Costa Rica RFI
I am going to Costa Rica for the first time in a couple of weeks. Probably to Manuel Antonio, Corcovado, Monteverde and Santa Rosa National Parks. If anyone has been recently I would be glad to get any tips of bat roosts etc. I am also looking into the easiest way to get to Sirena station in Corcovado, and if I can avoid a 10km hike I would be delighted. Does anyone have any tips for there in particular, and know of any good guides I could use around Sirena?
That’s exactly what I was going to say 🙂 It’s a nice hike, especially at night – lots of water opossums near the river crossing (just wade 100-200 m up- or downstream).
Olingo still visits the hummer/bat feeders near the Monteverde entrance, as of 2009.
I would highly recommend La Selva Biological Station – it has a network of paved (!) forest trails, perfect for spotlighting, and white bats can usually be found in 1-2 days.
I will try to do the walk at some point – but preferably not when I am carrying all my camping and photography gear plus spotlight batteries etc, and it was your reports that persuaded me to go there in the first place so thanks!
I have an acquaintance going to corcovado in a few weeks. He has been there before. I am sure he wouldn’t mind if you contacted him.
I have been to Costa Rica twice and stayed on the Osa Peninsula but never went into corcovado. It is a beautiful area.
Jon, below is from my journal of a trip to Corcovado in 2004. We didn’t make it all the way to the ranger station but had a great time exploring Corcovado…
The next morning (Saturday) we had an early departure for the Pavas Airport where most domestic flights originate. We first met our new comrades David and Leigh Mallis, and our soon to be Australian friends and orchid specialists Mike, Gary, Judy and Peter. Most of us were, of course, over the 25 lb. baggage limit so we all left small things behind and filled our pockets as full as we could. The small planes each held 4 passengers and supplies. The plane ride would have been worth the money even if we hadn’t been dropped off at Corcovado. We flew as high as 10,000 feet, but the mountains were tall enough to make us feel relatively close to the ground. We flew southwest to the Pacific Coast and South over Manuel Antonio National Park which I could recognize by the shape of the shoreline having looked at many maps in preparation for our trip. We continued South over Drake Bay, the Corcovado Lagoon and then landed on a gravel and dirt pot holed strip 10 meters from shore running parallel to the beach in Carate. The humidity struck us full force as we climbed down from the plane. I changed into shorts immediately. We loaded our bags on a horse drawn trailer and started the 45 minute walk up the beach. We had hardly begun when we were treated to several Scarlet Macaws flying overhead. As we continued they became more plentiful and we were able to view several in Almond trees along the beach. We saw groups of a dozen or more. Their distinct silhouettes with the pointed wings and tremendously long tails made them easy to identify as they passed by.
When we reached the Corovado Lodge, we were met by the Manager, Jerusha—an American girl with a degree in biology or ecology. If I had been in her position in life, it would have been a great job for a year or two. I took a short hike to an overlook point above the camp to look out over the Pacific. The camp accommodations consisted of tents on raised platforms. The tent walls were essentially screens to let the air flow through. We slept on cots with clean linens. There were communal bathroom facilities, a large dining area, and another structure that served as a lounge and bar. All of our meals were included and the food was terrific despite many of the ingredients having to be flown in. After lunch we took the trail North along the coast to enter the Corcovado National Park. We encountered a pack of 15 or more Coati before we reached the Madrigal River. We paid our entrance fee at the La Leona Ranger Station and listened to stories of a summer intern from Boston. She showed us digital pictures of a Tapir and raised our expectations for the trip. The flora was spectacular, plants and trees never seem so interesting at home. We saw numerous Howler and Spider Monkeys. An Agouti (several pound rodent) crossed the path and I followed him into the forest. The further I followed after the Agouti, the more monkeys I saw. Unfortunately it wasn’t until I got home and developed all of my film that I realized how unstable my hand is when taking pictures of monkeys with a 300 mm lens! As could be expected from Brad and I, we stayed out a little later than we should have. We had not walked very far towards the camp when we realized that night and its darkness would beat us home. As the light dimmed, the noises of the forest increased. The volume surprised me and added to my uneasiness. During the day, we had seen hundreds of purple and orange Halloween crabs skittering off the trail and in the underbrush, now they seemed to be all over the trail. I stepped on numerous crabs as the light failed. We walked as fast as we could, but it was difficult in the dark. As fate would have it, my flashlight had been stolen from my back pack before I claimed it at the airport—good thing my camera wasn’t in there! The lights at the Ranger Station may have been the most welcome light I remember seeing.
