Costa Rica - OSA Peninsular 18 - 28 August 2017


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Published: September 3rd 2017
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Pizza Mail.itPizza Mail.itPizza Mail.it

Downtown Puerto Jimenez
PUERTO JIMENEZ



It was an extremely long journey on the Interamericana Highway along the Cerro de la Muerte mountain peaks but we finally came out of the clouds and arrived on the coast near Domincal. We had not quite appreciated how long it would then take to reach Puerto Jimenez and in the end the journey took about five and half hours so it was great to finally reach our destination.





Situated near the tip of Costa Rica’s remote Osa Peninsula, Puerto Jimenez sits on the southeastern side of the peninsula, adjacent to a wide bay called the Golfo Dulce (Sweet Gulf). Aside from a few other small towns, the peninsula is literally covered with rainforest, much of which is protected as part of the famous Corcovado National Park and the reason we were here. Puerto Jimenez is one of the two main jumping off points for visiting Corcovado, the other being Drake Bay on the Pacific side of the peninsula.





We were staying at the Inn Puerto Jimenez which had just four rooms and were greeted by a lady who had a little English and we were able to communicate with our limited Spanish and hand signatures - the sign language of the world! The managers of the inn Jenna and Esteban were attending the Carate Turtle Festival but they left us a note saying they would be back the next day and if we wanted to attend the festival there was a bus at 6am. We decided against it as we were too tired from our long car journey and just wanted to relax .. .. .. …







We soon found our way around the small town, we were expecting it to be much bigger and were also hoping to be able to find somewhere to sort out my camera problem but this was definitely not going to happen here … … We strolled down to the beach area and were soon greeted with a flash of red, blue, and bright yellow overhead and spotted our first pair of Scarlet Macaws. These large South American parrots are a member of a large group of Neotropical parrots called Macaws and are native to the humid evergreen forests of tropical South America. A noisy bird you could definitely hear them when they were nearby but seeing them flying was really magical.





We appeared to be two of only a handful of tourists in the town and it was mainly friendly locals going about their every day business that we passed. It was coming to the end of the ‘tourist’ season and the weather now until December would be much wetter. Most of the hotels on the peninsular close down from about mid September although many had already closed their doors.





We found a great open air pizza cafe aptly named ‘Pizza Mail.it’, on the main street, most of the streets were potholed dirt roads but this one had patchy tarmac and looked over a football field. As we were eating a tropical storm arrived from nowhere and the rain hammered down on the tin roof. It continued relentlessly whilst we ate but in the end decided to head back to the inn so we got quite wet but luckily arrived just before the thunder and lightning started in full force which continued throughout the night.





The next day the rain had eased but there was still
Scarlet MacawsScarlet MacawsScarlet Macaws

Wish I had my Canon camera for this shot ...
no sign of Esteban & Jenna and we were getting a little concerned as we knew we had to obtain National Park passes in advance to get into the park. Finally they arrived and informed us that the storm had been really bad in the park and that the rivers had risen. They nearly became stuck between two rivers that are the only crossing points to Carate. The only option for them and the few tourist with them was to wade waist deep across the river which they did. Of course hardly anyone managed to reach the festival but they held it for the few locals that lived nearby. It was a shame though as the proceeds were going towards turtle conservation in the park and they could not have made much money that day. However we were just glad that we did not get the early bus to the festival as it never made it and it would not have been much fun wading waist deep through fast flowering river water … … We were to find out later that there were several land slips in the area and the road was closed in several places with trees covering the route. However they work quickly here with large diggers ready to clear the trees, mud and debris off the road - which is the only access road for the local population so a vital link for supplies.





We spent a pleasant few days in Puerto Jimenez - our hotel had a plunge pool and a tropical garden which attracted lots of birds big and small and it was even visited by several Scarlet Macaws. So we chilled and rested which was great after doing so much exercise in the mountains of San Gerardo de Dota. One day just as we were going to cool off in the pool a giant Green Iguana strolled along the rim of the pool - these reptiles can grow up to two metres long which makes it the largest iguana in America - this one was pretty big … … Besides vegetables they also eat insects, small animals and carrion but thankfully not us humans but it was difficult to jump in with him watching us on the edge!







Chatting to our host Esteban later he kindly offered to take us across the bay to Golfito which had a tax free shopping area to see if we could find a replacement for my camera. This port town was founded in the late 1930s by a large banana plantation run by the United Fruit Company. Within a short time the area became a prosperous trade centre and was one of the most important ports in southern Costa Rica. Sadly it suffered an economic depression after the company moved out in 1985 - it is said it was because the bosses were fed up with their workers constantly on strike. In 1990 the government set up a duty-free shopping zone in the area which attracts Ticos (native Costa Ricans) as well as resident foreigners from all over the country. Due to high import tax many goods are very expensive in Costa Rica and compared to San José’s prices they can make savings of up to 50 percent in Golfito. These ‘bargain’ prices are encouraging people into the area with the result that its slowly helping to revive the region and boost the struggling local economy - that being said it is 17 years since it was set up so no quick step solution.
Restaurante Lossari - Pura VidaRestaurante Lossari - Pura VidaRestaurante Lossari - Pura Vida

Only local foods well done by a lovely lady - grandma style - loved the Patacones (fried green plantain slices).





Later that night we met Jose, a local guide and friend of Esteban who had come to dinner with them. Believe it or not he was actually trying to sell his Nikon 3100 camera with a Sigma 70-300 mm lens as he now used a large Scope and his mobile phone for his photographic needs. We negotiated a deal so I am now the proud owner of a Nikon (rather old and battered) instead of a Canon with a Tamron 16-300 mm lens. Its an old model and the lens is a budget one but at least I have found a replacement which would have been really difficult to do in the remote areas we were travelling in over the next couple of months. It will be a new gadget to learn though as I am used to a Canon model and the Nikon is quite different, but plenty of time and hopefully opportunities to get to grips with it … …







CARATE





Getting to Corcovado NP on the Osa Peninsula is not easy and there is not much choice - you either go
CollectivoCollectivoCollectivo

The Cattle Truck - $9 Transport Puerto Jimenez to Carate
via Drakes Bay by boat or walk in via Carate which is 26 miles from Puerto Jiménez the route we were travelling on. Carate is not a destination in itself, but is the southwestern gateway for anyone hiking into the park. There's literally nothing more than an airstrip, a long strip of wild beach and a pulpería (small grocery store) together with a couple of eco-lodges.





We awoke early to get the transport into the national park, lucky for us the pickup point for the Collectivo was just across the road from our hotel so we did not have to drag our luggage too far which was lucky as there are no pavements and the road was just a dirt track that had just been graded. We were so glad that we left some of our luggage at the hotel for our return. The Collectivo is basically an old and worn out truck which locals call the ‘Cattle Truck’, it had two falling apart wooden benches down each side and it takes people, packages and anything else they can fit in … … This one truck makes just two trips a day between Puerto Jimenez and Carate and we chose the earlier one departing at 6am as we thought it would be cooler at that time of day. We climbed into the back of the truck and the driver took our $9 each one-way fee. Travelling with us were several locals and a group of young lads from Spain with a bird guide and they were heading into the park for just the day - a long journey just for a day … …



We were told that the travel time varies depending on break downs, flat tires, and how high the rivers one had to cross are … … Luckily we did not experience any breakdowns although we had to negotiate a few gushing river crossings, but with the truck so high off the ground it was quite easy. Unlike our previous hotel hosts who had to wade across the river a couple of days ago we had no problem. One of the rivers was a bit tricky as we had to negotiate around a large truck that had got stuck on the corner of the river crossing but there was just enough room for us to ‘squeeze’ by.

