Curu Wildlife Refuge and Tortuga Island

Tropical forests are not necessarily the rainy jungles of Jurassic Park. Actually, in Costa Rica, there are three types of forests: tropical dry, tropical moist and tropical wet, aside from some other twelve variations known as life zones. Today, our introduction to the Costa Rican wildlife started in a tropical dry forest, yet it wasn’t dry at all, since during the month of August, while in the U.S. it is summertime, Costa Ricans are in what they call their “winter” or rather, their rainy season. Thus the forest we visited was quite lush. The sky was cloudy, there were ponds and creeks in the forest and the air was hot and humid. Hard to imagine that a few months from now, beginning in December, this area of the country will undergo a long drought of about six months and most of the trees will loose their leaves in order to save water as creeks and rivers will dry out completely and animals will have to migrate to greener pastures. Because of this marked dry season, the topical dry forest has practically disappeared due to human activity (slash and burn agriculture) and because it was the first area to be colonized by the Spaniards.

Our exploration of Costa Rica started this morning with a visit to Curu Wildlife Refuge in the Nicoya Peninsula, a 1,214 hectare cattle ranch that also contains a mango plantation and a selective timbering operation. Aside from its productive activities, the ranch owners have been involved in the protection and reintroduction of endangered scarlet macaws and spider monkeys into the wild. The sound ecological agricultural practices have made of this place a real gem for nature lovers and bird watchers, who can walk through the protected mangroves and the forest trails in search of wildlife.

Upon our arrival at Curu we had to change shoes since this was a wet landing. Some of us had not finished changing when we heard a scarlet macaw right above our heads. It didn’t take long for us to spot it on top of a palm tree then we divided into three groups and started the morning hikes. Iguanas, bats, crocodiles, a boa constrictor, white face and howler monkeys, caracaras, rufus nape wrens were some of the residents we were able to see, and what a joy that was!

After lunch we sailed to Isla Tortuga where we had our first opportunity to kayak and enjoy an afternoon on the beach: in the end it was both a relaxing and exciting day