Corcovado 3/3 – Tapirs, sloths and howler monkeys

On our last full day on the Osa peninsula I visited the actual Corcovado National Park. Isa stayed at home that day. Visits are only possible with official guides, and there are several ranger stations to go to. I went once again with Javier, this time in a larger group with 8 other people, and we visited the area around the Sirena station. Comparing costs per day for all the tours we have done in this trip, this was clearly the most expensive one at 90 USD for an 8 hour tour including only one meal, so expectations were high.

Once again I want to say sorry for the often not very good quality of the photos in this post. It’s not easy to spot something in the rainforest even just with your eyes. With a small smartphone camera it’s a real challenge.

The tour started (and ended) with 1.5 hours of boat ride on the Pacific around the peninsula. Even in relatively calm weather the waves are not that small, but the boat is. That’s not the best combination, but you can feel that the captain does that every day and has a lot of experience. Once we had arrived and everyone had jumped out of the boat into the shallow water in front of the beach, I had just enough time to dry my feet a bit and put on my socks and hiking shoes again. We then immediately went off into the jungle, got a few instructions on how to behave (don’t say a word; total silence is of course best to see wildlife), where to walk (always behind the guide), and to be patient.

One of the first interesting things to come across was this type of plant, which has an interesting strategy to deal with natural enemies. It provides a protected living space for ants (those brownish cones along the main branch) and some sweet nectar as food for them. In return, the ants fight off animals that try to eat the plant, and even kill other plants around it. The tiny beasts are so aggressive that it’s best to stay away from these plants entirely.

A relatively large flightless bird species, living on the rainforest ground. It looks and moves a bit like a smaller version of the rheas we saw in South America.

Our guide Javier with his super strong 2000 dollar scope. He often spotted things high up in the trees and pointed the scope at it, which the rest of us still couldn’t even find with our eyes after having been pointed to it and having seen it through the scope. If the animal hadn’t run away yet, we could often use the scope to take photos through it with our smartphones.

As Isa and me had already met the white-faced cappucin monkeys on our hiking trip, it was good that in the national park I got to see the other 3 monkey species native to this area. The first we met there were the squirrel monkeys. They’re really small, but also really cute. When they’re running on the tree’s branches with their tails standing up in the air, they do indeed look like squirrels.

One of those strangler fig trees as shown in part 2 of this 3 part blog post series, only this time fully grown up. It’s a real tree now, and the original one inside is probably dead.

Another big bird species living on the ground of the rainforest. This is the male. We also saw the female, which is brown. In fact we saw numerous couples of this species that day, being some of the very few animals that don’t give a damn about humans walking by, taking photos.

Already very early into our little safari, Javier assured us that we WILL see a tapir (or at least have very very good chances). So he also started early to specifically look for one. You can easily see where they’ve been to by looking for trees like this. One of the main sources of food for the tapir is the bark of trees, which they chew off in this way.

As tapirs mostly sleep during the day, you just have to know their typical sleeping spots and look for them there. After having checked out 4 or 5 spots, Javier eventually found one. Well, although they’re the biggest animals in the rainforest here, they’re hard to discover if you don’t know exactly where and what to look for. In the photo I’m basically standing right in front of it.

Squatting down and stretching the arm with the phone through the bushes gives a much clearer view. They’re indeed really big, even when lying down like this. The eye is open because it had just woken up a little from us standing around it. I hope it fell asleep again soon when we left, though at least one or two other groups probably came by to take photos as well. All the guides know those sleeping places.

A beautiful but also scary, big spider.

The large green eggs of one of those birds living on the ground. I think it was from the first one, the one that looks like a small rhea.

Speaking of birds on the ground: these two are also amongst those. I think they can actually fly though, even if they might not do so very often.

Now and then our little group would step out of the jungle to the shore. We hoped to find some crocodiles, but that day they seemed to be all somewhere else.

Instead we had a look at some of the bird species at the coast. Like this one with a long, muscular neck.

Or these two with their awkwardly long beaks.

Also next to the sea we found this gigantic locust. What you can’t see here is that the unfolded wings during flight are colored in an intensely shiny red.

Just a small, nice flower.

The next monkey species we met were the howler monkeys. They are by far the loudest animals here. Isa and me had already heard them during our hike, and before we discovered them here in the trees in Corcovado National Park we had heard them from afar for quite a while, too. They really are howling. And barking. And screaming. They were also surprisingly big.

Plenty of termites nests were hanging everywhere in the trees. This one is old and disused and has fallen off (my foot is there for size comparison). At first I was wondering why they would also build them in the trees here, just like in the Pantanal with its regular flooding. But then, the heavy rains here are probably like little floods to them, too.

Tiny spiders hanging from this leaf.

There are two families of sloths to be found in the rainforest: two-toed and three-toed sloths. We got to see both of them, though I’m still amazed how our guide managed to spot them high up in the trees with his bare eyes. They’re SO SLOW. This one is the two-toed variety.

In between, a large family of wild pigs suddenly crossed our path. I know you can’t see much on the photo, but it’s enough to get a general idea of their size and color and shape.

Mushrooms on a tree.

And there it is, a member of the three-toed sloths family. This time you can even see the face.

More mushrooms on a tree, but really small and cute ones.

And my probably favorite rainforest mushroom, always standing out from the rest of the organisms on the floor due to its red or orange color and the unusual cup shape.

My personal highlight was to observe anteaters. They’re not so common to find, and most groups won’t get to see them. We found two on that day, but only one that we could properly see. This one. They preferably look for ants under the bark of trees and when they do, they literally rip off the bark with their strong little claws, causing a rain of wood chips falling down from the tree.

Of course there were also leaf cutter ants again. Only this time they seemed to all have specialized in this one type of pink flowers. I didn’t even see many of these flowers around, but the leaf cutter ants would walk extra far to specifically find and ‘cut’ these flowers into pieces. I’m sure they have their reasons. For me it was just amazing to see these moving roads on the ground, covered with tiny pink blotches of color.

A woodpecker with a shiny red thingy on his head. Very nice.

Last but not least we found some specimens of the remaining, the fourths type of monkeys here: spider monkeys. They have long legs (therefore the name) and are pretty big. This one was just falling asleep.

When we were back in town (well, village), Javier showed us a few more birds, as he has the scope at home anyway. Just want to share this one with you…

…and that one. Nice, huh?!

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