Driver stopped for breakfastDriver stopped for breakfastDriver stopped for breakfast

Rice & Beans of course




We stopped several times on the journey dropping off a few locals, goodness knows where they were heading as we did not see any homesteads, although we did pass some grasslands with grazing cattle and a few horses. About half way we stopped at this wooden ‘half way house’ so that the driver could have his breakfast - beans and eggs of course. We hung around waiting for him to finish so that we could head off again.





We climbed steadily into the rainforest around some very tight corners with the road dropping off each side when all of a sudden we spotted what we thought was blue paper floating down. It was a Blue Morphs Butterfly with its electric blue top side, brown underside, and its lilting, casual flight, it was glorious. These beautiful butterflies live in the tropical forests of Latin America from Mexico to Colombia. Adults spend most of their time on the forest floor and in the lower shrubs and trees of the understory with their wings folded. However, when looking for mates, they will fly through all layers of the forest what a wonderful sight they are
Lookout InnLookout InnLookout Inn

No shoes and great views
against the dark green jungle foliage. Try as I could it was difficult to get a photograph particularly with my ‘secondhand camera’……





We slowly wound our way down from the mountains and got our first glimpse of a black sandy beach and then we came to a shuddering stop - our driver dropped down the metal steps and said that it was our turn to get off. We could see the sign for our Inn with a steep uphill driveway so knew we were in the right place. You would not want to get off at the wrong stop here that’s for sure … …





Of course the Inn was built on a steep slope right above the beach and nestled into the mountainside so we started to drag our bag up the driveway and then ‘Chris’ appeared from nowhere. Chris informed us that he was a ‘Workaway’ volunteer helping out at the Inn with his wife for a month. He said that luckily for us our cabin was half way up the hill so he had come down to meet us so that we did not carry our bags to the top and then have to take them half way down again - a bit like humpty dumpty I suppose. Chris asked to help with our luggage but Paul being Paul declined and struggled to drag it up the steep incline to our cabin nestled into the hillside. We were quite relieved that we did not have to walk all the way up to the main building after our exhausting journey dragging out bags behind us as the heat was quite stifling …… but off course we did had to make that trip several times a day for meals !!!!!





Our rainforest A-framed wooden chalet was quaint, it had a decking area overlooking the Pacific Ocean and surrounding Peninsula de Osa coastal beaches - with of course views to die for. We were pleased to see that we had a mosquito net over the bed as otherwise we were open to the elements it was going to be strange living without walls high up in the jungle canopy… … …





There were two bamboo reclining chairs facing the ocean and we were to spend many hours sitting watching the
Our Jungle CabinOur Jungle CabinOur Jungle Cabin

Cane Chairs complete with hundreds of insects
world go by in these. But on the down side we were to find many strange insects living inside these cane structures who would burrow out in the evening and leave traces on the floors of our cabin! One evening this huge insect flew in it must have been at least a foot long … … …





There was a small rainwater open air shower and loo, quite basic and it took some getting used to only having cold rain water to wash and shower. Two small solar powered lights and a really tiny fan attached to the post of the bed were the only luxuries - no AC here - there was going to be some very sultry nights. It had its bonuses though as we could watch the birds in the nearby trees and we even had a large Roadside Hawk sit opposite us on a branch and he did not even notice us. Whilst gazing out over the ocean we even got glimpses of Humpback Whales migrating along the shoreline.





Chris and his wife Jenny were from the USA and they were both enjoying the experience at
Red-backed Squirrel MonkeysRed-backed Squirrel MonkeysRed-backed Squirrel Monkeys

came to see us at breakfast ... ....
the Inn. Workaway was set up to promote fair exchange, volunteering and work opportunities between budget travellers, language learners or culture seekers who can stay with families, individuals or organisations that are looking for help with a range of varied and interesting activities. For a few hours help a day the ‘student’ gets free food and accommodation as well as an opportunity to learn about local lifestyle and communities. They said that it gave them the opportunity to travel before they settled down to family life back in the States.





Luggage left in our room we hiked up the rest of the hill and Chris gave us a tour of the solar-powered eco lodge totally secluded in the dense rainforest. We met up with the owners, Terry (Terr) and his wife Katya who was born in the area. Terry told us that he visited the area when there was nothing much here and he just pitched a tent on the beach - now 22 years later he has created a magical little ‘inn’ which is the only beach side accommodation in Curate. Starting with just a few rooms they now had 11 separate mixed accommodations dotted up the hillside most of them with views out over the vast ocean and hidden in the tangle of jungle foliage. He told us that an Olive Ridley Turtle had came out of the ocean the previous night and laid her clutch of eggs just below the lodge. Terr had covered the nest with a bamboo structure to stop anything from digging up the eggs - we would wander the beach later to find it and many others that had been put up over the last few days.







Food at the Inn was served in the main building at three different locations and levels, one for breakfast, one for lunch and one for dinner, each location offering an equally brilliant view. Meals were cooked by the owners with local help and everyone sat together including our hosts on long tables at one of the view point dining areas. Most days we were joined by some animal, insect or bird - I suppose it is their home too .…… we also met some interesting people at the dining tables, mainly from USA but also Canada, Germany, Holland, Italy and Spain during our stay.



The Inn had no electricity but a communal charging station was operated between 6am and 5pm, which was powered by Solar or emergency battery which also kept the few lights shining at night. Two power sockets were permanently in use with various international adaptors attached to a mixed array of gadgets which kept coming loose and then not charging. WIFI was free and available all day in the communal areas which was useful for planning our onward journey but of course we had to keep charging our equipment when we could. Torches were definitely needed to find the way back to your cabin after dark as it was pitch black.



Later that day we hiked along the beach, what a beautiful location this was and such a short walk to the ocean from our room although we could not swim because of the strong rip currents. I think if this was a swimming beach the area would be swamped but most of the beaches have very strong currents.





CORCOVADO NATIONAL PARK



We had arranged to meet up again with Jose, the guy we bought the Nikon
Turtle Nest ...Turtle Nest ...Turtle Nest ...

... and route to freedom of the seas
camera from who was also a local bird guide. You are not permitted to enter the National Park without a qualified guide and as we had already met him it seemed a good idea to have him guide us into the park.





Jose drove down from Puerto Jimenez on his motorbike and luckily there had not been much rain so he was able to cross the rivers to get to Carate. We met him on the beach at 7am after an early breakfast - spread out along the beach were lots of discarded turtle eggshells it looked as though there had been a hatching in the night.







Once we met up with Jose we hiked along the gravel road which ran alongside a small airstrip both of which ended at a river. This was the end of the road on the peninsula and the only way in from here was on foot. Stopping straight away Jose spotted a hawk, he set up his scope and took a photograph through the viewfinder and I must say we were really impressed with the image it produced.



