Breathtaking Osa Peninsula...welcome to the "most biologically intense place on earth"!!

Published: January 31st 2009
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Green IguanaGreen IguanaGreen Iguana

resting on the beach across the resort
Last leg of the costarican experience and well...kept the best for the end!

Ever wondered what it felt like to spend time in “the most biologically intense place on earth” (National Geographic)? Exploring one of the tallest rainforests in the world, hoping (not) to run into some of the most dangerous snakes, frogs & spiders the world has to offer or go diving with 4 meters + Manta Rays, sharks & schools of hundred of tropical fish…??

Mmmm… might have wanted to keep this secluded nature wonderland for myself but locals are so far well protecting the area and the fact that this remains one of the most inaccessible places in the entire country should do it!

Well, in the case of the Corcovado Park & surrounding area, the journey in itself would be worth a blog but I am going to keep it short… 10 passengers’ plane (again…) from San Jose over some of the highest mountains in Costa Rica, then along the pacific ocean & above rainforests, swamps, rivers, lagoons….landing in Palmar Sur which is the tiniest airport with daily flights I have seen so far (basically a tiny workman’s hut) ..driving to Sierpe … catch a boat for a one hour ride on tropical rain forest river all the way to the Pacific Ocean … cross the estuary (and remain on the boat) … stop by Drake Bay (not even sure you can call it ‘village’) & then be dropt on the beach in front of the resort! Ouf :-) Made it to Pirate Cove! (now I do know why the owner decided to call it like that)

Couldn’t have been better!!

Looking back to the time I spent in the Osa Peninsula one quote comes in mind…

Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.
M.K. Gandhi

Home !! Well…I wish…

So, here I am, getting down from the speed boat, the water is warm, a few more meters and we reach a long stretch of deserted beach , and as we walk slightly more, we discover the resort, nested among tropical trees and flowers along a tiny river and facing the Pacific Ocean…

The walls of the cabin are colorful (orange/ yellow…felt home!) and open up on a long wooden floor balcony with hammock facing the ocean…
Could have spent hours in the hammock if it was not for the fact that I was actually in the Osa Peninsula with so many things to learn and discover…

And indeed, my day ‘dreaming’ stopped when the manager said casually ‘don’t worry if you hear a big noise during night time, it is most likely an iguana who felt on the roof, lots of them around’. Well…the iguana didn’t wait night time as within the half an hour after I got settled in the room and started to relax in the hammock, looking at the ocean, a huge one felt from the tree right in front of my balcony…mmm…obviously they are either really bad climbers or they do way too much day dreaming while looking at the ocean!

Let’s explore the area! Kayak?! Ok!

"and for the one who would like to explore the surrounding area & river than runs along the resort, kayak are available downstairs, just put those back when you are done". Sounds good!

Sun was coming down and I had at most 45 mn of light before ended up in the pitch black jungle, so kept that first one short but the feeling is still there…Sundowner is one of the best moment of the day to navigate along mangroves, the air was absolutely filled with the sounds of tropical birds , fish would pop up to the surface from time to time breaking the mirror like surface of the water & as you are slowly rowing deeper into this tropical labyrinth (alone on your tiny kayak) you truly start to FEEL everything that surrounds you. The hearing is somehow more acute, and the eye faster to catch the tiniest move…
First contact with this new environment, and one I won’t forget!

Corcovado National Park, the jewel of Central America

You read about it, its fauna and flora diversity (it is said to be home to more than 367 species of birds, 140 mammals and 117 amphibians and reptiles, over 6,000 species of insects…), its size (41,788 hectares of rainforests, swamps, rivers, lagoons, marshes and paradisiacal beaches) & try to picture how it actually looks like…At least I did…

The fact that it is secluded but as well right between North and South America means that both northern origins species and southern origins can be found, to which ones can add a long list of species that are endemic to the area. Ok, let’s get started!

The trip to the actual park (which is even more isolated than Drake Bay…believe it or not, it is actually possible!) is done by speed boat and takes a good hour. The beauty of it, is that you actually get to enter from the beach one of the few still existing primary rainforest forest (virgin forest) & the tallest one as a matter of fact!

