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Wildlife Watching

The tiny Osa Peninsula has an unusually high amount of biodiversity for its size. Corcovado alone is home to 10 percent of all mammals that can be found in the Americas and also supports a high number of endangered species. Spend a few hours in in the park and you are almost guaranteed to see white-faced capuchin, howler and spider monkeys, crocodiles (if you are close to the water) and several different species of birds, including macaws, toucans and curassows. Herds of white-lipped peccaries can be seen trampling through the forest, and groups of raccoon-like coatis are frequently spied foraging along the ground. You are also likely to glimpse an agouti or two hopping through the foliage – large rodents which look and act something like a cross between a groundhog and a rabbit. Two-toed sloths and kinkajous are fairly common, though more difficult to spot – sloths because they rarely make movements that give them away, and kinkajous because they are primarily nocturnal. Other mammals of Corcovado which you are less likely to see include jaguars, pumas, jaguarundis, ocelots, giant anteaters, mountain goats, bats, hog-nosed skunks, long-tailed weasels and tayra weasels.


Reptiles and amphibians are plentiful in Corcovado, especially lizards and frogs. The famous red-eyed tree frog lives here, along with glass, rain and poison arrow frogs. If you are paying attention you will see dozens of little brown lizards scurrying up trees and along the ground. One particulary interesting lizard is the basilisk, which can be found by the handful near rivers and streams. When it is still small it somewhat resembles a brown anole, but surprise one and it will demonstrate a truly unique ability, taking off in a full sprint across the surface of the water. This trick has earned it the nickname “Jesus Lizard.” Tree iguanas are also common denizens of Corcovado, and as they are not the most graceful jumpers, you have a good chance of spotting one. Out of all the species of snake that live here, you are most likely to run across a tree boa. Costa Rica is famous for its many poisonous snakes, but fortunately deadly vipers such as the fer-de-lance and the bushmaster are only active at night.


Birders will be delighted by the more than 400 species of birds that reside in Corcovado, 20 of which are endemic. Some birds you may find here include the king vulture, great curassow, white hawk, scarlet macaw, short-billed pigeon, orange-chinned parakeet, crested guan, and the rare harpy eagle, as well as kingfishers, trogons, tanagers, hummingbirds, toucans and flycatchers.


Guided tours into Corcovado that focus on the park’s flora and fauna are easy to find in virtually any part of the Osa, and some tours are dedicated solely to birdwatching. The advantage of visiting the park with a professional guide is that he or she will know where to go for the best wildlife watching and will probably be able to spot creatures you would miss on your own. The disadvantage: a lot of the animals are going to run off when they hear a group of people tromping down the path in their direction. The best way to spot wildlife is really to stay in one place and just observe. That is why it is also advantageous to stay in one of the more secluded lodges, or any place with a deck and surrounding foliage. If you can get to an observation point above the rain forest canopy, it will be easier to spot creatures like monkeys, toucans and hawks, which spend most of their time in the treetops. Most lodges in Carate are designed with animal observation in mind, and the isolation of this small town (if you can call it that) certainly helps as well.


The best places within Corcovado to spot wildlife are the areas surrounding the La Sirena and La Leona ranger stations. The trail systems around these stations are the most isolated, and these areas harbor animals like Baird’s tapirs and the endangered squirrel monkey, which cannot be found anywhere else in the park. La Sirena in particular is excellent for wildlife viewing. There are several trails around the La Sirena station that make for good day hikes, and the Rio Serena, a short distance north of the station, is great place to catch creatures unawares as they stop for a drink.


By Laura Granfortuna
I've always had the travel bug - maybe it's because I've been traveling around with my family since I was an infant, but mainly I think it's because...
04 Mar 2009

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