Manuel Antonio National Park
A fabulous week of exploration had to finish with a great show from nature. Manuel Antonio is a really small area but incredibly rich in wildlife species. The reason is quite simple: the mid-size animals such as agoutis, monkeys or raccoons have no other choice for survival. The latest developments of tourism, plus the traditional agricultural tradition of the coastal flat lands of Costa Rica, have minimized the habitats for the majority of these critters. In the past, say about a century ago, the biological corridors connected large areas along the southern part of our country. Species like the jaguar or the pumas had enough territory to live, hunt and coexist somehow with humans.
Nevertheless, everything changed when Costa Rica opted for the expansion of basic grains production like rice and soy beans. In fact, we even tried to cultivate wheat in some incredibly rich rain forest regions devastated by loggers during the 19th century. Evidently this was a futile effort since the terrain was not ideal nor was the size of the areas necessary to compete with subsidized grain coming from the U.S. Another important reason for the destruction of vast rain forest regions was the “hamburger era” when every piece of available land was used to expand the cattle industry.
Nowadays, with the creation of the National Park System in the 1970s, Costa Rica effectively changed its roll in this world. From extreme deforestation levels, we jumped to first place in conservation and sustainability. Now almost 30% of this tiny country – the size of West Virginia – is protected by some form of legal frame, from National Park status to private reserves.
This morning the clouds and some early-morning rain did not sound like the best forecast; however, very soon the sun’s rays started filtering through and quickly melted all the dark shadows. The morning broke out beautifully and all our guests picked up their backpacks and started exploring Manuel Antonio Beach. The day was full of excitement and cool discoveries like sloth, monkeys, birds of prey and lizards!
And we could not find a better time to enjoy the gentle waters of Manuel Antonio and have fun at the beach. We all came back for some wonderful lunch and, during the afternoon, many guests went back ashore for a little more of this fantastic tropical paradise. This was a day to start packing, collecting videos from our video chronicler on board, and enjoy the guests’ slide show.
Nevertheless, the journey wasn’t over yet and we could learn a lot more about Costa Rica thanks to one of the naturalists who prepared a presentation. Tomorrow, more adventures for the guests on the post extensions and sweet memories to share at home for those who go back!