So San Jose was weirdly cold. The Tico’s in town were having a good moan about it. Not so Puerto Jimenez! The plane door opens and your greeted by 90% humidity, 30 degrees and not so much a red carpet as a flap of red feathers. Call me a sceptic but I wonder if perhaps the almond trees next to the runway have been relocated/planted by the tourist authorities to bring in the macaws? Either way it’s quite a welcome.
A quick taxi into PJ town gets you to where the colectivo leaves twice a day at 6am and 1:30pm to Carate. Quick plate of Gallo Pinto and a cold beer in the café and a trip to the supermarket for several bottles of frontera and some supplies for our trek into the national park and we are good to go.
Ok, so comfortable it ain’t but it’s quite an experience. The open back of the colectivo means you get a really good view of the passing countryside which is spectacular. You pass through open farmland and areas of protected forest and we observed plenty of birds on the way, laughing falcon, crested caracara and king vulture. Binoculars stayed in the bag though for fear of dislodging an eye socket. You can do this trip by private taxi for around $60 but if you have the time it’s really worth taking the local bus. People hop on and off at different points and you quickly find yourself embedded in conversation. We met an interesting guy who has set up wildlife rehab centre not far from Carate. We had a long chat about snake species in the area. Plenty of fer-de-lance but the elusive central american bushmaster remains just that apparently, elusive. He’s seen one small one in the six years he has lived in the area. The last stop is at the mouth of the Carate river. There’s a small store (very expensive) and an almond plantation which is usually busy with macaws. This is also where the Carate runway is located if you’re feeling flush. The runway itself is grass and an excellent spot for birding in the morning and evening.
Two years ago I spent three months working for the carey project on the other side of the peninsula and it’s great to be back. There is something special about this place. Yes it receives plenty of visitors but more often than not you find yourself alone and walking vast stretches of pristine beach knowing that contained within that forest which in places looks impenetrable are all kinds of natural wonders from giant iridescent butterflies and brightly coloured trogons to grumpy pigs and killer cats. We are met at the Carate river mouth by the lodge’s horse and cart and left to walk the mile and a half of beach alone. The sun is setting and the sea mist is lapping up against the jungle canopy and to be honest it’s pretty awesome. The entrance to Corcovado National Park is another mile or so up the coast from the Lodge but as far as the wildlife is concerned it’s an invisible boundary and we are greeted on our walk by a group of capuchins in the trees, a curious coati and the squawk of more scarlet macaws.
So when deciding where to stay we wanted to be as close as possible to the park entrance and we wanted access to some trails to go ‘looking for stuff’ during the day. La Leona Lodge seemed like the best bet and it didn’t disappoint. There are cheaper places to stay but this is the closest to the park and this time I’m not volunteering so we are paying for a bit of luxury. We are greeted by a boozy alcoholic concoction in a coconut and a comfortable safari style tent with its own shower compartment. The beers are cold and the food is great (generous portions). If you can afford it I highly recommend this place. A quick night-time scout with my torch turned up a few tink frogs and the usual sleeping striped basilisk. Also managed to find a the small creek a little further up the shoreline where some of the Lodge’s trails start and where fishing bats (Noctilio leporinus) are supposed to hang out. They weren’t out tonight though.