Our guide was amazing, with a great sense of humor and an amazing knowledge of the area. You never know what you are going get to see …and somehow he managed to spot what our eyes would not have seen at first: spider monkeys, central American squirrel monkey, scarlet macaws, woodpeckers, coatis, black hawk, american crocodile to name a few…No jaguar although three had been spotted the day before and one more two days after, but eh…this is a rare encounter & when asked the guide told us the last time he saw one was four years ago “they are all around but rarely come near the trail”…ok, well guess I will need to come back & get really lucky!

Isla Del Cano, ok, now that’s what I

would call serious diving!

The other reason that brought me to that remote part of Costa Rica was well…diving! Cannot help it! After Cocos Islands, Isla del Cano is said to be the best diving place in Costa Rica to experience huge school of tropical fish, sharks (lots and lots of them…) & ray…Add to this the encounter from time to time with the humpback whale & dolphins and you start to have a feel of the place!

Forget the macro here…and look in the blue for some thrilling adventure!

And indeed, those two days of diving haven’t been short in sensations! Lots of sharks & surprisingly enough, you can get really close without them swimming away (guess it had something to do with the fact that they don’t see that many divers…the area is extremely protected and only 50 divers a day are allowed to dive in the entire area), an amazing first encounter with a devil ray as Brendon and I were doing our safety stop, eagle rays, huge school of chevron barracuda & an encounter with a 4 meters+ manta ray...simply magical!

Divers wise…well was glad to meet Brendon who ended up
THE airport terminal....THE airport terminal....THE airport terminal....

all facilities...outdoor arrival area & luggage unloading & welcome commitee...
being a great dive buddy! All the best in your around the world trip!

My two favorites dive spots:

El Arco ( the Arch)
Lots of tropical fish & beautiful sea fans, cup & head corals, the sea through at the arch is quite magical with huge schools of fish swimming through. Surprise encounter with a devil ray at the safety stop, yes!

El Bajo Del Diablo
THE dive site if you are looking for BIG ones… The area is made of volcanic mounds and canyons, medium currents (we got lucky as currents can get really strong in this area) & lots of action! White tip reef sharks, huge school of barracudas, stingrays, eagle ray, huge snapper & grouper and… the 4 meters Manta Ray to conclude this one of a kind dive experience! Loving it!

Leaving paradise…last leg of this ‘road’ trip

After 5 days in Corcovado paradise, it was unfortunately time to head back to San Jose…but not without going one last time through the breathtaking sceneries that Costa Rica has to offer…so on the bus I went (ok..after going through the now usual boat all the way to Puerto Jimenez…) together with Steffi I had met on the way in.
A great 5 hours journey across some of the highest mountains in Costa Rica (3000 + meters), along rivers, down to valleys & the perfect way to recover from the previous ‘short’ night!

Indeed, as we were at 3200 meters, a 6.2 earthquake hit the area we were heading to, and guess we must have been asleep at that time as we didn’t feel it…obviously, it came as a shock when once in San Jose we asked the taxi driver to bring us to the hotel and he replied that he was not sure whether we would be able to access it and then kept repeating “tremblar, tremblar…”
Steffi was prompt at checking what ‘tremblar’ meant only to found out that it was earthquake! Followed, an agitated conversation with the driver & a sight of relief when we reached the hotel…still there!

The earthquake had happened less than 2 hours before, and no one really knew the scale of the damages but having experienced the earthquake in China last year and spent a lot of time after it happened in the affected areas for relief mission, I was truly hoping that costarican were better prepared…

The first images came the next morning as we were leaving for the airport, the epicenter was actually at 30 km from San Jose in a very rural area. Some roads & houses were badly damaged or collapsed, landslides were apparent & 34 people had perished… A sad note to finish this trip, even though this was far from the scale of the Sishuan one, but any disaster big or small cannot let anyone indifferent.

Additional photos below
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1st February 2009

Thanks for sharing this, Laetitia! Very daring letting a scorpion on your hand, though!
1st February 2009

Ahaha :-) Well was not my hand but the one from the guide...but glad you liked the blog, quite a fascinating place indeed! Hope your travel preparation is going well :-)
30th March 2009

You have put some amazing pics...seems like you had a great trip!

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