Corcovado NPCorcovado NPCorcovado NP

Paul and Jose heading into NP


Corcovado National Park is the largest lowland rainforest remaining on Central America’s Pacific coast - a nature lovers ‘heaven’. Because of its rich biological diversity, the park is considered by some to be one of the world’s most important sources for future knowledge about rainforest ecosystems and conservation. Scientists often use this park as their laboratory, and new plant and animal species are still being discovered all the time.







Only 161 square miles the park has the region’s largest populations of several endangered mammals such as Jaguars, Pumas Ocelots, White-lipped Peccaries, Tapirs and Anteaters, as well more than 400 species of birds including 16 different hummingbirds and the largest number of Scarlet Macaws anywhere in Central America - we had already seen these in Puerto Jimenez but were to see hundreds more here in Corcovado. The trees around the inn and into the park are literally covered with them they look like flowers hanging from the branches munching on the nuts and dropping the shells down to the ground - we narrowly missed several falling onto us. Of course you hear them along time before you seen them - and what a
Roadside HawkRoadside HawkRoadside Hawk

Taken through Jose's scope with my iPhone 5
sight they are to see in the air as they float by in pairs ‘talking’ to each other … …





All four of the monkey species found in Costa Rica are located here; the highly endangered Red-backed Squirrel Monkey, Black-handed Spider Monkeys, Howlers as well as White-faced Capuchins. Also all four of the Sea Turtle species that nest in Costa Rica visit the beaches of Corcovado, more on them later in this blog.





Once we arrived at the river we had to remove our walking shoes (we wish we had worn our Keens) to wade across it was flowing quite fast so we held on to each other but it was not deep which was lucky. Once across we entered the rainforest through a little track and started skirting along the side of the beach but still inside the rainforest. This secondary forest was once cleared for bananas but now had been taken over by trees and returned to its wild state although many bananas still grew amongst the trees. It was dark and dense inside and straight away we spotted a couple of Poison Dart Frogs. These were green-and-black poison dart frogs and whilst not the most toxic they are still a highly toxic frog. The very small amount of poison they produce is enough to make a human heart stop beating … … However, like most poison dart frogs, it only releases its poison if it feels threatened. Wild ones can be handled provided the human holding them is calm and relaxed - I was not going to give it a try though. Apparently all poison dart frogs kept in captivity lose their toxicity due to a change in their diet. This has led some scientists to believe that the frog actually takes its poison from the mites and other insects on which it feeds in the wild.





A little further on we spotted really high in the tree canopy a large sleeping Two-toed Sloth, we could not see its face as it was curled up in a ball - there are two types in the area the Two and the Three toed, I will write more about these in another blog.





A few minutes later we heard before we saw a couple of fighting male Coatis with the ‘sad’ loser sloping off really quickly and the winner patrolling his territory with a skip in his stride. We really like the Coati it has such a cute face with an upturned nose … ….









After a long trek we came out on to the beach and a little further on was the La Leona Ranger Station (there are just 6 within the park). We signed in the register before we could proceed any further with Jose. Much of Corcovado is not accessible at all as the jungle is either too thick or too wet. Those areas that are passable have trails leading from one ranger station to the next. The terrain along the trail was much the same as the trek we had to reach the Station but after our rest we made steady progress but did not get to see very much as the jungle became quite dense so we continued on slowly and carefully. It was getting hotter and hotter and the humidity was really high as we were passed by a couple of ‘youngsters’ with a guide heading for the Sirena ranger station, one
Spider MonkeySpider MonkeySpider Monkey

This one was just about to rub himself with lime leaves - it is thought they do this a sunscreen but I think it is to smell nice to the females ... ...
of them looked like he would not make it - it was another 9 miles west along the beach - we defiantly were not trekking that far today!!



We spotted more Poison Dart Frogs and lots of Lizards. We heard lots of birds that we never got to see but saw the Mangrove Black-Hawk, King Vulture, Laughing Falcon, Golden-naped Woodpecker and Red-headed & Yellow-headed Caracara as well as the majestic ‘king of the rainforest’, the Chestnut-Mandibled Toucan such an elegant bird with a wonderful call.





As we hiked further into the primary rainforest we started to be bombarded with fruits overhead and looking up we saw a troop of Black-handed Spider Monkeys sometimes called Geoffrey’s (not Geoff!) Spider Monkey, clambering around the trees having great fun. One of them stood up in front of us on a high branch and started rubbing himself with leaves. Jose said they rub a mixture of saliva and grounded lime tree leaves on their fur as a natural insect repellent. Quite a clever monkey and although they do not use tools they are considered to be the third most intelligent primate, behind only orang-utans and chimpanzees,
Corcovado National ParkCorcovado National ParkCorcovado National Park

Us at Park Entrance
and ahead of gorillas and all other monkeys. Their mental capacity is thought to be an adaptation to their fruit-based diets, which require that they identify and memorise many different fruits from a variety of fruit trees, and the location of these trees within the forest. Quite difficult considering they all look roughly the same and the ever changing jungle is a real maze.





We continued for another hour and then Jose said it was time to head back as it was a long way back to the ranger station and then at least another hour back to our inn from there - and of course we would have to cross the river again on foot. We did not see much on the way back, most of the wildlife were hiding away from the heat of the day as we should be, apart from the constant little trails of ants each carrying a solitary cut leaf on its back - some were carrying quite large leaves though many times bigger than them! We finally made it back to the Inn, said goodbye to Jose and had a ‘nice’ cold rainwater shower before sitting down and resting with our feet up for the rest of the day.







RED BACKED SQUIRREL MONKEY



At breakfast the next morning we were joined by a family of Red-backed Squirrel Monkeys which were so cute. Our host said that there were about 20 in the troop and they had just started coming down to the inn, many of them were mere youngsters about nine months old. We watched them nearly every day as they played around the area - they would hang on to trees and then just drop on to the roof of the building with a loud bang and then chase each other and jump up on the tree again - they kept repeating this for ages - youngster having so much fun it was fun to watch as well.



The Red-backed Squirrel Monkeys is a small monkey with an orange back and a distinctive white and black facial mask which makes it look as though it has applied a thick layer of black lipstick … … It has a slender body and a tail that is longer than the body itself and aids in their balance as they leap between branches in a ‘squirrel-like fashion’. The species is found in the Panama and the Pacific coast of Costa Rica primarily here in Corcovado but also in Manuel Antonio National Park.



The population declined precipitously after the 1970s which was believed to be caused by deforestation, hunting, and capture to be kept as pets (they are cute but why would someone want to do that). When they are unable to roam freely and intermingle with other troops, they are forced to breed within their own small group which results in genetic disabilities and its rapid demise. Efforts are underway to create a biological corridor to connect populations of the monkeys with thousands of trees they use for food being planted between known groups.



Other mornings we were joined by the White faced Capuchins, they were not so cute and did not seem to play together like the Squirrel monkeys. They were very crafty with any food they found making sure the others could not share it while the Squirrels Monkeys were quite happy to share theirs with the youngsters.





