INTRODUCTION TO CORCOVADO NATIONAL PARK
From the first time I visited Corcovado National Park, I knew that my dream was to work there. At that time I was 13 years old and I went to visit my father who worked as a naturalist guide at the closest hotel to the Park.
The memories come and slide in my mind like the drops of the tropical downpours glided over the old window of the wooden building in the San Pedrillo ranger station. It was there that I spent over two weeks of my vacation, camping under a mango tree next to the rustic ranger building. I remember that at night the sound of the waves play a lullaby. The nights were illuminated by stars that extended beyond where the sun was hidden in the afternoons. The sand felt warm on my feet and the water from the Pacific Ocean heated like a half-power shower.
The mornings were humid and sunny, the light gave all colors intense tones. It was all intense, the sound of the macaws constantly hovering among almond trees, showing their color redder than blood. The sound and color of the toucan. The howling of the monkeys that was heard in the distance. The strident cicadas that competed with the sea and the crickets to define which one made more noise. The intensity was also appreciated in the variety of species that went out to do their daily tasks to feed and reproduce. The beaches were full of hermit crabs that gave the feeling that the sand was moving. Occasionally the white-faced and spider monkeys were seen eating the mangoes over the shelter.
One day we even heard the footsteps of a large animal that was prowling around our tent. I remember feeling scared for not knowing what it was, you could only hear something immense taking heavy steps on the grass. I did not want to move from the tent. When dawn came, I asked the park ranger, who went to investigate and found traces of what he later said was a tapir. The largest animal in tropical America, a relative of rhinos and horses. A prehistoric and beautiful animal. Then I already had a new goal, to see him in his natural habitat … That same night we waited until late and we could see him.
Corcovado was incredible. It is incredible, a delight for the eyes of anyone who loves nature. It”s hard to believe that there is a place where dolphins, whales, monkeys, crocodiles and tapirs can be seen in one day. It is the perfect combination between jungle and beach. A place where just breathing is filling with life without artificial ingredients. Corcovado is the best office I could have wished for.
What is Corcovado National Park?
Corcovado is the largest national park in the Costa Rican system of conservation area. With more than 42,000 hectares of tropical rainforest. This national park preserves countless amounts of species, ever since 1975, the year in which it was established as a National Park.
Geographically speaking, Corcovado is located in the southern Pacific of Costa Rica and covers a third of the Osa peninsula, considered by national geographic as the place with the highest biological intensity on the planet. Corcovado is distributed in several ranger stations: Sirena, San Pedrillo and La Leona are the coastal stations and Los planes, el tigre and Los patos are the stations in the interior.
What makes it special?
The Climate: The Pacific of the Americas is known for having very dry conditions, this due to the interoceanic currents of Humboldt, which carry moisture out of the continental area. It is for this reason that generally the Pacific of the continent has little humidity, eg California, Chile, etc. However, Osa and Corcovado are one of the few exceptions in America where there is a very humid tropical rainforest with rainfall that oscillates around 5500 mm annually. Consequently, of these special climatic conditions, the Osa peninsula has a great variety of unique (endemic) species.
Conservation: In 1975 they decided to protect 42,000 hectares of humid tropical forest, in what is now called Corcovado. Less than 1% of the park has trails.
Geography: Corcovado National Park has mountains that rise to more than 700 meters above sea level, rocky beaches, sedimentary lands, a lagoon and large amounts of rivers. Furthermore, the Osa peninsula only has a small strip of land that divides it from the continental area, making it almost an island of biological intensity. There is only one entrance and one exit.
All these conditions and the fact of being in the country with the greatest biodiversity per square meter on the planet, make Corcovado a park without equal. Life overflows everywhere, possibly there is no place where you can see a greater variety of mammals for a tropical forest.
Corcovado National Park overnight tour
One of the most recommended and popular excursions is to spend the night in Corcovado National Park. In this article we aim to give an ultimate guide on how to prepare for this adventure. The best thing is that the advice comes directly from us: The guides whom have many years of doing the activity.
In which Ranger stations can you spend the night?
There are only two stations where you can spend the night: Sirena and San Pedrillo.
How many nights can you sleep in Corcovado?
A maximum of 4 nights. However, we do not recommend more than 2 nights.
What is the best season to spend the night?
That depends on what your preferences are. If you are looking to explore the forest and a little adventure, San pedrillo is the best option. If you are looking to see animals, Sirena would be the ideal place.
Sirena Ranger Station
Before 1975, Sirena was a small town with approximately 9 families that dedicated to grow cattle and agriculture. Before the creation of the national park, much of Sirena was pasture areas for cows. Once the Corcovado National Park was created. Families were removed and the forest began to regenerate. A regenerating forest is a very dynamic and attractive forest for many animals. In addition to having a constantly growing secondary forest, it also has two rivers (sirena and claro), which, along with the ocean, create a biological barriers that concentrate a wide variety of animals in a small space.
