The Corcovado National Park conserves the largest primary forest on the American Pacific coastline and one of the few remaining sizable areas of lowland tropical rainforests in the world. Historically, logging and gold mining has taken place in lowland areas because those areas are more easily accessible and contain the largest and most economically valuable trees. But those habitats, which feature diverse vegetation, are also usually the richest in biodiversity. So even though approximately half the tropical rainforests on Earth remain, what is left of the originally rich lowland tropical rainforests is usually in too small an area to support the original natural biodiversity. Larger animals, especially, need a large habitat free of human activity. Unfortunately this means that even tourism, the economic incentive for Costa Rica and other developing nations to preserve and protect parks such as Corcovado, actually threatens the long-term biodiversity of the park.
My particular itinerary was to spend 3 days/nights at Finca Exotica, an Ecolodge located approximately 50 miles from Puerto Jimenez and strategically located for a hike into the park. As I studied their website (great website, btw!) they enticed with language like this –
More than an hotel, our resort offers an unique, social and inspirational experience – in the hearth of the jungle. Surrounded by the Primary forest and boarding the Corcovado National Park, it offers outstanding opportunities to observe Costa Rica’s rich wildlife. Swimming, surfing, boogie-boarding, hiking, fishing, horse-riding, kayaking.. it is our pleasure to organise tours and trips suiting your wills.
Health and well-being are two pillars of our concept. In addition, you will discover the delicious and healthy food served in our Casa Grande restaurant. Ingredients come from our organic garden or local harvests and are cooked by a dedicated and passionated team of chefs.
Meal times are also the occasion to share with the other guests : Could it be about your travel experiences, the music you love or the last book your read.. We singularly enjoy the idea of being a social club, where different personalities and characters can meet. We put sharing in the middle of everything. Finca Exotica is more than a place to spend the night, it is an inspirational experience, that, we hope, you will change your life forever.
I took advantage of arranging a “taxi” from the airport to Finca Exotica and the estimated fee was $75 or so. I was thinking that seemed quite expensive until I met Andi. Andi was an incredible guide, interesting person and very professional. Andi could easily escort any Heads of State or just an average tourist like myself. Please connect with Andi if you are heading to the Osa Penisula and you will not regret it. This is a rigorous 2-3 hour drive and despite all the pleasant conversation, Andi was always stopping and pointing something out noteworthy. Life is never fair but Andi is easily worth US$500 for his time and professionalism. Here are some photos from my drive with Andi –
Surrounded by lush green tropical primary rainforests, Carate is often referred to as one of Costa Rica’s best-kept secrets. This is because not many people come here on vacation.
I arrived to Finca Exotica just before an afternoon rainstorm and it gave me an opportunity to look around and I met their resident photographer which was a great way to break the ice and get settled in. I had simply requested the “Bamboo” cabin but was upgraded to the Ylang Ylang cabin that was wonderful. (click thumbnail to the right)
The Ylang Ylang tropical garden cabin is a great spot for family or friends to relax and watch the wildlife.This jungle cabin is located in the garden area with quick access to the beach (5min walk). It has two private bedrooms : one with a queen bed, and the other with either a queen bed or 2 comfy single beds. It has a private bathroom, a big and sunny outdoor shower (which was awesome after an arduous day of hiking) and a beautiful front deck with comfy seating and a hammock for lounging.
The unofficial “happy hour” begins around 5:30pm up in the main social area and the community dinner is served at 7pm. I was looking forward to this aspect of meeting any other guests and as I learned from the owners; Markus and Gabriella, sometimes friends stop over to join in the community sit-down. My first night I was able to meet two friendly ladies from Chile who were very engaging and on the second night a lady from San Jose who owns the only cheese-producing buffalo and her friend the priest joined us as well.
June is low season and so the dinner table was not too full and everyone was speaking spanish but everyone made sure to make me feel included. The food and the presentation were nothing less than 5-Star!!! It was amazing!
My last evening I was the only guest and so Markus and Gabriella invited me to just join them for dinner in the kitchen and I felt very privileged. Absolutely every morsel of food you could taste was 100% locally organic, delish and made with love. Amazing!
Ok, time to go trekking! Jeri is the resident guide to the Corcovado National Park at Finca Exotica. I was able to to a short hike with him before our trek into the park as it took an extra day to get the permit approved into the park. Jeri and his family grew up in Carate and he shared with me even as a very young chico, he wanted to grow up and be a professional guide. Jeri is extremely well versed in the culture and creatures of this area and his spoken English was exceptional. But, overall he is just a really friendly and professional person. During the high season, Jeri might lead several treks a day thus he is in excellent shape and lives and breathes Pura Vida. But, Jeri also knows how to adjust the tempo of the trekking to the “client” aka me the “old-and-slow” client.
We punctually set out on foot at 7am and the air was sweet from heavy rains the night before. The passing full moon has left the pounding surf in a state of rhapsody which added to the excitement of heading into a jungle described as “the most exuberant jungle forests in the Americas…“
It seems what a great guide is able to do is maintain a regular conversation with the client fielding all the basic tourist questions and responding with intelligent and thoughtful answers all the while visually scouring the landscape for birds, monkeys, insects, animals and maybe a 1000 other interesting features you might find in a remote jungle. One of the most important features of exploring in this remote area is the off-the-grid no-internet experience. I was happy to put away my phone and really focus my senses on the sounds of the jungle, the surf and the hot morning sun promising a test of endurance for an unknown distance. Here are some photos along the way:
As we approached the National Park entry, it really seemed like a spoof from the movies Platoon or Apocolypse Now. Mentally, you construct a “what if” scenario if someone tried to run right past the sentry without a permit? As benign as the park entrance seemed, I suspect that Costa Rica takes their National Parks preservation very seriously and it would take some time but they would deploy a complete search team to extract you. But, the other part is the liability due to the true extreme hazards in the park. READ HERE for an interesting, contemporary storyline in play this year as I craft this website. Despite the scowling look by the Park Manager, once I gave him some Swagman swag and took a photo of him with Gumby AND he found out I was from Las Vegas, we had a really fun time there. Everyone was laughing by the time we had entered and exited the park.
My hike with Jeri ended up being approximately 8.4 miles (13km) and by the time I got back to my thatched cabin, an outdoor all-natural shower was just what the doctor ordered. One of the biggest impressions this region had on me was that it reflected that with minimal (minimal is a relevant term here) imported species, there was perfect harmony of the cycle of life. One species provides food for another, etc, etc. I am convinced if our air-bloated politicians would leave the comfort of their power-addicted leather sofas in Washington DC and spent more time in nature, they would seek true solutions to combat the powerful lobbyists, the perpetuate gun sales, pharmaceutical drug sales and Wall Street greed and in turn provide a clearer vision for our children’s futures. Don’t blame the Millenniums. Blame their parents! Pura Vida Costa Rica!