HIKING AROUND THE AREA

Paul and his matePaul and his matePaul and his mate

Usually manages to find one dog on our travels but this time decided to have 3 ... ...


We walked the beach every day and were usually accompanied by the owners three dogs. These dogs would sit in wait for any guests to come down and then tag along with them - the only trouble was that when you saw any birds they would chase them off so we tried to hide from the dogs but they always managed to turn up when we hiked either way … … If it was hot it was easier to walk down the road for a while under the tree canopy to where the river crosses the road then wade down the river to the beach. A little further on and you arrived at a small Turtle Sanctuary. Where they collect the turtle eggs and keep them in safe environment until they hatch and then release them.







TURTLES



The Osa Peninsular is a vital nesting habitat for four of the world´s seven species of sea turtle: the largest of all the Leatherback, as well as the Pacific Green, Hawksbill and the Olive Ridley.





Sea turtle numbers have been highly affected due to many factors - luckily for all of these turtles, there are several strong turtle conservation projects led by biologists, conservationists, and dedicated park rangers. One such project is that of COTORCO (Corcovado Sea Turtle Conservation) which works on the Carate, La Leona and Preciosa beaches on the Osa Peninsula, actively protecting the female sea turtles and their nests. The rangers and biologists are working hard to keep the turtles coming back to the beaches of the peninsula.



Right next to the beach they had a hatchery to help more turtles get back into the ocean. As in other areas the group want to reduce predation and poaching through an efficient and consistent education program in the community, involving them in the participation of conservation and environmental protection of sea turtles. The main threats of the turtle are over-fishing in the sea leading to the capture of many sea turtles. In addition, when a female turtle manages to get past the fishing boats and find a suitable beach, the eggs are often ‘stolen’ and sold in bars and restaurants in the surrounding towns, or feral dogs dig the nests up and eat the eggs. Of course once the turtles hatch they then have to run the gauntlet of the beach with many birds and vultures laying in wait. The other problem here is that the tide now comes in right up to the tree line and if the turtle makes her nest too low on the beach then the eggs get washed away with the tides. As well as these major hazards poaching is still a major problem on this part of the coast due to its isolation and the cost of patrolling all these vast beaches is an impossible task for anyone.





LAGOON

Just passed the turtle sanctuary was a large lagoon which was a beautiful place to sit and watch wildlife and the birds - but only if we could get there without the dogs and out of the heat of the sun. One day we were watching a Blue Heron when we noticed two large Crocodiles swim passed. He suddenly disappeared so we moved slightly away from the edge of the lagoon - just in case.







SO MUCH RAIN - BUT IT IS THE RAINY SEASON



It rained a lot mainly in the afternoon and when it rains it rains bucket loads here. The owner had a rain gauge and 2 inches of rain could easily fall in 30 minutes. It was never cold though unlike in San Gerardo de Dota we did not need a fire or any jacket at all. We lived in shorts and teeshirts which was just as well as washing our clothes in cold water was not ideal and things started to smell damp and become mouldy quite quickly. We were told that last December there had been a terrible flood in the area and 1500 people had to be evacuation. Those in Carate had difficulty because the rivers one had to cross to get in and out had risen so much that it was impossible to cross in any vehicle. In the end with food running low an emergency evacuation had to take place with ropes strung across the rivers and people helped to safety.





ANTEATER



On our last day in Corcovado National Park we decided to repeat some of the hike we had done with Jose and headed out early morning. We soon arrived at the river crossing but this time had worn our Keens so it was much easier to wade across and we reached the tree line and hiked back into the forest. It had rained a lot the night before and it was really wet and slippery underfoot. It was also really quiet we did not pass anyone else and did not see a lot of wildlife as we delved deeper into the thick forest and it got really hot and humid very quickly. We were hoping to get off the track once we reached the area where you can get on to the beach which we had passed with Jose a few days before. However we did not seem to be able to find it so as soon as we saw a clearing down we could we managed to scramble down to the beach and get some sunlight. All was quiet here but it was much easier to walk and it felt good to be out in the open instead of the restricted feeling under the dense canopy it felt like the forest was closing in around us……..



We saw several footprints in the sand which look like a cat of some sort and we were pondering what they were when I spotted a striped tail disappearing into a dead log - we never found out who it belonged to because as I looked up I spotted something moving slowly through the canopy on the edge of the beach - Oh my Lord’ - it was an Anteater at last.



These strange looking mammals are closely related to the Sloth than they are to any other group of mammals. Their next closest relations are Armadillos. There are four species; the Giant Anteater (the biggest up to nearly 6 foot), the Silky Anteater (the smallest 14 inches) and the Northern and Southern Tamandua (nearly 4 foot). We had actually spotted the Northern Tamandua Anteater and I think the most colourful of the species - a medium sized mammal with a prehensile tail, small eyes and ears, and a very long snout. The fur is pale yellow over most of the body, with a distinctive patch of black fur over the flanks, back, and shoulders, that somewhat resembles a vest shape - they looked a little bit like a ‘bear panda’. The hind feet have five toes, while the fore feet have only four, males and females are similar in size and colour, and range from three and half to four and quarter feet - this one was more on the larger size. Like other anteaters, the northern tamandua is highly adapted to its unusual diet. The tongue is long, extensible, and covered in sticky saliva which enables it to pick up ants and termites. Most surprising of all is like other anteaters, the northern tamandua has no teeth at all. This species of anteater is fully adapted to an arboreal lifestyle - the muscles of the toes and the presence of a tough pad on the palms makes the forefeet prehensile which enables them to grip onto projections as it climbs. The middle toe of the forefeet also bears an unusually large claw, and the toe has enough muscle and leverage to allow it to rip open wood to get at the ants within.





TIME TO MOVE ON





Now it was time for us to leave the Osa Peninsular - where does the time go - we really enjoyed every moment - it was a good balance of ‘some-comfort’ and lots of deep-jungle exploration and of course plenty of bugs. At night it was sometimes difficult to sleep with just the mossy net for protection - large beetles would somehow manage to creep inside the net - how they did this we are not sure … …. We saw some insects that were nearly a ‘foot’ long I kid you not …. …



While staying here we saw more animals than we ever expected, and we were able to observe jungle wildlife from an amazingly close range. We were lucky with out sightings and saw many mammals including the Red-backed Squirrel Monkey, White Face Capuchin Monkey, Spider Monkey but only heard the Howler Monkey. We saw Coatis and Crocodiles and a lot of bird life including many species of Hawks and Caracaras and of course hundreds and hundred of the magnificent Scarlet Macaws.



We saw or heard numerous species of Frogs, some just an half inch long but also enormous Cane-toads (they are not a threat here as they are in Australia). We also saw many Green and Black Iguanas but most amazing of all was spotting the Northern Anteater on our
Lookout InnLookout InnLookout Inn

from the beach
lone hike into the park. We just could not believe our luck as we so wanted to see one. Sadly we never got to see a Tapir although a German couple we spoke to did but then they never got to see the Anteater or the Crocodile - you cannot have it all and we felt very privileged to see the Anteater and spend some peaceful days on this idyllic peninsular … …







Time was racing on as it always does when we travel for long periods and in any event the area was already starting to shut down for the winter months. Everything closes here when the heavy rains hit and the jungle is returned to the wildlife - it is their home after all.



