it is still extremely unlikely for a visitor to spot one (most locals have never seen them either.) Many other elusive cats call the park home as well, including the Puma (which is slightly smaller and more arboreal in Central American than in the United States, probably due to competition with the Jaguar,) Ocelot, Jaguarundi and Margay.

The park is one of the last strongholds of the Baird's Tapir and there are hundreds within decent proximity from Sirena Station, usually found lounging in the shade or in shallow pools of stagnant water. There are dozens of snake species present, many of them venomous, including the Fer-de-lance (also known as terciopelo or "Costa Rican landmine",) the Bushmaster, the Eyelash Pit Viper, and the Coral Snake. The largest snake within the park is the non-venomous Boa Constrictor.

Numerous other small mammals and reptiles are common within the park including, but by no means limited to, the White-nosed Coati, Sloth, Tamandua, Giant Anteater, Basilisk, and Ctenosaur. Birds include the highly endangered Scarlet Macaw, the Tiger Heron, Black Vulture and the Chestnut-Mandibled Toucan, among hundreds of others including the critically endangered Harpy Eagle.

Climate
Dry season. Running from mid-December until mid-April with occasional rain showers.
Wet season. Running mid-April until mid-December.

Getting There
Travel to and through the park is perilous and is best accomplished during the dry season.

Drake Bay lies on the north side of the park and provides entrance and easy access to its trails. Drake Bay, although sometimes difficult to get to, is an excellent alternative to traveling through Puerto Jimenez.
Puerto Jimenez. This is the nearest sizeable town to the park and most people entering the park will probably need to pass through this town.

Park Entrances:
From the north. Travel along the beach through San Pedrillo.
From the south. Travel along the beach through Carate.
From the east. Through Los Patos. It is a 13km hike from La Palma to Los Patos.

By bus
Regular bus service is available to Puerto Jimenez. Passenger truck service from Puerto Jimenez to the southern entrance at Carate occurs on a biweekly or greater basis. The journey generally takes between 3-5 hours by road depending on weather, traffic conditions. In May 2007 passenger trucks were on a twice a day schedule (morning, and late afternoon).

By 4WD
All roads on the Osa Peninsula exhibit the disrepair characteristic of Costa Rica outside of the main tourist destinations. The road from Puerto Jimenez to Carate require a 4WD vehicle as it is a gravel road with several required river fordings. It recommended that this drive should only be attempted during the dry season. Note that Carate is next to the beach. Take care not to pass Carate as it is poorly marked. Parking is available by paying the store/bus stop which is Carate.

4WD Taxis are available for the passage from Puerto Jiminez to Carate. They are easy to find on the main strip of Puerto Jiminez. Price is about $10 per person if you have a reasonable sized group or share a taxi with a new amigo.

By foot
From Carate, it is a 4 km walk on the beach to the park entrance at the ranger station Las Leonas. Park permits and camping are available at the ranger station.
Park passes are required a month in advance of going into the park and can be purchased on line.

By plane
Small planes fly from the city of Puerto Jimenez on the mainland directly to the small airstrip at the central ranger station.
Corcovado Drivers Map.

Fees/Permits
Permits must be reserved in advance. You must have a permit to stay overnight at Sirena. The park no longer allows overnight or day hikers to enter the park without a reservation permit. Sirena does not offer dormitory lodging As of Sept. 1, 2015. However, hot meals and camping are still available. La Leona and San Pedrillo offer only camping with no food service.

It is possible to secure park permits directly from the Ranger Station in Puerto Jiménez, but they do not accept credit cards, so it requires visiting Banco Nacional in Puerto Jimenez to make the payment. Many travel agents and guides can assist in securing your park reservations if you need assistance.

Note that the Park Service (MINAE) does not issue park permits more than one month in advance of anticipated arrival. You can contact the park office directly by email: pncorcovado@gmail.com

Fees as of 2014 for non-Costa Rican's (not including guide services or transportation to and from the park) are:
Entrance: $10 per day per person, $1 for children under 12.
Dorm Bed: $8 per night per person
Camping: $4 per night per person
Breakfast: $20 per person
Lunch: $25 per person
Dinner: $25 per person

Trails
Carate to La Leona. 3.5km hike along the beach.
La Leona to La Sirena. The 16km long hike to La Leona is on a trail which is on and off the beach. It is imperative that visitors time the hike so as to arrive at the river fording 2 km shy of La Sirena at the lowest possible tide. There is potable water at a stream "Quebrada la Chancha" (Chancha Stream) just east of "Ponta La Chancha" (Chancha Point).

Los Patos to La Sirena. This 20km hike is approximately eight hours through secondary rainforest. The trail slopes slightly down toward La Sirena.

San Pedrillo to La Sirena. This 29km hike is approximately thirteen or fourteen hours and is almost entirely along the beach. After the dry season of 2009 it will be closed.

Drake to San Pedrillo. This trail is outside of the park and leads to its entrance. The hike is approximately six hours along the beach and just inside the forest.

There are several short trails in and around Sirena

- Ria Clero
- Espaveles
- Naranjos
- Guanaenste
Ollas Corcovado