Part 2 Southern Costa Rica: Corcovado National Park
National Geographic has called Corcovado National Park the most biologically intense place on Earth. On October 31, 1974 Costa Rica set aside 263 square miles in the southwestern portion of the Osa Peninsula, to form Corcovado National Park.
In a country where over 25 percent of the land is protected in National Parks or preserves, many consider Corcovado the crown jewel of the park system. Corcovado is the last original great tract of moist tropical rain forest in Meso America.
While the principal habitat is the montane or cloud forest which covers approximately half the park, a wide variety of other habitats are present including palm swamp, prairie forest, alluvial plains forest and mangroves. This creates an environment to see a wide variety of plants and animals.
The altitude varies considerably as well. Corcovado boasts a virtually uninterrupted sandy beach which extends for 20 kilometers. There are cliffs and pocket beaches at both the northern and southern ends of the park. The low plains feature creeks and rivers. The uplands climb to 2,444 feet and the highest mountains are Rincón and Mueller.
There is intensive tectonic activity here. Up to ten tremors a day sometimes occur in the region, and crustal elevations have been observed. Landslides do occur in the upland areas.
There are over 500 tree species in Corcovado. In 1993 the cedro caracolita, a new genus and species was discover.
There are 140 species of mammals including 15 of the 30 endangered species found in Costa Rica. This is the best place in Costa Rica to try to see some of these endangered species. Some of the species that people come to see are the wild cats of Costa Rica, the jaguar, the jaguarundi, the little spotted cat, the ocelot, the margay and the puma. Corcovado is one of the best places in the world to possibly see a jaguar in the wild. All four of monkey species in Costa Rica can be found here including the endangered Central American Squirrel Monkey, White faced Capuchin, Mantled Howler and Geoffroy’s Spider monkey. There is both the two and three toed sloth to be found. There is a relatively large population of the endangered Baird’s Tapir. Both the Northern Tamandua and Silky Anteater may be seen. The southern river otter, and the crab-eating raccoon call Corcovado home. One of the most common mammals is the White nosed Coati. They are often found on the beach feeding on the moon crabs. The best place to find many of the animals is along the coastal route.
Many visitors also come for the birds as there are 367 different species found here. The rare harpy eagle which is almost extinct may still breed in parts of Corcovado. Other highly sought after birds include the scarlet macaw, Baird’s trogon, black-beliied wren, black-hooded antshrike, black-cheeked ant-tanager, black-headed brush finch, brown pelican, fiery-billed aracari, spotted-crown euphonia and the yellow billed cotin.
There are 40 types of freshwater fish and large populations of the American crocodile and the spectacled caiman. In the protected marine waters you can find 11 types of coral, several species of dolphin, three species of whale including the humpback whale and bull sharks. The Long Llorona beachis also nesting grounds for several species of turtles including Hawkbills, Leatherback, Green Turtle and the Pacific Ridley.
This is just a sample of the variety of animals that are found here.
The park offers four ranger stations. You can camp here or stay in basic cabins. While driving in the park is impossible there are a variety of trails. You can hire a naturalist guide or come by boat from Drake Bay. There is also an airstrip in the park for charter planes. It is best to visit in the dry season which is January to April.