The untouched wilderness and shear remoteness made us feel like we had stepped back in time to a place where nature, not man, ruled the world - now we climb back on the cattle truck and head back along the bumpy track, crossing those rivers again into a little bit more civilisation to Domincal - hopefully see you all there.



















































COSTA RICA - OSA PENINSULAR 18 - 28 August 2017





PUERTO JIMENEZ



It was an extremely long journey on the Interamericana Highway along the Cerro de la Muerte mountain peaks but we finally came out of the clouds and arrived on the coast near Domincal. We had not quite appreciated how long it would then take to reach Puerto Jimenez and in the end the journey took about five and half hours so it was great to finally reach our destination.





Situated near the tip of Costa Rica’s remote Osa Peninsula, Puerto Jimenez sits on the southeastern side of the peninsula, adjacent to a wide bay called the Golfo Dulce (Sweet Gulf). Aside from a few other small towns, the peninsula is literally covered with rainforest, much of which is protected as part of the famous Corcovado National Park and the reason we were here. Puerto Jimenez is one of the two main jumping off points for visiting Corcovado, the other being Drake Bay on the Pacific side of the peninsula.





We were staying at the Inn Puerto Jimenez which had just four rooms and were greeted by a lady who had a little English and we were able to communicate with our limited Spanish and hand signatures - the sign language of the world! The managers of the inn Jenna and Esteban were attending the Carate Turtle Festival but they left us a note saying they would be back the next day and if we wanted to attend the festival there was a bus at 6am. We decided against it as we were too tired from our long car journey and just wanted to relax .. .. .. …







We soon found our way around the small town, we were expecting it to be much bigger and were also hoping to be able to find somewhere to sort out my camera problem but this was definitely not going to happen here … … We strolled down to
Pool at the InnPool at the InnPool at the Inn

Without the Iguana
the beach area and were soon greeted with a flash of red, blue, and bright yellow overhead and spotted our first pair of Scarlet Macaws. These large South American parrots are a member of a large group of Neotropical parrots called Macaws and are native to the humid evergreen forests of tropical South America. A noisy bird you could definitely hear them when they were nearby but seeing them flying was really magical.





We appeared to be two of only a handful of tourists in the town and it was mainly friendly locals going about their every day business that we passed. It was coming to the end of the ‘tourist’ season and the weather now until December would be much wetter. Most of the hotels on the peninsular close down from about mid September although many had already closed their doors.





We found a great open air Pizza cafe aptly named ‘Pizza Mail’, on the main street, most of the streets were potholed dirt roads but this one had patchy tarmac and looked over a football field. As we were eating a tropical storm arrived from nowhere and the rain hammered down on the tin roof. It continued relentlessly whilst we ate but in the end decided to head back to the inn so we got quite wet but luckily arrived just before the thunder and lightning started in full force which continued throughout the night.





The next day the rain had eased but there was still no sign of Esteban & Jenna and we were getting a little concerned as we knew we had to obtain National Park passes in advance to get into the park. Finally they arrived and informed us that the storm had been really bad in the park and that the rivers had risen. They nearly became stuck between two rivers that are the only crossing points to Carate. The only option for them and the few tourist with them was to wade waist deep across the river which they did. Of course hardly anyone managed to reach the festival but they held it for the few locals that lived nearby. It was a shame though as the proceeds were going towards turtle conservation in the park and they could not have made much money that day. However we were just glad that we did not get the early bus to the festival as it never made it and it would not have been much fun wading waist deep through fast flowering river water … … We were to find out later that there were several land slips in the area and the road was closed in several places with trees covering the route. However they work quickly here with large diggers ready to clear the trees, mud and debris off the road - which is the only access road for the local population so a vital link for supplies.





We spent a pleasant few days in Puerto Jimenez - our hotel had a plunge pool and a tropical garden which attracted lots of birds big and small and it was even visited by several Scarlet Macaws. So we chilled and rested which was great after doing so much exercise in the mountains of San Gerardo de Dota. One day just as we were going to cool off in the pool a giant Green Iguana strolled along the rim of the pool - these reptiles can grow up to two metres long which makes it the largest iguana in America - this one was pretty big … … Besides vegetables they also eat insects, small animals and carrion but thankfully not us humans but it was difficult to jump in with him watching us on the edge!







Chatting to our host Esteban later he kindly offered to take us across the bay to Golfito which had a tax free shopping area to see if we could find a replacement for my camera. This port town was founded in the late 1930s by a large banana plantation run by the United Fruit Company. Within a short time the area became a prosperous trade centre and was one of the most important ports in southern Costa Rica. Sadly it suffered an economic depression after the company moved out in 1985 - it is said it was because the bosses were fed up with their workers constantly on strike. In 1990 the government set up a duty-free shopping zone in the area which attracts Ticos (native Costa Ricans) as well as resident foreigners from all over the country. Due to high import tax many goods are very expensive in Costa Rica and compared to San José’s prices they can make savings of up to 50% in Golfito. These ‘bargain’ prices are encouraging people into the area with the result that its slowly helping to revive the region and boost the struggling local economy - that being said it is 17 years since it was set up so no quick step solution.





Later that night we met Jose, a local guide and friend of Esteban who had come to dinner with them. Believe it or not he was actually trying to sell his Nikon 3100 camera with a Sigma 70-300 mm lens as he now used a large Scope and his mobile phone for his photographic needs. We negotiated a deal so I am now the proud owner of a Nikon (rather old and battered) instead of a Canon with a Tamron 16-300 mm lens. Its an old model and the lens is a budget one but at least I have found a replacement which would have been really difficult to do in the remote areas we were travelling in over the next couple of months. It will be a new gadget to learn though as I am used to a Canon model and the Nikon is quite different, but plenty of time and hopefully opportunities to get to grips with it … …







CARATE





Getting to Corcovado NP on the Osa Peninsula is not easy and there is not much choice - you either go via Drakes Bay by boat or walk in via Carate which is 26 miles from Puerto Jiménez the route we were travelling on. Carate is not a destination in itself, but is the southwestern gateway for anyone hiking into the park. There's literally nothing more than an airstrip, a long strip of wild beach and a pulpería (small grocery store) together with a couple of eco-lodges.





We awoke early to get the transport into the national park, lucky for us the pickup point for the Collectivo was just across the road from our hotel so we did not have to drag our luggage too far which was lucky as there are no pavements and the road was just a dirt track that had just been graded. We were so glad that we left some of our luggage at the hotel for our return. The Collectivo is basically an old and worn out truck which locals call the ‘Cattle Truck’, it had two falling apart wooden benches down each side and it takes people, packages and anything else they can fit in … … This one truck makes just two trips a day between Puerto Jimenez and Carate and we chose the earlier one departing at 6am as we thought it would be cooler at that time of day. We climbed into the back of the truck and the driver took our $9 each one-way fee. Travelling with us were several locals and a group of young lads from Spain with a bird guide and they were heading into the park for just the day - a long journey just for a day … …



We were told that the travel time varies depending on break downs, flat tires, and how high the rivers one had to cross are … … Luckily we did not experience any breakdowns although we had to negotiate a few gushing river crossings, but with the truck so high off the ground it was quite easy. Unlike our previous hotel hosts who had to wade across the river a couple of days ago we had no problem. One of the rivers was a bit tricky as we had to negotiate around a large truck that had got stuck on the corner of the river crossing but there was just enough room for us to ‘squeeze’ by.