Sirena is the most popular station in Corcovado National Park because it is the best place to see animals. But it also has rivers for swimming, primary forest sections and a large station with souvenir, restaurant, and bunk beds for sleeping.
San pedrillo Ranger Station
San Pedrillo is the station located in the northern limit of the park, and, unlike Sirena, in San pedrillo there was no settlement, therefore, the forest has been preserved virgin. It has a beautiful waterfall and a shelter located in front of the sea with a view of the Pacific Ocean. San pedrillo is quieter and simpler. The facilities are quite rustic. The showers are open and you sleep in tents.
San pedrillo is ideal for a more natural and wild experience. The trails lend themselves to longer, more exploratory hikes. The forest is more beautiful than the one in Sirena and the landscapes are better. However, it is more difficult to see animals because the forest has fewer fruits and the topography is more irregular. In addition, San Pedrillo is an area known for the presence of predators such as the cougar.
|Ranger station||Sirena||San pedrillo|
|Showers||Soap included (closed)||Open|
|Toilet with toilet paper||Yes||Yes|
|Accomodation||In bunk beds||In camping tents|
How easy is it to find animals in Corcovado National Park?
This is a question clients often ask me, and my answer is the same: It depends on nature. Corcovado is a natural park, without artificial ingredients, it is for this reason that you never know what you can find. However, the chances of seeing animals are quite high compared to other sites with the same ecosystem. Due to the different conditions, climate, topography and the ecosystem itself, Corcovado is the best place to observe diversity in a tropical forest in the world.
However, it is worth mentioning that in tropical forests it is not easy to observe animals. Why?
Competition in a tropical rain forest
The base of the food chain are living species that produce their own food (autotrophs), in other words, plants. Certainly, these living beings need two fundamental things for their existence: sunlight and water. Both are abundant in the tropics, making them the capital of life on the planet. It is for this reason that tropical forests have a great variety of plants with all kinds of adaptations. In Corcovado, for example, we have countless species of plants, many of them with adaptations that seem like something out of a science fiction book. This great variety of plant beings requires external elements to perform basic functions such as the reproduction and dispersal of seeds, among others.
We can say that in a healthy forest many elements interfere in its operation and therefore there are many roles to fulfill. For instance, it is like a big city; there are people working in hospitals, telecommunications companies, public transport networks, food transport networks, etc. in conclusion, to fill these roles, there are a large number of interrelated species.
Non-tropical forests are like a small town, therefore, there is only one telecommunications company, one electricity company, one restaurant. Translated into the natural: a pair of seed dispersers, a predator, a scavenger, etc. Instead, a tropical forest is like New York.
There is a task or role in the ecosystem and there are many animals competing to fulfill this function. In other words, the competition these animals are exposed to, causes them to develop highly advanced senses for seeing, smelling, and listening over long distances or mimicry. Furthermore, in tropical forests, there are usually not many individuals of a single species, but rather many species. Not like in the savannahs of Africa that there are hundreds of buffalo. Another feature is that the animals in this ecosystem are small.
The expectation of seeing animals should be focused on small things, in that aspect diversity can be counted in thousands. And be careful, big is not necessarily good. Sometimes little things hide great stories. That makes room for the next topic.
What to expect from guides?
As a naturalist guide myself, I understand the importance of choosing a suitable guide to visit the best natural park in the world. Having an expert in local fauna and flora, not only increases the possibility of seeing animals, but also provides security in a potentially dangerous ecosystem, allows interaction with local culture and also helps making the tour more entertaining. It is not the same to see the documentary series: Planet Earth, only with images, without the descriptions and comments of David Attenborough. Or watch a soccer game on television without the commentator. As guides we have the job of interpreting the forest and the animals that are in it, telling stories of how trees communicate, etc.
To visit Corcovado National Park it is mandatory to have a guide.
Itinerary of an Overnight Tour
Sirena Overnight day 1:
- 6:00 am Boat departure towards Sirena.
- 7:30 am Estimated time of arrival at Sirena.
- 8:30 am to 12:00 pm morning walk.
- 12:00 pm to 2:00 pm lunch break.
- 2:00 am to 5:30 pm afternoon walk.
- 6:00 pm to 7:00 pm dinner.
NOTE: It is forbidden to take night walks in Corcovado, so, the only time that you can leave from the station is at 5:00 am.
Sirena Overnight day 2:
- 5:00 am to 6:45 am morning walk.
- 7:00 am to 8:30 am Breakfast.
- 8:30 am to 11:30 am second hike.
- 12:00 pm to 12:30 pm Departure from Sirena by boat.
- 1:30 pm approximate return time to Drake Bay.
Sirena-San Pedrillo Overnight:
- 6:00 am Boat departure towards Sirena.
- 7:30 am Estimated time of arrival at Sirena.
- 7:30 am to 12:00 pm walk.
- 12:00 pm to 12:30 pm Departure from Sirena by boat.
