Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Long Walk Awaits

Our time at La Selva has passed quickly. Perhaps it was the four straight days of pouring rain (in the dry season, no less) that makes me feel as though I haven't spent enough time in the forest. Or perhaps it was the valiant battle I waged against something inside of me (a virus? maybe a parasite?) that makes me long for more free hours to explore the surrounding jungle.

In any case, we set off tomorrow. By Friday morning we will reach the entrance to Corcovado National Park. This is no-easy access facility though, once we arrive we'll have to hike 17 km (10.5 miles) to the remote field station that will be our home for six nights. We were told to expect the trek to take about five hours, but I will surely take more time, so I can photograph any wildlife we come across.

Located on the Osa Peninsula on Costa Rica's Pacific Coast, Corcovado is one of the wildest places left in Central America. All five species of big cats roam through the park (last week a puma was spotted right outside the field station), tapirs are a common sight, and rare scarlet macaws and harpy eagles may be spotted flying overhead. It's the site I've been looking forward to most. It will be much different there than here in La Selva, a high-tech research facility. Corcovado doesn't even have a phone.

With our impending departure on my mind, I took off this morning to take a few moments to explore the La Selva jungle. It wasn't long before the research buildings were far behind me (in sight and in mind) and I felt enveloped by the tropical forest. Walking softly, I was soon in the midst of a herd of foraging peccaries. Startled by my sudden presence, one of the larger animals became alarmed and snapped its jaws nervously. As the peccaries grunted aggressively, I realized I may have gotten too close and slowly backed away from the herd.

Peccaries are common around La Selva, even in the mowed yards around the research buildings. They're so common and unfazed by our presence that it's easy to dismiss them as being as harmless as the dogs and cats in your neighborhood. But I was in their neighborhood now, and they were quick to remind me why they're formidable foes for potential predators like jaguars. Although the peccaries may be relatively accustomed to humans in this forest, they're ready for anything and won't be caught unawares by any potential dangers. It was a good lesson to learn before our arrival in Corcovado, home to crocodiles, jaguars, puma, and thousands of venomous snakes. I'll be sure not to be too complacent.


Matt said...

Looking forward to hearing the stories when you return to civilization, the site is nothing less than magical.

Richard @ The Nature Blog said...

I had the experience in Costa Rica of watching collared peccaries too. At one point we saw one on it's own and I started to photograph it as it got ever closer. It didn't seem to have noticed me, and I knew how dangerous they can be, but I was getting such great shots! Eventually it just wondered over and started nuzzling up to me like a puppy. I didn't know it was a hand-reared one that had be released into the wild until I discussed it with a guide some time later! What an experience!

Frank Baron said...

What a terrific experience! Would love to see an update.

David Steen said...

Thanks all, I got a little backlogged towards the end of the trip but I'm now back in the States and working on putting my thoughts and notes into blog form. I hope to provide an update soon.