Corcovado National Park

Corcovado National Park is renowned as being one of the best places for wildlife in Central America – so of course we had to visit! It’s a slight pain in the sense that it is pretty difficult to get to, and requires a mandatory guide – so you can’t go on your own. Along with this, the only accommodation in the park is at ranger stations, and it’s very expensive.

So we dithered a bit trying to work out what to do, how much money to spend, how long to spend in the park, whether to stay overnight or not, etc etc. In the end we decided on a day trip from Drake Bay.

We made arrangements with a company that had mostly good reviews on tripadvisor and wasn’t too expensive. We also decided to spend extra money to have our own guide, so we would have a better chance of animal sightings. Unfortunately things didn’t start well when the guide didn’t turn up for his appointment with us at 4pm the day before we were due to leave. The guy running the company also didn’t turn up – he sent his 18 year old brother…

We chatted with the brother for a while – he was a nice enough guy but had no idea why the guide hadn’t turned up. He had learned English just by talking with tourists, and was enthusiastic about the wildlife. But after waiting 30 minutes for the guide, he left and promised to get back to us later with news of what had happened. Β To cut a long story short, we exchanged various messages between the owner of the company, and his brother – both had slightly different stories about the guide and they could not seem to agree if a new guide was coming or the existing one was coming…. yes, anyway, they promised that a guide would be there to meet us at 6.00am the next morning, and so would the brother. We went to bed not filled with huge confidence..

We were at the beach at 6am, and were relieved that both the brother and a guide called Andres turned up – so we were all systems go! To get to the park required a boat ride, and the boats leave straight from the beach.

Boats ready to depart for Corcovado National Park.
We’ve arrived at the park!

The park entrance is further along the coast from Drake Bay – but there is no road – and so a few boats leave every morning for the park. Arriving at the park entrance also requires a ‘wet landing’ – by jumping into the sea and walking ashore. So because you need to get all the sand off your feet before you put on your hiking boots, there is actually a ‘washing feet’ queue at the park entrance….

This is the ‘washing feet’ line at the park entrance!

After our feet had been duly washed, we set out on the first of our walks – which would take us round in a loop to the Sirena ranger station. Because we were on our own with our guide it meant that we could avoid the larger groups – and we had a pretty good walk and saw lots of nice wildlife – there really is a lot of wildlife in this park! πŸ™‚

Central American squirrel monkey.
Bare-throated tiger heron.
Black-throated trogon – female.
Black-throated trogon – male.
Black spiny-tailed iguana.
Our friend the iguana can climb trees very well.
Trail signposts in the park.
Great tinamou.
Geoffroy’s spider monkey.
Spider monkey swinging from the trees.
Collared peccary.
A collared peccary runs across the track.

We had enjoyed the first part of the day – especially the peccaries running across the track in their giant herd! However, our guide had a bit of a tendency to talk about himself, and also seemed slightly lacking in some animal knowledge – it turned out that he was a student, and did guide work during the holidays on an ad-hoc basis. His English was extremely good indeed – but perhaps that was a disadvantage as he talked too much…

We had really been hoping to see a tapir in the park, as the park is known for this – but they are still extremely hard to spot. Our guide said that he knew where one was usually sleeping, but the area had been cordoned off and guides were not allowed to go there as they kept disturbing the tapir…. so.. when we got to the area he took a quick look to see if anybody else was around and then led us down a grassy track.

We crouched down behind the guide and could see a tiny spot of black in the undergrowth – you would only know it was a tapir if you were told – there was so little that was actually visible. It was pointless taking a photo, as from where we were you could barely even see the tiny part of the tapir. Noticing that we hadn’t taken a photo, he told us to give him our camera so that he could take one. He took a photo of a piece of black fur in a bush… ‘Now you can say that you have seen a tapir!’, he exclaimed. We didn’t feel like we had really seen a tapir… πŸ™

PB follows the guide down the track.

After a couple of hours we ended up at the Sirena ranger station – where we had a half-hour break for toilets and snacks and a bit of a wander around. Then the walk continued again.

The Sirena ranger station.
Heading off on some more trails.

The second part of the walk was a lot less enjoyable πŸ™ The guide seemed to think that because we had seen most of the main animals, then we could just charge through the forest without stopping to look at anything. He talked the whole time (not about the wildlife) and was worried about not getting back to the boat in time and getting left behind – so he went very fast and barely stopped.

When we did come across wildlife – like a great curassow, or some coatis – he carried on talking loudly and walking – and scared them off πŸ™ We were not impressed…

Great curassow.
Trail through the jungle.
PB follows the guide.

We did get another treat when we saw another herd of peccaries running across the track. This time they were white-lipped peccaries – they are the more dangerous kind! But they didn’t attack us, so all good πŸ™‚

White-lipped peccary.

The walk finally took us out on to a beach, which led back to where the boat went from. It was a nice beach, but we were in a slightly bad mood by now… πŸ™

Beach at the edge of the park.
PB on the beach.

We ended up back at the leaving area 20 minutes early – which frustrated us even more, as we could have had an extra 20 minutes in the jungle. The guide seemed oblivious to our discontent and seemed very pleased with himself for having found all the animals…

A great black hawk on the shore.

Finally the other groups arrived and we waded out waist deep to get back in the boat and exit the park. The day tour included a lunch stop at a beach on the way back to Drake. The lunch was crap – I won’t mince my words…

By the time we disembarked the boat at Drake, we were in thoroughly bad moods – we felt like we had been cheated out of the second part of the walk, and the crap lunch had not made us feel any better. The guide – still oblivious to our mood – offered to walk with us back to the hotel. We politely declined, said goodbye, and walked off. At this point he suddenly looked puzzled… I think he couldn’t actually work out why he wasn’t getting a tip… in his mind he had done everything right and was awesome.

Although we saw loads of really good wildlife and the park was beautiful, we felt so disappointed – probably the most disappointed we had felt on the whole trip so far – the only other time that came close was the rubbish penguin tour in Chiloe.Β We couldn’t help but feel that we had ended up with an inferior experience in this amazing park, and we were a bit gutted. πŸ™

Still, on the bright side – considering how many trips, tours and places we had been – it was actually pretty lucky to get this far and only feel like this twice in over 20 months! πŸ™‚

By the time we got back to the guesthouse we felt a bit sick and had splitting headaches – we briefly considered that maybe the disappointment had made us feel ill… πŸ™‚ But actually it’s a pretty safe bet that it was the lunch…

Our day ended when we went to bed at 7.30pm…

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