It had only taken one meal, lunch with everyone earlier in the day for Brad to get a reputation as snake enthusiast. Ironically it was the American not the Australians who proved most adventurous. We all had a good laugh talking about the Crocodile Hunter and how much Australians disliked him. Before I knew it, over dinner Brad was trying to get a group together to look for snakes in the dark, yes, to look for snakes in the dark. Jerusha agreed to show us where to find them and a few others joined in. Someone had to go to carry back Brad’s body, so I found myself borrowing a headlight (that consequently failed) and putting my fears and better judgment aside. Walking in foreign places in the dark makes me lose perspective of time and distance, it seemed like we traveled significant difference, but in the daylight I’d later see the proximity of adventure. We headed along the beach until we came to the first stream. We headed upstream following Jerusha’s instructions to walk in the water—snakes have a difficult time striking while in the water, so it was safer to walk in the stream than on the shore. Of course, Peter and Judy were in boots, not sandals, so they followed on the shore. As my light failed I resorted to following others closely and occasionally flashing my camera bulb to provide additional light. After what felt like a great distance traveled, great enough that my nerves were quite on edge (perhaps not as great a feat as I think!), we were ready to quit. We paused as a group in the middle of the stream and discussed our options. Gary and Judy turned around and started back down the stream on a gravel bar. We were still debating whether or not to proceed when we heard them shout from 25 yards downstream, “Snake, Snake!” We had, of course been hunting snakes in a country where the most poisonous snake, the Fur De Lance, has sufficient venom to easily kill a human—so much so that we were duly instructed about them in our orientation. We were told that should we be bitten, and be fortunate enough to make it back to camp before dying that they would not take the liability of administering the shot of anti-venom, we would have to do it ourselves. So it would come as no surprise that the snake at Peter and Judy’s feet was a Fur De Lance, a juvenile one at that (more dangerous because they exhibit less control when striking and release more venom than their mature counterparts) about 3 feet in length. We quickly walked downstream to examine the find. He was not impressed by our presence at all. He coiled, lifted his head and hissed defiantly at us, refusing to back down. Eventually the noise and camera flashes got to him and he slithered slowly away. Peter and Judy had literally almost stepped on him! I was even more cautious walking home.
Fitting with tradition, I began to feel ill that evening (I always seem to get sick when I go on vacation. I think it is my body and immune system relaxing). I had a fever through the night and felt weak in the morning. We hiked up the Madrigal river for a couple of hours. The scenery was spectacular, but the wildlife was limited to spider monkeys and a few fish in the stream. On the way back down we took another trail up the embankment and eventually had several close encounters with Capuchin (white-faced monkeys) and Scarlet Macaws. After lunch we lounged in hammocks between our tents and the ocean and played Frisbee on the beach. That night Brad climbed down into the camp pond and caught the massive resident Smoky Jungle Frog.
The next morning began with a trip to the camp’s tree platform. As our group prepared to leave, a woman began expressing some of her frustration and made a bit of a scene with her surliness. The rest of us kind of looked at each other and raised our eyebrows thinking “Wow this is going to be a fun day.” As we hiked inland from the secondary growth (sparser near the coast) up into the primary forest, Jerusha taught us about the vegetation and the ecosystem. The most fascinating tree was a pirate like plant that consisted of vine like tentacles that would surround a large tree eventually smothering it and killing it. As the old tree would decay the inside of the cluster of vine like roots would be left hollow. We began talking with the unhappy woman and I quickly understood her frustration. She had purchased an extra battery for her camera and had inserted it into her camera this morning only to find it had no power, so she was unable to take pictures. I would have been pretty disappointed myself in her shoes. She was in luck because my camera required the same battery. I gave her my used battery and inserted my own new spare. We enjoyed the rest of our conversation and time with Sue! Before reaching the platform we saw several black and green poisonous frogs. Their colors were so vibrant it appeared that they would glow in the dark! The platform was located 120 feet up in a massive Guapinol tree. One by one we were hoisted up in a harness. The view from the top was magnificent, and well worth the cost. One side looked straight back into the heart of the jungle canopy from which we had come while the other had a commanding view of the tree tops across a valley. From our perch we saw numerous species of birds and butterflies in the next couple of hours. The most impressive were the pair of Chestnut-Mandibled Toucans. They spent 15 minutes in one of the closest trees. We also saw a Titayra, several falcons, and Trogan, and many others.