We stopped several times on the journey dropping off a few locals, goodness knows where they were heading as we did not see any homesteads, although we did pass some grasslands with grazing cattle and a few horses. About half way we stopped at this wooden ‘half way house’ so that the driver could have his breakfast - beans and eggs of course. We hung around waiting for him to finish so that we could head off again.





We climbed steadily into the rainforest around some very tight corners with the road dropping off each side when all of a sudden we spotted what we thought was blue paper floating down. It was a Blue Morphs Butterfly with its electric blue top side, brown underside, and its lilting, casual flight, it was glorious. These beautiful butterflies live in the tropical forests of Latin America from Mexico to Colombia. Adults spend most of their time on the forest floor and in the lower shrubs and trees of the understory with their wings folded. However, when looking for mates, they will fly through all layers of the forest what a wonderful sight they are against the dark green jungle foliage. Try as I could it was difficult to get a photograph particularly with my ‘secondhand camera’……





We slowly wound our way down from the mountains and got our first glimpse of a black sandy beach and then we came to a shuddering stop - our driver dropped down the metal steps and said that it was our turn to get off. We could see the sign for our Inn with a steep uphill driveway so knew we were in the right place. You would not want to get off at the wrong stop here that’s for sure … …





Of course the Inn was built on a steep slope right above the beach and nestled into the mountainside so we started to drag our bag up the driveway and then ‘Chris’ appeared from nowhere. Chris informed us that he was a ‘Workaway’ volunteer helping out at the Inn with his wife for a month. He said that luckily for us our cabin was half way up the hill so he had come down to meet us so that we did not carry our bags to the top and then have to take them half way down again - a bit like humpty dumpty I suppose. Chris asked to help with our luggage but Paul being Paul declined and struggled to drag it up the steep incline to our cabin nestled into the hillside. We were quite relieved that we did not have to walk all the way up to the main building after our exhausting journey dragging out bags behind us as the heat was quite stifling …… but off course we did had to make that trip several times a day for meals !!!!!





Our rainforest A-framed wooden chalet was quaint, it had a decking area overlooking the Pacific Ocean and surrounding Peninsula de Osa coastal beaches - with of course views to die for. We were pleased to see that we had a mosquito net over the bed as otherwise we were open to the elements it was going to be strange living without walls high up in the jungle canopy… … …





There were two bamboo reclining chairs facing the ocean and we were to spend many hours sitting watching the world go by in these. But on the down side we were to find many strange insects living inside these cane structures who would burrow out in the evening and leave traces on the floors of our cabin! One evening this huge insect flew in it must have been at least a foot long … … …





There was a small rainwater open air shower and loo, quite basic and it took some getting used to only having cold rain water to wash and shower. Two small solar powered lights and a really tiny fan attached to the post of the bed were the only luxuries - no AC here - there was going to be some very sultry nights. It had its bonuses though as we could watch the birds in the nearby trees and we even had a large Roadside Hawk sit opposite us on a branch and he did not even notice us. Whilst gazing out over the ocean we even got glimpses of Humpback Whales migrating along the shoreline.





Chris and his wife Jenny were from the USA and they were both enjoying the experience at the Inn. Workaway was set up to promote fair exchange, volunteering and work opportunities between budget travellers, language learners or culture seekers who can stay with families, individuals or organisations that are looking for help with a range of varied and interesting activities. For a few hours help a day the ‘student’ gets free food and accommodation as well as an opportunity to learn about local lifestyle and communities. They said that it gave them the opportunity to travel before they settled down to family life back in the States.





Luggage left in our room we hiked up the rest of the hill and Chris gave us a tour of the solar-powered eco lodge totally secluded in the dense rainforest. We met up with the owners, Terry (Terr) and his wife Katya who was born in the area. Terry told us that he visited the area when there was nothing much here and he just pitched a tent on the beach - now 22 years later he has created a magical little ‘inn’ which is the only beach side accommodation in Curate. Starting with just a few rooms they now had 11 separate mixed accommodations dotted up the hillside most of them with views out over the vast ocean and hidden in the tangle of jungle foliage. He told us that an Olive Ridley Turtle had came out of the ocean the previous night and laid her clutch of eggs just below the lodge. Terr had covered the nest with a bamboo structure to stop anything from digging up the eggs - we would wander the beach later to find it and many others that had been put up over the last few days.







Food at the Inn was served in the main building at three different locations and levels, one for breakfast, one for lunch and one for dinner, each location offering an equally brilliant view. Meals were cooked by the owners with local help
Great RestaurantGreat RestaurantGreat Restaurant

but take an umbrella ... ...
and everyone sat together including our hosts on long tables at one of the view point dining areas. Most days we were joined by some animal, insect or bird - I suppose it is their home too .…… we also met some interesting people at the dining tables, mainly from USA but also Canada, Germany, Holland, Italy and Spain during our stay.



The Inn had no electricity but a communal charging station was operated between 6am and 5pm, which was powered by Solar or emergency battery which also kept the few lights shining at night. Two power sockets were permanently in use with various international adaptors attached to a mixed array of gadgets which kept coming loose and then not charging. WIFI was free and available all day in the communal areas which was useful for planning our onward journey but of course we had to keep charging our equipment when we could. Torches were definitely needed to find the way back to your cabin after dark as it was pitch black.



Later that day we hiked along the beach, what a beautiful location this was and such a short walk to the ocean from our room although we could not swim because of the strong rip currents. I think if this was a swimming beach the area would be swamped but most of the beaches have very strong currents.





CORCOVADO NATIONAL PARK



We had arranged to meet up again with Jose, the guy we bought the Nikon camera from who was also a local bird guide. You are not permitted to enter the National Park without a qualified guide and as we had already met him it seemed a good idea to have him guide us into the park.





Jose drove down from Puerto Jimenez on his motorbike and luckily there had not been much rain so he was able to cross the rivers to get to Carate. We met him on the beach at 7am after an early breakfast - spread out along the beach were lots of discarded turtle eggshells it looked as though there had been a hatching in the night.







Once we met up with Jose we hiked along the gravel road which ran alongside a small airstrip both of which ended at a river. This was the end of the road on the peninsula and the only way in from here was on foot. Stopping straight away Jose spotted a hawk, he set up his scope and took a photograph through the viewfinder and I must say we were really impressed with the image it produced.





Corcovado National Park is the largest lowland rainforest remaining on Central America’s Pacific coast - a nature lovers ‘heaven’. Because of its rich biological diversity, the park is considered by some to be one of the world’s most important sources for future knowledge about rainforest ecosystems and conservation. Scientists often use this park as their laboratory, and new plant and animal species are still being discovered all the time.







