Situated off the southern Pacific coast of Costa Rica along the shores of the Osa Peninsula, almost on the Panama border, you will find the Parque Nacional Corcovado (Corcovado National Park). This is a unique protected habitat and is the largest surviving forest on the Pacific Coast from Mexico to South America. There are eight different habitats to be found in the 42,000 hectares (100,000 acres) which form a tiny national park that remains for the most part unspoiled. Though teeny, it is one-of-a-kind. Literally.
When Christopher Columbus explored the Americas in 1502 he traveled the Caribbean from Mexico south to a land he called ‘Costa Rica’, the ‘rich coast’. The name stuck. Fabulous tropical forests covered the land from the Atlantic to the Pacific and there were so many sea turtles that sometimes mariners, lost in the fog, found land by listening to the sounds of tens of thousands of animals paddling towards nesting beaches. Unfortunately, the passage of 500 years has not been kind to either the forests or animals and today most of the primary forests from Mexico to South America have been cut down or burned. Fortunately, Costa Rica had the good sense to preserve Corcovado.
Columbus never saw Corcovado. The first Western explorer to see it was Sir Frances Drake (remember him? The sea captain who destroyed the Spanish Armada in 1588 and saved England from Spain) who landed just north of the Osa Peninsula in a beautiful place now named after him: Drake Bay. The bay serves as the gateway to Corcovado.
Corcovado is very tiny (not small, tiny), less than 160 square miles in size. That is about 20 miles long and 8 miles deep. Tiny. Even so, it is incredible. Described as ‘the most biologically intense place’ on earth by National Georgraphic, it is largely unspoiled and the single largest surviving rain forest situated on the Pacific Coast from Mexico to South America. The mangroves and other biodiverse areas of Corcovado protect an incredible array of plants and animals. There are 139 species of mammals, including the mighty jaguar, puma, ocelot, and three other kinds of wild cats. You will also find 400 different species of birds (the entire continent of Europe has 1000 species and the continental U.S. has 900) living in an area less than half the size of New York City! The largest remaining Central America population of scarlet macasws live here, along with 116 kinds of amphibians and reptiles. ‘Intense” is exactly right: 10% of all the different kinds of mammals in the whole of the Americas are found here—in a park less than 1/20th the size of Yellowstone National Park.
If you like frogs (and who does not?) then visiting this national park will be a rare treat. There are species of poison-arrow, glass, and re-eyed tree frogs which make this park their home. It is one of just a couple of places in Costa Rica to find squirrel monkeys, and visitors are able to watch fishing bats fish the rivers of the reserve at night. At one time you could also find the harpy eagle in Corcovado, however, it has not been see for a number of years and is believed to be extinct in the area.
The seemingly deserted beaches of the park provide a nesting ground for four species of sea turtle and because of the large tapir population jaguars and crocodiles also inhabit this area. They prefer to hunt around the edges of the Corcovado Lagoon and are often sighted. The footprints of this large carnivorous cat are often found in the mud trails which surround the lagoon.
Corcovado is one of the best tropical rainforests on earth. You will see why it is called the Amazon of Costa Rica because it is as impressive as any rain forest in Brazil, Indonesia, or Malaysia. Torrential rains fall in the area from April to December so the best time to visit is in the dry months from January to April.
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June 16 2009 04:04 am | Vacations