Rather than returning back down the trail we come in on, Brad and I decided to take another circuitous route back. We eventually found ourselves on trail that appeared not to have been trod for some great time. We hoped to make it down into the valley we were overlooking and then planned to follow whatever water we found until it reached the ocean. It sounded like a reasonable plan to us. As our descent into the valley steepened we came to what I can best describe as a train wreck of fallen trees obliterating our path. I cannot conceive the cause of this massive obstruction. I slowly picked my way onto the mess, looking carefully for ants, thorns and any other unsavory guest. With great effort I reached the top of this pile and expected to simply descend the other side and resume our hike. The other side, however, was a nearly sheer cliff. We picked ourselves along the edge of the mass of trees and eventually made our way down to the valley floor and a small clear stream. Somewhere along the way I managed to get a sliver nearly 1/16 of an inch thick. It looked like a twig had stuck in my arm and broken off. I could not get it out. Eventually I resorted to Brad’s dull knife. It was so dull that I was having a hard time cutting my skin around the sliver. It felt more like I was tearing my skin. Each time we stopped to rest or take a drink from the stream I worked at my sliver. Several hours later I had it out, but my arm was swollen for about an inch around the excavation. Eventually we hit the Leona River and found our way back to the coast. We ran into Sue and took another trail back to the camp that led us to an up close encounter with a Capuchin. He was no more than 10 feet away. Heavy rains late in the afternoon kept us at the camp.
The following morning found us headed north along the shore back into the park before the sun rose. It was often difficult to walk side by side on the trails, but both of us wanted to be in the lead to have the first glimpse of whatever we might encounter. I think my camera gave me precedence. We quickly reached an unspoken agreement where we would alternate leading and following. This morning I happened to be in the lead in the dim early morning light. We turned a corner and I saw a dark furry creature bound off the path. It jumped on to a fallen tree, paused briefly and then vanished into the dense undergrowth. I could hardly contain my excitement, but at the same time I felt bad that Brad had not seen the animal, which I was sure must have been a Jaguarundi—my first cat sighting in the wild! By the end of the day after consulting with Jerusha and others at the camp I resolved that it was more likely a Tayra, a large weasel easily mistaken for a cat. A thrilling sighting none the less, if only I had caught a picture. Eventually we reached a fork in the path. On our previous excursion we had taken the more inland version, so this time we took the route closer to the coast, knowing that they would me up again several hundred yards later. Shortly we were rewarded with a snake sighting, a skinny green and brown snake in some small bushes. Brad quickly captured the snake and we took some good photos. I had to remind him to put his leather gloves on first—he is a little more fearless than I when it comes to snakes. After we released the snake we continued on until I almost screamed to Brad, “Tapir! Right there!” He was no more than 30 yards away and was watching us, but not stirring at all. We watched him closely, took pictures and then slowly advanced. Our presence seemed not to disturb him at all. I circled around behind him and took a picture with Brad in the background. Tapirs appear to me like a cross between and pig and a cow. She had a long snout almost like a stubby trunk and some scars on her flank from an unsuccessful cat attack. We studied her for 20 minutes and then continued on. We later ran into a Costa Rican named Alphonso who worked for a University Scientist studying Jaguars. He would the coast line regularly searching for tracks and evidence of meals, but he had yet to see a Jaguar. We walked as far as we thought we could without being too far to make it back before dark. I think we were within a couple of miles of the next Ranger Station. We didn’t make it to the shark infested river. We decided that we will have to return to Corcovado some day to hike through the park and stay at the Ranger Station in the interior. On the way back we took the inland fork and saw another Agouti, which again led me deeper into the forest and into monkeys. I was staring into the treetops and came within 10 yards of stumbling into the same Tapir. She was lying in a muddy bog trying to stay cool. I took some more pictures and then went further into the jungle. I immediately startled a tiny Red Brocket Deer that bounded away not to be seen again. I told Brad what I had seen and we decided to sit for a while in this animal hot spot and see what would come to us—a strategy we probably should have used more often, but we were always itching to be on the move looking for the animals. Within 15 minutes we were rewarded with 6 or7 Currasows, Large game birds a little smaller than a turkey. They approached very closely, but the thick canopy left such poor lighting that my pictures didn’t turn out. We saw more Spider, Howler, and Capuchin Monkeys in that same spot and then headed back. We were anxious to tell our campmates of our sightings. Sue had spent the day out with a guide and had seen 2 Tapir, an Anteater and a pack of Peccaries.
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I’ve always found the 10k hike from La Leona to Sirenia to be a highlight of the trip. There’s a few herps and birds that I’ve only seen on that hike. There is supposed to be a bat roost about half way in, but I’ve never been able to find it. I hear there is a boat that can be hired or you can fly in, if you really must avoid it. I’ve never used a guide, so I can’t help there.
For some reason a lot of mammals are more active in the afternoon around Sirenia. I’ve never done well in the morning there. Night walking was decently productive. Watch out for Fer-de-Lance.