Only 161 square miles the park has the region’s largest populations of several endangered mammals such as Jaguars, Pumas Ocelots, White-lipped Peccaries, Tapirs and Anteaters, as well more than 400 species of birds including 16 different hummingbirds and the largest number of Scarlet Macaws anywhere in Central America - we had already seen these in Puerto Jimenez but were to see hundreds more here in Corcovado. The trees around the inn and into the park are literally covered with them they look like flowers hanging from the branches munching on the nuts and dropping the shells down to the ground - we narrowly missed several falling onto us. Of course you hear them along time before you seen them - and what a sight they are to see in the air as they float by in pairs ‘talking’ to each other … …





All four of the monkey species found in Costa Rica are located here; the highly endangered Red-backed Squirrel Monkey, Black-handed Spider Monkeys, Howlers as well as White-faced Capuchins. Also all four of the Sea Turtle species that nest in Costa Rica visit the beaches of Corcovado, more on them later in this blog.





Once we arrived at the river we had to remove our walking shoes (we wish we had worn our Keens) to wade across it was flowing quite fast so we held on to each other but it was not deep which was lucky. Once across we entered the rainforest through a little track and started skirting along the side of the beach but still inside the rainforest. This secondary forest was once cleared for bananas but now had been taken over by trees and returned to its wild state although many bananas still grew amongst the trees. It was dark and dense inside and straight away we spotted a couple of Poison Dart Frogs. These were green-and-black poison dart frogs and whilst not the most toxic they are still a highly toxic frog. The very small amount of poison they produce is enough to make a human heart stop beating … … However, like most poison dart frogs, it only releases its poison if it feels threatened. Wild ones can be handled provided the human holding them is calm and relaxed - I was not going to give it a try though. Apparently all poison dart frogs kept in captivity lose their toxicity due to a change in their diet. This has led some scientists to believe that the frog actually takes its poison from the mites and other insects on which it feeds in the wild.





A little further on we spotted really high in the tree canopy a large sleeping Two-toed Sloth, we could not see its face as it was curled up in a ball - there are two types in the area the Two and the Three toed, I will write more about these in another blog.





A few minutes later we heard before we saw a couple of fighting male Coatis with the ‘sad’ loser sloping off really quickly and the winner patrolling his territory with a skip in his stride. We really like the Coati it has such a cute face with an upturned nose … ….









After a long trek we came out on to the beach and a little further on was the La Leona Ranger Station (there are just 6 within the park). We signed in the register before we could proceed any further with Jose. Much of Corcovado is not accessible at all as the jungle is either too thick or too wet. Those areas that are passable have trails leading from one ranger station to the next. The terrain along the trail was much the same as the trek we had to reach the Station but after our rest we made steady progress but did not get to see very much as the jungle became quite dense so we continued on slowly and carefully. It was getting hotter and hotter and the humidity was really high as we were passed by a couple of ‘youngsters’ with a guide heading for the Sirena ranger station, one of them looked like he would not make it - it was another 9 miles west along the beach - we defiantly were not trekking that far today!!



We spotted more Poison Dart Frogs and lots of Lizards. We heard lots of birds that we never got to see but saw the Mangrove Black-Hawk, King Vulture, Laughing Falcon, Golden-naped Woodpecker and Red-headed & Yellow-headed Caracara as well as the majestic ‘king of the rainforest’, the Chestnut-Mandibled Toucan such an elegant bird with a wonderful call.





As we hiked further into the primary rainforest we started to be bombarded with fruits overhead and looking up we saw a troop of Black-handed Spider Monkeys sometimes called Geoffrey’s (not Geoff!) Spider Monkey, clambering around the trees having great fun. One of them stood
Lookout Inn Lookout Inn Lookout Inn

Breakfast & Bar Deck
up in front of us on a high branch and started rubbing himself with leaves. Jose said they rub a mixture of saliva and grounded lime tree leaves on their fur as a natural insect repellent. Quite a clever monkey and although they do not use tools they are considered to be the third most intelligent primate, behind only orang-utans and chimpanzees, and ahead of gorillas and all other monkeys. Their mental capacity is thought to be an adaptation to their fruit-based diets, which require that they identify and memorise many different fruits from a variety of fruit trees, and the location of these trees within the forest. Quite difficult considering they all look roughly the same and the ever changing jungle is a real maze.





We continued for another hour and then Jose said it was time to head back as it was a long way back to the ranger station and then at least another hour back to our inn from there - and of course we would have to cross the river again on foot. We did not see much on the way back, most of the wildlife were hiding away from
Paul and JosePaul and JosePaul and Jose

Heading for Corcovado National Park
the heat of the day as we should be, apart from the constant little trails of ants each carrying a solitary cut leaf on its back - some were carrying quite large leaves though many times bigger than them! We finally made it back to the Inn, said goodbye to Jose and had a ‘nice’ cold rainwater shower before sitting down and resting with our feet up for the rest of the day.







RED BACKED SQUIRREL MONKEY



At breakfast the next morning we were joined by a family of Red-backed Squirrel Monkeys which were so cute. Our host said that there were about 20 in the troop and they had just started coming down to the inn, many of them were mere youngsters about nine months old. We watched them nearly every day as they played around the area - they would hang on to trees and then just drop on to the roof of the building with a loud bang and then chase each other and jump up on the tree again - they kept repeating this for ages - youngster having so much fun it was fun to watch as well.



The Red-backed Squirrel Monkeys is a small monkey with an orange back and a distinctive white and black facial mask which makes it look as though it has applied a thick layer of black lipstick … … It has a slender body and a tail that is longer than the body itself and aids in their balance as they leap between branches in a ‘squirrel-like fashion’. The species is found in the Panama and the Pacific coast of Costa Rica primarily here in Corcovado but also in Manuel Antonio National Park.



The population declined precipitously after the 1970s which was believed to be caused by deforestation, hunting, and capture to be kept as pets (they are cute but why would someone want to do that). When they are unable to roam freely and intermingle with other troops, they are forced to breed within their own small group which results in genetic disabilities and its rapid demise. Efforts are underway to create a biological corridor to connect populations of the monkeys with thousands of trees they use for food being planted between known groups.



Other mornings we were joined by the White faced Capuchins, they were not so cute and did not seem to play together like the Squirrel monkeys. They were very crafty with any food they found making sure the others could not share it while the Squirrels Monkeys were quite happy to share theirs with the youngsters.





HIKING AROUND THE AREA



We walked the beach every day and were usually accompanied by the owners three dogs. These dogs would sit in wait for any guests to come down and then tag along with them - the only trouble was that when you saw any birds they would chase them off so we tried to hide from the dogs but they always managed to turn up when we hiked either way … … If it was hot it was easier to walk down the road for a while under the tree canopy to where the river crosses the road then wade down the river to the beach. A little further on and you arrived at a small Turtle Sanctuary. Where they collect the turtle eggs and keep them in safe environment until they hatch and then release them.
Laughing FalconLaughing FalconLaughing Falcon

Taken through Scope with my iPhone







TURTLES



The Osa Peninsular is a vital nesting habitat for four of the world´s seven species of sea turtle: the largest of all the Leatherback, as well as the Pacific Green, Hawksbill and the Olive Ridley.





