Golfo Dulce, Casa Orquideas & Golfito Mangroves
What a great Christmas gift…a new country. After navigating for several hours National Geographic Sea Lion found itself in the pristine and tranquil waters of the Golfo Dulce, at the southern end of the Pacific Coastline of Costa Rica.
Golfo Dulce translates into “sweet water gulf,” there are several references on the name, and one is because the many rivers that flush their fresh waters in it or the enclosed feeling and calm waters that make it look like a lake. Anyhow, it is a spoiled creation of plate tectonics. Through millions of years the separation of micro-plates made the center of it to drop down to around 700ft, having the similar characteristics of the temperate fjord, but in the tropics.
The morning outing was our second holiday gift, an explosion of colors and scents, of squawking and whistling birds. Casa Orquideas, a garden created and take care of by a couple of American expatriates, was the greatest combination of plant lover and birdwatchers, every group lead by a naturalist was able to admired and learned about all kind of tropical plants like papayas, pineapples, palm trees, bromeliads, orchids, and many birds associated to them, toucans, macaws, tanagers, and hummingbirds among many more.
Orquids always get the most attention; they are the second largest family of plants in the world with over 20,000 species, in Costa Rica 1,400 or so are found. They come in many different shapes, colors, sizes, and places in the forest, but they do have certain common characteristics among them. The three sepals and three petals look very alike; one of the petals is more attractive than the others by having particular shapes, colors, and it even resembles a female bee to lure the pollinators; it is call the lip or labellum. Orquids are masters of disguise; by not offering nectar to their pollinators they engage in amazing strategies, like producing wax, oils, or scents in order to get the pollinia (sacks of pollen) that is waiting to the proper transportation far away. Some orquids bloom for several days while others bloom for only a few hours.
The third gift of today was riding by Zodiac or by kayak along the lush edges of Golfito. It is a tropical lowland forest and mangrove ecosystem, which is very important to protect the small fish from bigger predators, which later on will move back to the ocean. Along with the lush forest we were able to spotted two white-faced monkey troops foraging in the trees and little later a troop of Howler Monkeys wrapping their prehensile tails around branches in order to fall asleep. It really was a great start to a new country…
Margrit Ulrich, naturalist