- 1:30 pm Estimated arrival at San pedrillo
- 2:45 pm – 5:45 pm walk in the primary forest
Overnight day 2
- 4:45 am – 6:30 am morning hike
- 7:00 am – 8:30 am breakfast
- 8:30 am – 11:30 second hike
- 1:00 pm approximate departure by boat from San Pedrillo
- 1:30 pm approximate arrival at Drake Bay
What should pack for your trip in Corcovado?
Always try to pack light to avoid unnecessary luggage. It is of utmost importance to pack as much as possible in a dry or plastic bag. Especially electronic devices, because we are going to have several boat trips where there is the possibility that the luggage will get wet; by rain, strong wind or rarely a wave wetting the cover. It is also strongly recommended to bring water shoes to get on and off the boat, as there can sometimes be rocks on the beach. (98% of people go barefoot)
- Mosquito repellent
- Bottles of water to fill (there is 100% portable water in both stations)
- Plastic bag or dry bag
- Water shoes
- Sandals (optional)
- Closed walking shoes
Dressing for corcovado is simple. In an overnight you only need the clothes you are wearing the first day and clothes for the next day. Clothes with light materials are normally recommended, to avoid suffering much heat and to dry quickly. For example, fishing clothes. Clothes can be short; short sleeve shirts and short pants. Or it can be long, only if it is made of dry fit material. Otherwise the heat, humidity or the sea can drive you crazy.
As for insects, it depends a lot on the season, sometimes there are many mosquitoes, other times not so much. But usually they don”t bother as much. I personally go with shorts and shirts with sleeves you can fold. And I don”t use repellent.
Corcovado is the jungle, snakes, crocodiles, dangerous insects, trees with thorns, spiders, etc. However, spending the night in Corcovado is safe because a guide is mandatory. In my years of experience, the most serious accident I ever had was a sprained ankle that can happen anywhere.
Our guides are certified and have first aid training and carry a first aid kit with them all the time. In addition, we are vehement in calling for safety rules to be followed. Like the guide always going to the front, not touching anything and keeping the distance from the animals, etc.
As long as the very basic common sense and safety rules are followed, everything should be fine.
The most dangerous part of an overnight stay in Corcovado is the boat trip, mainly when getting on and off the boat. It must be done quickly and safely.
Can older people and children visit Corcovado?
I´ve had clients under 2 years old and over 80 years old. However, I do not recommend it. Children over 2 years can visit Corcovado without any problem, but minors can cry at night and make other guests uncomfortable. People over 80 years old can suffer heat stroke and there is a lot at the discretion of the guide to assess the physical and health status before doing the walk.
The place for excursions with children and older adults is Sirena. To be able to find animals, the walks are rather short and we visit the strategic places where there are more fruits and we wait. To find animals you have to be patient. In Sirena there is a lot to see and it is very entertaining for children for this reason.
Note: If you book the tour with us and there is an elder or a very young child, let us know in advance, we can operate the tour with 2 people or max 6. But we will try to send you a private guide for the condition.
What is the best season to visit Corcovado?
Corcovado is impressive in the dry season and even more so in the rainy season. Water is the basis of life. Corcovado would not be Corcovado without the rain. In the rainy season, there is rain, but it never lasts more than 2 hours. Once the rain stops the forest is full of life, the landscape is more beautiful in the rainy season and there are more possibilities to find snakes and amphibians. During the dry season we have epic starry nights and sunsets. Finding animals like the tapir is easier because there are few areas with water or mud and they like to visit them to cool off during the day. In addition, in the dry season there are more migratory birds, but fewer amphibians and reptiles.
The nesting season for many birds is February.
The time of birth for many animals is in May and June when the first rains begin.
In July we have a 15 days of dry season and the migration of southern humpback whales start and it ends in November.
It rains in August, but in a moderate way.
Until september the 15th the rains are moderate.
From September 15th to November 15th is the season of hurricanes and tropical storms. Mainly in October, there may be days when you cannot enter the park.
January, February and March are quite dry months.
November, December and April are times of transition.
Why should you visit Corcovado?
One of the main reasons why tourists visit Costa Rica is to admire its natural beauties. I can assure you that when it comes to natural beauties, Corcovado is the jewel of the country.
Corcovado is a park that is not commercialized, the majority of enterprises that work in the national park, are local companies that find in tourism an alternative to survive without harming nature. Tourism is the motivation to stop hunting and cutting down trees. By visiting corcovado national park and hiring a local company, you would not only support the local economy, but would be contributing to the conservation of the environment.
Without further ado …
How can I book a tour in Corcovado?
It is extremely important to report that in Corcovado there is a daily limit of people who can visit the park. And it is very important to book at least a month in advance your visit to the national park
Our company Sukia Travel (www.sukiatravel.com) offers tours to this national park. It is possible that even I may be your guide.
Similarly, there are several companies that offer tours to the Corcovado National Park.