Sea turtle numbers have been highly affected due to many factors - luckily for all of these turtles, there are several strong turtle conservation projects led by biologists, conservationists, and dedicated park rangers. One such project is that of COTORCO (Corcovado Sea Turtle Conservation) which works on the Carate, La Leona and Preciosa beaches on the Osa Peninsula, actively protecting the female sea turtles and their nests. The rangers and biologists are working hard to keep the turtles coming back to the beaches of the peninsula.



Right next to the beach they had a hatchery to help more turtles get back into the ocean. As in other areas the group want to reduce predation and poaching through an efficient and consistent education program in the community, involving them in the participation of conservation and environmental protection of sea turtles. The main threats of the turtle are over-fishing in the sea leading to the capture of many sea turtles. In addition, when a female turtle manages to get past the fishing boats and find a suitable beach, the eggs are often ‘stolen’ and sold in bars and restaurants in the surrounding towns, or feral dogs dig the nests up and eat the eggs. Of course once the turtles hatch they then have to run the gauntlet of the beach with many birds and vultures laying in wait. The other problem here is that the tide now comes in right up to the tree line and if the turtle makes her nest too low on the beach then the eggs get washed away with the tides. As well as these major hazards poaching is still a major problem on this part of the coast due to its isolation and the cost of patrolling all these vast beaches is an impossible task for anyone.





LAGOON

Just passed the turtle sanctuary was a large lagoon which was a beautiful place to sit and watch wildlife and the birds - but only if we could get there without the dogs and out of the heat of the sun. One day we were watching a Blue Heron when we noticed two large Crocodiles swim passed. He suddenly disappeared so we moved slightly away from the edge of the lagoon - just in case.







SO MUCH RAIN - BUT IT IS THE RAINY SEASON



It rained a lot mainly in the afternoon and when it rains it rains bucket loads here. The owner had a rain gauge and 2 inches of rain could easily fall in 30 minutes. It was never cold though unlike in San Gerardo de Dota we did not need a fire or any jacket at all. We lived in shorts and teeshirts which was just as well as washing our clothes in cold water was not ideal and things started to smell damp and become mouldy quite quickly. We were told that last December there had been a terrible flood in the area and 1500 people had to be evacuation. Those in Carate had difficulty because the rivers one had to cross to get in and out had risen so much that it was impossible to cross in any vehicle. In the end with food running low an emergency evacuation had to take place with ropes strung across the rivers and people helped to safety.





ANTEATER



On our last day in Corcovado National Park we decided to repeat some of the hike we had done with Jose and headed out early morning. We soon arrived at the river crossing but this time had worn our Keens so it was much easier to wade across and we reached the tree line and hiked back into the forest. It had rained a lot the night before and it was really wet and slippery underfoot. It was also really quiet we did not pass anyone else and did not see a lot of wildlife as we delved deeper into the thick forest and it got really hot and humid very quickly. We were hoping to get off the track once we reached the area where you can get on to the beach which we had passed with Jose a few days before. However we did not seem to be able to find it so as soon as we saw a clearing down we could we managed to scramble down to the beach and get some sunlight. All was quiet here but it was much easier to walk and it felt good to be out in the open instead of the restricted feeling under the dense canopy it felt like the forest was closing in around us……..



We saw several footprints in the sand which look like a cat of some sort and we were pondering what they were when I spotted a striped tail disappearing into a dead log - we never found out who it belonged to because as I looked up I spotted something moving slowly through the canopy on the edge of the beach - Oh my Lord’ - it was an Anteater at last.



These strange looking mammals are closely related to the Sloth than they are to any other group of mammals. Their next closest relations are Armadillos. There are four species; the Giant Anteater (the biggest up to nearly 6 foot), the Silky Anteater (the smallest 14 inches) and the Northern and Southern Tamandua (nearly 4 foot). We had actually spotted the Northern Tamandua Anteater and I think the most colourful of the species - a medium sized mammal with a prehensile tail, small eyes and ears, and a very long snout. The fur is pale yellow over most of the body, with a distinctive patch of black fur over the flanks, back, and shoulders, that somewhat resembles a vest shape - they looked a little bit like a ‘bear panda’. The hind feet have five toes, while the fore feet have only four, males and females are similar in size and colour, and range from three and half to four and quarter feet - this one was more on the larger size. Like other anteaters, the northern tamandua is highly adapted to its unusual diet. The tongue is long, extensible, and covered in sticky saliva which enables it to pick up ants and termites. Most surprising of all is like other anteaters, the northern tamandua has no teeth at all. This species of anteater is fully adapted to an arboreal lifestyle - the muscles of the toes and the presence of a tough pad on the palms makes the forefeet prehensile which enables them to grip onto projections as it climbs. The middle toe of the forefeet also bears an unusually large claw, and the toe has enough muscle and leverage to allow it to rip open wood to get at the ants within.





TIME TO MOVE ON





Now it was time for us to leave the Osa Peninsular - where does the time go - we really enjoyed every moment - it was a good balance of ‘some-comfort’ and lots of deep-jungle exploration and of course plenty of bugs. At night it was sometimes difficult to sleep with just the mossy net for protection - large beetles would somehow manage to creep inside the net - how they did this we are not sure … …. We saw some insects that were nearly a ‘foot’ long I kid you not …. …



While staying here we saw more animals than we ever expected, and we were able to observe jungle wildlife from an amazingly close range. We were lucky with out sightings and saw many mammals including the Red-backed Squirrel Monkey, White Face Capuchin Monkey, Spider Monkey but only heard the Howler Monkey. We saw Coatis and Crocodiles and a lot of bird life including many species of Hawks and Caracaras and of course hundreds and hundred of the magnificent Scarlet Macaws.



We saw or heard numerous species of Frogs, some just an half inch long but also enormous Cane-toads (they are not a threat here as they are in Australia). We also saw many Green and Black Iguanas but most amazing of all was spotting the Northern Anteater on our lone hike into the park. We just could not believe our luck as we so wanted to see one. Sadly we never got to see a Tapir although a German couple we spoke to did but then they never got to see the Anteater or the Crocodile - you cannot have it all and we felt very privileged to see the Anteater and spend some peaceful days on this idyllic peninsular … …







Time was racing on as it always does when we travel for long periods and in any event the area was already starting to shut down for the winter months. Everything closes here when the heavy rains hit and the jungle is returned to the wildlife - it is their home after all.



The untouched wilderness and shear remoteness made us feel like we had stepped back in time to a place where nature, not man, ruled the world - now we climb back on the cattle truck and head back along the bumpy track, crossing those rivers again into a little bit more civilisation to Dominical - hopefully see you all there.

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4th September 2017
Scarlet Macaw

The joys of Costa Rica
Beautiful
5th September 2017
Scarlet Macaw

Thank you
Such a stunningly colourful parrot we have never seen so many.
15th November 2018

Costa Rica, my paradise!
I really enjoyed your blog. For me, a nature's enthusiast, Costa Rica is really unique. Most of my travels are nature's oriented, and it's difficult to find other countries, with so much biodiversity and accessibility, packed in such a small country!
23rd November 2018

Unique
Thanks for your comments and we agree CR is one of the best place for wildlife in the world

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