Day 4 here in Costa Rica has proven to be adventurous. We took a suggestion from the Lonely Planet Guide for Costa Rica and traveled roughly 10Km along the beach up towards Cahuita (Parque Nacional Cahuita).
Parque Nacional Cahuita at just 1067 hectares and is one of the more frequently visited national parks in Costa Rica. Primarily made up of Coconut Palms and Sea Grapes, it also includes a swampy area at Punta Cahuita. Granted we never made it that far to see the swampy area with Mango tress, but later this week we will be doing a snorkeling and hiking tour of the Cahuita park in more detail.
Our adventure started at Playa Negra in front of the Banana Azul and headed north up the beach to the Rio Prezeoso (aka Sloth River). Here we had to ford the river to get to Cahuita Park. Even though it rained the night before, the water of the river only came up just above our knees, but Robyn was able to find a sand bank that made fording a lot easier.
We walked a bit further down the beach, unsure of the exact location of the ocean side trail. Eventually we came up to an area where we could definitely see a trail. The trail is somewhat marked along the jungle entrance. It seems the numbers (that we noticed) started at 99 and went towards 0 the closer you got to the main area of the park (or at least Playa Vargas).
If you have never been to a tropical jungle but have been to the Vancouver Aquarium’s Tropical rain forest section, it feels like that, the heat and humid anyway. Though getting onto the jungle path (which is not marked, nor is it traveled a lot) was nice as the sun was out in full power. The jungle canopy provided adequate protection from the suns strong rays shading us for the majority of our trek.
Along the the trail Robyn did point out a few critters.
The photo of the spider was a bit alarming actually. Robyn was bush-whacking with the “walking” stick and we came across a large spider web. I looked around for the owner and found this massive spider just hanging out above his creation. The photo doesn’t really do this guy justice, but he was larger than Robyn’s Pentax Optio W10 camera. I was a bit more cautious on trying to get the camera close enough to him for a better photo. From that point onward I was a bit skittish on any spider web we came across or if something touched my head I would kind of freak out thinking a spider like that just fell on me. Don’t get me wrong, I like spiders, just the really big ones creep me out.
I also think there were spider holes (barrows) dotted all along the path too. The ones closer (and smaller) were for crabs, but the ones along path were softball size or larger, in fact my foot fell through a few of them freaking me out even more. I could have sworn at one point I saw a tarantula scurry from one hole to another. Could have been my imagination though, but I would have hated my foot meeting one close up.
The above two photos show (somewhat) what the jungle looks like. Of course that is me with my “walking” stick. Yes I use that in quotes because it was recommended I carry one in case we got into some…trouble.
Occasionally I come across something weird, but the above photo certainly a tad bit creepy. We think it could be a cat’s skull (though Robyn thinks it might also be a monkey skull), but if anyone else out there is good at animal anatomy and can identify who the skull could belong to, the weird part is that the entire skeleton was there. Not all together mind you but all near the skull. In fact the spinal cord was still intact. I find it a bit odd how the bones are bleached, but with the amount of insects near by I’m sure they would do an excellent job stripping the flesh from the bone etc.
Alright now one of the reasons we wanted to head into Cahuita was to see the 2 species of monkeys that call the park home; Howler and White-Face Capuchins.
Robyn first spotted the Howler Monkeys in the canopy. The first group we came across was pretty vocal about our presence but eventually they seemed to have decided we weren’t too much of a threat. Yes, they were throwing things at us, but it wasn’t their feces. They just moved among the branches trying to get a better look at us, while we tried to get a better look at them.
This is one of the White-Faced Capuchin monkeys we saw. The are we saw them in was very dense and the lighting was pretty bad (for the camera anyway) The other white-faced capuchin that was out of frame actually had a baby wrapped around her back. These guys are fairly friendly and inquisitive as they would come closer to us than the Howler monkeys would.
As for the trail itself, at some points it lead back to the beach and when it did at times it was a bit difficult to find the section between the foliage to get back on the path. The good thing about the trail itself though is it never leaves the ocean’s edge by more than about 100m. You can always hear if not see the ocean. I don’t think I would want to go too deep into the jungle, especially since we’ve been into it for 2 hours or so.
We eventually saw some signs of civilization and we were excited. It seemed like we would never get to where we wanted to be but there was a bit of a twist. Were we ended up, was pretty much the beginning of the main section of Cahuita park itself, Playa Vargas. From here we would have another 7Km (after walking about 10km) to get over to Playa Blanca. The good thing is, we didnt have to pay the $8-10US entrance fee into the park. We decided to take the gravel road out and look for a ride back to Puerto Viejo.
Though as we were getting closer to the gate, we noticed a group of people looking up in the trees. Of course, after Robyn kept her eye out for a sloth in the canopy along the trail we took, we eventually found one near to where people would be. Robyn said it was like when her and her friend Kathleen went to a place in Australia to see wild Koalas, only to eventually see one back at the parking lot.
I used Lightroom to try and lighting up the photo so you can actually see this 3-toed sloth. He (or she) was just hanging out on a tree right next to the road. I think it’s a neat tidbit about how slow sloths move, they grow algae on their fur. You can sort of see that in the above photos.
Yup, that’s right we spent 4.5hours or so, only to get to one of the entrances to the park itself. Well at least we got to see some pretty cool animals, including the 3 that Robyn was really wanting to see; Howler Monkey, White-Faced Capuchin and the Sloth.
We stopped off at what Lonely Planet called an oasis, Boca Chica, for some Fanta and massive amounts of water. The funny thing about this place was, is they too have resident Howler Monkeys. A large group of them just hanging out in a near by tree.
We eventually caught the bus back to Puerto Viejo to end out long and tiring trek through the jungle of Cahuita park. The good thing is that the bus only cost us about $1US each, where as cab from Cahuita to Puerto Viejo could have cost us from $15 to $20US (more than our ticket from San Jose to Puerto Viejo!)
We have booked our snorkeling trip for Saturday which will take us to the reefs just off of Cahuita Park, and then a 2 hour hike within the park itself with a guide. I will be bringing my Canon XSi with us on that, as being with a guide deters would-be thieves.
Photos Taken So Far: 309
Next to Come: Perhaps renting a Scooter and heading down south to look for more beaches