Notes from the Field: Corcovado

Just back from visiting Corcovado National Park on the Osa Peninsula in southern Costa Rica.  Staying at the Drake Bay Wilderness Lodge and woke up around five each morning to go bird watching.

This morning spent a half-an-hour drinking coffee and staring out at the bay and the wonderful turquoise-like lighting on the water; it won’t be long before the the sun rises over the mountains to the east and deepen the water’s color to a royal blue.

Something above catches my eye and I look up to see two scarlet macaws soaring over my head.  These are large, spectacular birds with red, yellow, green, and blue markings and beautiful red-tined wingspans.  They travel in pairs, and I was stunned when I saw them.

Being alone, being me, I realized no one would believe me, but fortunately the macaws stayed in the tree under which I was standing long enough for others in my group to see them too.  Scarlet macaws are only now coming back from the endangered list.  At one time fifty pairs were known to be in existence, but I am told they are thriving due to countries like Costa Rica making a major effort to protect their habitat.  Great way to start the day!

After breakfast we take a boat out on the Pacific Ocean to Corcovado and hike to a beautiful cascading waterfall.  Later, in a pool below the waterfall, I join our guide and jump in for a swim.  Just flicked off my shirt and shoes and jumped in!

Another pool had a four-foot alligator sunning itself, which was also very cool.  Later he too slipped into the water, only he sunk out of sight.  That was one pool, on that hot morning, we decided to bear the heat and avoid wadding or swimming!

Earlier, walking up the trail, I saw my first fer de lance snake.  In twenty-three years of traveling to Costa Rica, it is the first time I have ever come across a fer de lance, one of the most dangerous snakes in the world.

Though its body was slithering, its head appears to have been flattened by a spade or boot.  This must have happened right before we came up on that part of trail.

Pretty scary determining if it is alive or dead.  Couldn’t understand why our guide kept poking it.  I imagined the snake, with one last body spasm, rearing back and biting him for being so cavalier.

Someone in our party said it can bite you in four-tenth of a second, and when it does your cells explode like encountering the deadly disease, Ebola.

Four-tenths of a second is not much time to react, if you ask me.  I practiced jumping back for my colleagues, but they said my reaction was in minutes not less-than-a-second…oh well, I’m a goner, I guess, if I encounter a fer de lance with a normal head and a penchant for biting idiots.

After a picnic lunch under palm trees near a pristine beach with the ocean curling white waves against rock outcropping, we spend the afternoon out on the Pacific searching for whales on a boat roaming in the area around Cano Island off the Osa Peninsula.

Unfortunately, it’s the end of the season for whales this far south, and we have no luck spotting any, though we spent hours both yesterday and today, stopping the engines and bobbing in the water, listening to the ocean with an underwater amplifier and scanning the horizon for water shooting into the air, forcefully expelled from a distant whale’s blow hole.

We see lots of dolphins and some do spectacular leaps out of the water — maybe as much as ten feet into the air.  Incredible aerial displays.  Our guide says they are getting their bearings of where they are and which direction their pod is traveling.  (Where ever that is, I am game for going that way too!)

Later we discover a school of Devil Ray fish wriggling out of the water like they have been shocked by an electrical current.  Where the dolphins are so graceful, the Devil Rays propel themselves into the air as if releasing a spasm of pain.  Very unusual, but beautiful too!  So too, two Ripley Sea Turtles just lazing on the surface of the ocean.  When our boat pulls up to watch them, they simply sink deep into the water and disappear.  Very cool.



Categories: Travels

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