Starting off with a confession: for our avid followers who are expecting a story of great adventure from Isla del Coco I’m sorry to say that we didn’t go in the end. When we found out that the admission fee is $50 per person per day (we thought it was a one off payment) the cost of the trip doubled and zoomed way out of our budget. We were disappointed but we have made up for it by visiting several national parks on the mainland and seen some fascinating critters.
Curu is a small national park on the Nicoya Peninsula close to Isla Tortugas, one of our favorite anchorages. Like many of the national parks in Costa Rica Curu is privately owned but the land was converted to a national park in the 1970’s to protect the ecosystem and allow the public access to the land. It is off the beaten track and rarely visited, we had the place almost to ourselves and really enjoyed creeping through the jungle looking for wildlife.
The mangrove swamp was infested with Halloween crabs, its difficult not to step on them but luckily they are easy to spot with their purple carapace and scarlet legs. We saw bright green iguanas scampering along branches and huge leathery Ctenosaurs (love that name!) scuttling across the paths. They look cumbersome but apparently can sprint at 35km/hr so not to be underestimated.
The highlight of the walk was seeing an anteater. It was a strange looking creature; pointed at both ends with a long furry snout and a prehensile tail. We watched it using its long claws to climb a tree to snuffle out a termite nest. We took plenty of photos but, much to my horror, our darn camera reformatted them and the files were useless. Still the memory of the anteater was preserved in the gorgeous birthday card Neil painted for me a few days later.
We spent my birthday back on the mainland in Quepos with our friends Kim and James on Zingaro. The previous day Neil had caught a mahi mahi so we made fish tacos with Kimmie working the tortilla press while Neil and James played a few tunes and I drank champagne. Can’t beat that for a birthday – a lot more fun than bashing into the swell en route to Isla del Coco.
Manuel Antonio is a national park close to Quepos and we were able to anchor in the bay inside the park. We had to actually go out in order to pay the fee to enter and then queue to get back in – strange! This is the most visited park in Costa Rica and by 9am when I went back through the gate already 600 perople had come in. Most of the weird and wonderful creatures had taken to the trees when the gates opened but that’s when the white-faced Cappuchin monkeys start to get active. They are natural performers and their acrobatic antics entertained the crowd, then they came down to the paths hoping for treats and to pick a few pockets.
From Quepos we had a long day passage south to Drake’s Bay. We managed to get the engine off and sail for a couple of hours but with the current against us and a fickle wind, we motorsailed most of the way. The bay is purported to be where Sir Francis Drake anchored his famous ship the Golden Hinde in the 16th century. Drake is infamous here as a pirate (which of course offends my British sensibilities) and is supposed to have buried treasure somewhere close by. The settlement can only be reached by 4WD and with more than twenty river crossings it is difficult to access in the wet season. We were the only yacht in the bay – we loved the place.
The main attraction of Drake’s Bay is taking a tour to the Corcavado National Park. It is the biggest park in Costa Rica and because of it’s inaccessibility it is off the itinerary for most tourists. A panga picked us up directly from Distant Drummer and we had an hour and a half ride down to Sirena, one of the ranger stations. Our guide Carlos was superb at spotting birds, monkeys, tiny lizards and frogs and the ellusive tapirs. He had worked as a research assistant at Corcavado for many years and could explain anything from the motivation of leaf-carrying ants to the breeding cycle of green tree frogs.
We saw red macaws, a boa constrictor and had shit thrown at us by Howler monkeys. We were very lucky to see tapirs four times during our visit and the last experience was definitely the best. A tapir wandered out of the jungle and stopped to graze on the low branches of a tree for several minutes before trundling across the beach to sniff around the water line. It then lay down on the sand and waited while a tickbird (yellow-headed caracara) climbed along it’s back, picking the ticks off one by one. After fifteen minutes the spa treatment was still going on and we had to leave for the return journey to Drake’s Bay.
The one thing that has been evading us is a toucan. Carlos recommended a path which runs up from Drake’s Bay to the main road which is a dirt track which is the main road into the village, he always sees toucans there. To say it was muddy would be a gross understatement. The mud was like chocolate porridge and in places reached up to our knees. We had to dig for our crocs several times before we gave up and waded bare foot through the sludge. It was really hilarious; we didn’t see a toucan but we had great fun trying.
We are now in Golfito on the eastern side of Golfo Dulce and we are well and truly into tropical rainforest. The hills around us are so densely covered with trees they look like broccoli and every afternoon and even sometimes in the morning biblical amounts of rain fall, filling our buckets and our water tanks and, to our horror, the dinghy. After once particularly heavy rain we found the dinghy so full of water that the fuel tank was floating. It was a only a matter of time before it started sinking, dragging our precious 15HP outboard under the water.
We’ve been in Costa Rica for nearly three months now and our visas will run out in a week or so so it’s time to move on. We plan to check out from Golfito in the next few days then spend two or three months cruising in the islands on the west coast of Panama before we tie up at the marina at Vista Mar for a couple of months rest!
There’s a few more pictures from our Corcavado trip below, there were just so many amazing creatures to photograph.