Wednesday, July 02, 2008
Adventure in Costa Rica - Corcovado National Park
Previously on "Adventure in Costa Rica": We traveled by air and river boat to reach the amazing Casa Corcovado Jungle Lodge. To catch up, read this post.
Our first day in the Corcovado National Park (see previous post) was spent hiking through the jungle. We started with an early breakfast that day, before 7am. Very early for a night-owl like myself, but since it gets dark around 6pm this close to the equator, I had no problem going to sleep early, and I really didn't mind getting up earlier either. Half an hour later we were on our way into the jungle, which basically meant stepping away from the hotel buildings and there you are!
Casa Corcovado features a few hiking trails guests can use on their own, but for most of the trails it is recommended to have a guide. Our guide (Danny) was excellent. I clearly loved just job, nature, and all the wild life. He prepared us well for the task ahead and told us what to look for, and what not to touch. (In fact, if I ever return to Casa Corcovado, I would probably check to see if Danny still works there and request him specifically).
The Corcovado National Park is an amazing place to see, with tons of wildlife and lots of different types of jungle. And of course, this is not a zoo. So everything is natural and people are just visitors in this amazing part of the world. This means that there aren't any handrails and what you will encounter is a complete matter of luck. You are likely to see monkeys, sloths, frogs, snakes, ants, spiders, bats, iguanas, birds, macaws (parrots, basically), crocodiles, and all kinds of other animals. Some cute and funny, some not to be messed with. Nothing too scary, but you want to follow the instructions of your guide. Casa Corcovado has never had an animal-related accident, we were told, but you wouldn't want to be the first to sit down on a Fer De Lance. If this scares you, then Corcovado isn't the place for you. You are probably better off with a trip to San Diego.
But we are the adventurous kind, and we love the outdoors. And that day, we didn't have to go far that. Perhaps 50 yards into the jungle, after having seen a few lizards and some leaf-cutter-ants, we heard the trees move overhead and discovered a family of Spider Monkeys. It was quite thrilling to see the little buggers jump from tree to tree, clearly aware that we were there, but not too worried about us.
A spider monkey, just hanging out.
The same sight would repeat several more times as we hiked on. One family of Spider Monkeys we had a particularly good view of, and after a little while, the monkeys must have grown tired of us. While Danny was trying to get us in position for a good view of the primates while explaining about their behavior, some suspicious liquid started to drip down from one of the trees.
I brought it to Danny's attention: "Danny, what is happen up there?".
"Oh, the monkeys are drinking water", he replied.
"I don't think so. Looks like he is trying to pee on us...".
"No, I think he is drinking water", Danny insisted.
"I really don't think so. I can see him holding his weenie...".
"No, no. He is drinking water", Danny wasn't ready to concede.
"Danny, he is aiming for us!!!".
"OK, let's move on..."
What can I say? One just hasn't lived unless one has been peed on by a monkey. "Pura Vida!", I guess. Luckily he didn't seem to have had enough pressure build-up.
Another spider monkey, just before his well aimed attack. Maybe he didn't like getting his picture taken...
So we continued on our hike through amazing scenery. Trees as high as you could see. Green everywhere. Leaf-cutter ants creating highways that make Houston's Galleria area seem like a small trickle (although on quite a different scale). We saw a hollow tree with sleeping bats. The tree must have been 50 yards tall, yet you could see it its hollow top from inside. We saw a few snakes, although nothing venomous. We saw Jesus Christ lizards (the kind that can walk on the water), Basilisks, and Iguanas. We also saw a highly venomous Golden Orb spider who had spun a three-dimensional golden web.
A bat mama with her baby inside a huge hollow tree.
A golden orb spider. Probably close to 4 inches in length and also quite venomous. Spins a golden, three dimensional web.
We took a lunch break at a ranger station. We spent some time relaxing while watching a pair of macaws (the red parrots) flying overhead, while Danny whipped up some fish, some cold cuts, and a salad. Nothing too fancy, but very fitting for the location.
A pair of macaws flying overhead.
Before we headed back, we aimed for one more special treat: Taking a bath below a jungle waterfall, Tarzan-style. (No, not naked... just in the jungle and all...). The hike was a bit more difficult and not everyone was up for it, but Ellen, Danny, and I made it after about a half an hour. It was quite a cool sight. Unfortunately, "Poncho" denied us our well deserved batch. "Who is Poncho?", you ask. Well, Poncho is the local crocodile who "owns" the stretch of creek there. And if Poncho is in the wrong place, only Steve Irwin in his best age would have fancied a dip.
"Poncho" may still be small at 6 or 7 feet, but we didn't feel like swimming with him.
But it was all worth it in the end. We didn't get to swim, but we got to see Poncho, which was thrilling all in itself. (After all, crocs are known to be more aggressive than alligators, so you want to be a bit more careful). The hike back continued much in the same manner. We saw more monkeys and other animals. We also saw quite a few frogs. "Frogs?" you may wonder. "What's so cool about frogs?". But these aren't your average frogs. We are talking about poison-arrow-frogs here! At some point during the hike, Danny heard something and dove into the bushes. A few minutes later he had found the poison-arrow-frog. I tried to take a good picture, which caused us to chase it around a bit. It still wasn't easy, since the little fellow was hardly an inch long, so I ended up holding my camera just a few inches from the frog.
A one inch poison arrow frog. Don't make him nervous...
After we moved on, Danny and I talked about the frog some more: "So Danny, how poisonous was this particular frog exactly?".
"Very poisonous", he replied.
"What does that mean exactly?".
"For this particular species, it means that one drop can kill about 10 adult humans".
"Like how exactly? On touch?!?".
"So this frog could have killed all of us?"
"Yes, but it only produces poison when it is nervous".
"But wouldn't it be nervous after we chased it around for 10 minutes?"
Well, that settled that. I guess I can one day tell my grandchildren that I survived an encounter with a one inch frog...
At this point, the weather was startign to take a turn for the worse (that rainy season kicking in again) and it was time for us to head home. Part of the hike took us along the beautiful pacific coast line that is a mixture of ruggedly rocky stretches and picture perfect sandy coves with palm trees.
The author on top of a rock, trying to get a GPS reading.
The ocean in this area is mostly deep blue with a few stretches of turquoise mixed in. It seems threatening yet oddly inviting at the same time. I was extremely tempted to dive in, but that stretch of ocean is known to have a lot of bull sharks (the aggressive kind) in addition to the crocodiles. All the local guides said they wouldn't risk it, so I decided to wait for the next day when we were scheduled to snorkel at an island about an hour of the coast. More about that in my next post though...
That's it... we are ready to head home and have a drink at the pool.
BTW: Thanks Gwynne, for letting me use your pictures!
This post belongs to a series of posts describing our trip to Costa Rica (May 2008). The following is a list of all 4 posts in this series: