Fishing: South Pacific
Surrounded by the Pacific Ocean, rests a mystical region where nature seekers find all they’ve always wanted. Lush rainforests filled with wildlife, banana plantations and untamed waves dominate the landscape in the Osa Peninsula and southern Costa Rica.
The ecological grandeur is protected through 17 national parks, wildlife refuges and reserves which offer the perfect habitat and guarantee the survival of the many endangered species found in the region.
The biggest town in the region is Golfito, a coastal community famous for its natural charm and rewarding sport fishing expeditions. Set between 5 miles (8 km) of shoreline and lush rainforest mountains, eco-tourism came almost instinctively.
The Golfito National Wildlife Refuge is the town’s pride and joy. Four species of monkeys inhabit this 3,235-acre (1,310-hectare) reserve. Magnificent and rare birds such as the elusive scarlet macaw also fly freely through the treetops.
Water taxis are the main mode of transportation when visiting nearby beaches Cacao, Cativo, Punta Encantada and San Josecito.
Local fishermen in their colorful pangas (small boats) guide visitors on a short journey through the waters of the Golfo Dulce to destination destination. The beaches are secluded, magical and almost surreal. Several eco-lodges are available throughout the region highlighting the natural surroundings.
The heart of the Osa Peninsula is Puerto Jiménez, a small hamlet with a population of 6,000. On its main street, cafés, restaurants, and small hotels cater to the increasing number of tourists attracted by the many ecological treasures.
Located within the gulf, Puerto Jiménez is ideal for surfing, snorkeling, scuba diving and sea kayaking. Tour operators in the region specialize in one or multiple-day tours on the mainland and surrounding ocean.
Visitors looking for wildlife should head to the Platanares river where crocodiles and caymans relax in the mangrove estuary as monkeys play on the trees and rainbow-colored birds fly overhead.
A total of 70 species of crab, 60 varieties of freshwater fish, 46 amphibious, 70 reptiles, 375 kinds of birds, 124 mammals and 58 bat species are only a few of the many natural perks found in the Osa Peninsula.
In 1579, Sir Francis Drake discovered an environmental display beyond compare: the northwestern flank of the Osa Peninsula. The bay where he came ashore still remains the virgin landmass it once was and now bears his name.
Palm trees adorn the landscape at Drake Bay where fancy yachts and sail boats seek the unparalleled beauty of the rainforest on the mainland. Out at sea the diversity is just as breathtaking, with dolphins and whales playfully swimming about.
Tours and expeditions feature up-close marine encounters, including scuba diving and swimming with dolphins. These amazing animals, as well as giant manta rays and sea turtles, swim by the thousands around the area.
Isla del Caño
Caño’s island is a biological and archeological jewel set on the Pacific Ocean, just 9 miles (15 km) off Drake Bay. Glittering white sand and clear sapphire waters surround the island, but its greatest assets lay under the waves and deep in the forest.
Volcanic rock formations support the base of the island making room for 5 coral reef platforms. The underwater world teems with mollusks, crustaceans, 10 ft. (3 m) sharks, turtles, manta rays, eels, dolphins and an endless assortment of rainbow-colored fish.
Superb scuba diving and snorkeling are available but both are closely regulated in order to protect the delicate balance of the ecosystem.
Above the surface, the intricate forest hides more than 150 species of plants, 13 varieties of land birds and several water birds.
Caño’s island is best known for its indigenous heritage. During pre-Columbian times the site was used as a sacred burial place. Excavations throughout the forest reveal domestic artifacts, gold work and giant stone balls whose perfection boggles the minds of archeologists and visitors alike.
Corcovado National Park
No other place on Earth protects wildlife like Corcovado National Park. More than 370 kinds of birds, 500 species of trees, 140 mammals, 40 varieties of freshwater fish, 150 orchids, 120 reptiles and 6000 types of insects are just the tip of the iceberg.
Endangered species such as jaguars, pumas, scarlet macaws, crocodiles, tapirs, poison-dart frogs and golden toads find a safe haven within the nine different habitats protected by Corcovado, including the last very humid tropical forest ecosystem in Central America and the American Pacific.
Located on the western tip of the Osa Peninsula, the park safeguards more than 100,000 acres (41,787 hectares) of land and 5,856 acres (2,400 hectares) of surrounding ocean, embracing as many as two-thirds of the planet’s estimated plant and animal species.
The biodiversity found in Corcovado can rarely be seen anywhere else in the world, which is why the park is often described as a compact version of the Amazon. All these wonders can be easily explored through an efficient trail system that takes visitors through rivers, mountains, beaches and a magical world where nature dominates.
Puerto Jiménez is the starting point for most hiking adventures since Corcovado’s administration is located there. Ranger stations are conveniently laid out throughout the park and connected by clearly marked trails.
The tours may take between 4 and 8 hours depending on pace and the area to be covered. If visitors want to explore the entire park, camping and lodging are available at the ranger stations.
Smaller trails are also available for quick runs through the forest.
Corcovado’s lagoon is a mandatory stop for a close encounter with the park’s wild residents. Jaguars and other big cats come to quench their thirst in its waters and so do tapirs and crocodiles. Birds fly playfully over the lagoon creating a colorful spectacle in the sky. After dark, it’s the bats turn to come and fish with equally impressive agility.
At the beach nature also puts on a show where four different species of sea turtles come to lay their eggs and majestic scarlet macaws fly about in pairs searching for their favorite food: almond trees near the coast.
Visitors may hire guides at the ranger stations or lodges to get the most out of their hike. Experts will point out the secret hideaways of the elusive wildlife and name the thousands of animals and plants that inhabit the forest.
Chirripó National Park
The words magical and amazing are often used to describe Chirripó National Park.
The park features the highest point in Central America, Mount Chirripó, rising 12,530 feet above sea level (3,819 m). The park also protects three distinct ecosystems located in more than 120,000 acres (50,150 hectares) of land on the northern flank of the Talamanca Mountain Range.
The highest portions of the mountains are generally covered by clouds filling the location with humid mystique. It gets quite cold on the top where temperatures drop to -5°C (20°F) and wind speed reaches 50 miles per hour (75 km/h). These conditions yield peculiar vegetation reminiscent of the South American Andes where oak trees and bushes abound.
Pre-Columbian Indians believed that Mount Chirripó was sacred. Today it remains a sanctuary but of a different sort, providing home to many endangered species like coyotes, jaguars, rabbits, frogs, quetzals, owls, eagles, pumas, lions and many other peculiar inhabitants.
When visiting Chirripó, visitors need to plan well to fully enjoy its magnificence. The hike to the summit covers a vertical distance of 7,500 feet (3,035 m) but the rugged and densely forested terrain will be a true test of endurance.
In general, the journey will take at least three days as follows:
Day 1 – A 3-hour drive to San Gerardo the Rivas, the starting point for most tours. Visitors will hike before sunrise the following morning so it’s important to find lodging and get plenty of rest.
Day 2 – The climb to Mount Chirripó begins through a 10-mile (16 km) walk which lasts in between 9 to 12 hours depending on pace and rest stops. The goal is to reach the Crestones ranger station, located 4 miles (6 km) from the top, where visitors will set up a camp for the night. As visitors explore the forest, they should look for Aguacatillo trees, the preferred culinary treat of the emerald quetzal. They may arrange for horses to carry their luggage, a commodity they’ll appreciate when climbing the steep Cuesta de Agua.
Day 3 – Lakes, forests and moorland surround visitors near the summit. The final stretch lasts 3 hours and leads to the most extravagant view of the Caribbean Sea, Irazú and Turrialba volcanoes, the Talamanca Mountain Range, and the Pacific Ocean. The glance from above the clouds gives a better understanding of why Costa Rica is an ecological paradise. After this breathtaking moment and depending on the tour, visitors may head back down to the Crestones ranger station or to San Gerardo de Rivas.
Day 4 – From the overnight camping site, visitors can follow the same trails down the mountain and back to the starting point.
Parque Nacional La Amistad
La Amistad International Park is a natural paradise filled with treasures beyond the imagination.
The largest conservation area in the country protects 479,200 acres (192,000 hectares) of undisturbed montane rainforest. Eight different zones can be found within the park, each one teeming with wildlife and vegetation.
La Amistad is also significant from a cultural perspective because it shelters the largest Indigenous population in the country. Due to all these attributes, the Park was declared a World Heritage Site by the UNESCO.
No other location in the world holds a more complete collection of wildlife with mammals, birds, insects, reptiles and amphibious. Intermigrations from North and South America enrich the extremely diverse fauna and scientists believe that many species are yet to be discovered.
The Talamanca Mountain Range, where the park is nestled, is the highest and wildest non-volcanic formation in Central America. The area is marked by quaternary glaciers, the only signs of the ice age for thousands of miles around. Its rich soil also contains the largest tracts of virgin forest in the region.
Eight Indian reserves are located in the territory with an estimated population of 10,000.
Costa Rica Travel: Travel Information & Tips
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