Before we left the UK, my sister and I booked an overnight trip to Sirena Ranger Station in Corcovado National Park with Corcovado Expeditions. This part of Costa Rica is famed for its wildlife and, as a Zoology graduate, I’m always on the lookout for chances to see rare and unusual creatures in their natural habitats.
We met Kenneth Mora, our bilingual guide, a couple of days before our trip to Sirena Ranger Station. We’d wandered down to his office, Corcovado Info Centre, early one morning to pay the remainder of the $250 fee, but he wasn’t there. The shop owner next door gave him a call and he dropped everything immediately to come and greet us. It turned out we’d disturbed him on his birthday, but not only did he not mind – he went out of his way to show us around Drake Bay for the remainder of the day and invited us to his birthday party with all his friends and family.
On the trip itself, he was just as accommodating. He had impressive knowledge about the jungle plants and wildlife, which is no mean feat given the diversity of species. He mimicked calls to encourage animals to respond and reveal their locations. It was incredible how he was able to spot creatures way up in the canopy that weren’t moving and were camouflaged with their surroundings, and he constantly offered to take photos with our cameras, sometimes through his telescope.
Included in the trip was the boat ride to and from the beach where a short path leads to Sirena Ranger Station. We’d been told that we might see dolphins, but unfortunately we were out of luck. Nevertheless, we saw sting rays and flying fish and the fresh sea breeze was invigorating.
We spent the morning following seldom used trails through the undergrowth, searching for different species. Within hours, we’d already spotted monkeys, sloths and various impressive species of bird.
Kenneth led us to a pleasant stretch alongside the river, where we stopped for a tasty packed lunch he’d prepared for us. Again, there were many species of bird nearby, including kingfishers, herons and spoonbills. It would have been quite relaxing if it hadn’t been for the crocodile not 20 feet away basking in the shallow waters. Unperturbed, Kenneth disturbed the water with a stick, explaining that this sometimes attracts sharks that have made their way upstream from the ocean with the tide.
After lunch, we challenged Kenneth to demonstrate how to crack into a coconut in less than 10 seconds. The only time I’ve broken into a coconut – many years ago in the Maldives – it took me well over half an hour with a pair of scissors! Sure enough, he did it! So, if you ever find yourself marooned on a desert island, the technique you need to use is illustrated below!
In the afternoon, we visited another river with stones that you can rub together to form a paste that is good for your skin. After the facemask and a swim, we hiked back to Sirena Ranger Station in a heavy downpour just in time for a buffet-style dinner. It was nothing special, but it staved off the hunger and we had a chance to chat to other tour groups and researchers who were based there on scientific projects.
The rooms were very basic, but you can’t expect luxury in a park ranger station. We slept on bunk beds and at night I heard a massive rodent right by my bed rooting through the emergency snacks we’d brought. Although disconcerting (I have a friend who had her face chewed by a rat while she slept!), it was a welcome reminder that it was a privilege to be surrounded by a jungle packed with diverse species.
Getting up at 4am to hike in the pitch black and search for nocturnal animals was not well rewarded. One solitary frog was the only animal we saw before the sun came up, but a little later in the morning, we spotted a female tapir and her calf. Shortly after that, we witnessed a coati falling out of a tree! Unfortunately, we didn’t see a big cat. Kenneth has informed me that he’s spotted 20 pumas in four years, although the jaguar remains elusive.
If you’re thinking about planning a trip into Corcovado, I can highly recommend staying in Drake Bay for at least five nights and booking your trip with Kenneth as your guide. I not only have wonderful memories of the trip itself but we’ve remained good friends and you can’t put a price on that.