Costa RicaCosta Rica

Day 3: Canopy Exploration, Turtles and Stargazing

Destination: Drake Bay

Young trees in secondary growth forestSince it is the rainy season here in Corcovado (April through November), the lodge is almost empty. The other five guests and I enjoy the spaciousness of the lodge and its trails. We have a group tour scheduled to the Lodge's canopy platform this morning.

After breakfast, accompanied by our guide Michi, we slowly hike up the steep trail to the base of the platform where we don our body harnesses and helmets and are winched up to the 24m high platform. We find comfortable chairs awaiting our arrival and we patiently sit and observe the canopy below and around us.

The platform is constructed in a Guapinol tree (a native of the Osa Peninsula standing about 200 ft tall). A slaty-tailed trogon (a red and green brightly colored bird) and a group of chestnut mandibled toucans entertain us with their songs, sounds and colorful plumage. There is a view of the Pacific Ocean and of the dense primary forest belonging to Corcovado National Park from the platform.

Canopy tour platformThe large tree, in which the platform is constructed, offers some protection from a revitalizing downpour that begins about an hour into our canopy experience. The forest becomes very quiet with the falling rain and we decide to depart from our treetop accommodations.

The rain stops shortly after we are all safely on the ground and we hike back down to the lodge. Along the way, several black and green dart frogs cross our path along with several Central American Whiptail lizards. Michi identifies several trees along the way and explains some of the tropical forest's ecology.

Lunchtime passes amicably as the sun pokes out from the clouds. The afternoon is unscheduled so I head to the beach with some of the other guests. The green flag is flying but the surf is still powerful. I enter the water with a boogie board; safely making it past the breakers and dive into an incoming wave. The wave rips the boogie board leash off my wrist and I quickly realize how strong the ocean's currents are out here. After recapturing the boogie, I ride the next wave into shore and decide not to venture beyond the breakers again.

Platform canopy tour

Foamy water and tiny grey rocks adorn the shore and we play in the surf from the safety of the beach. The warm sun and refreshing cool water eases the afternoon away on the mostly empty beach. Scarlet Macaws squawk overhead as they fly in pairs from tree to tree.

My last night here in Corcovado begins with another gourmet dinner and friendly conversation. However, the evening is not to go unremembered as I have a turtle tour still ahead of me.

Around 8pm, Michi and I head out in hopes of encountering a sea turtle coming ashore to lay her eggs. We walk for a long while in complete darkness allowing our eyes to adjust as the high tide moved in. The ocean and forest are completely dark and it takes a good hour for our eyes to adjust to the darkness. I spend some time photographing the stars, which are incredible. Thousands of stars dot the sky with tiny pinholes of light. There is no moon tonight and the quietness and darkness of this south Pacific Costa Rican beach lulls me, once again, into a sense of awe.

Pelicans playing in the ocean surf

On our way back, Michi and I spotted the tracks: a dark line heading up the beach. Sure enough, there was a green sea turtle making her way up the beach. Within just a few minutes, she began to dig her hole. My camera has infrared vision and we were able to sit and watch the turtle in complete darkness through the screen on my digital camera. We didn't even have to use any red light to see, so we did not disturb the turtle at all. We sat in admiration behind her, occasionally getting dusted with sand. She deposited about 50 eggs, a small batch for green sea turtles and then covered the eggs, patting and packing the sand.

When she finished, she briefly looked around and then made her journey back to the ocean where she disappeared into the surf, as if she had never been there. Only tracks and her progeny remain behind as indications of her existence.

Pacific Ocean Corcovado National Park

It was such an extraordinary experience to sit with such a unique and endangered sea creature on a dark, barely starlit night. Their nesting process is very delicate and can easily be disturbed. We kept our distance, used no light to photograph or observe and did not bother the turtle.Flash photography is strictly prohibited. All sea turtles are endangered and every precaution should be followed as to not disturb their delicate nesting process. Any sort of light can discourage them from nesting. NO flashlights or flash photography should be used on any turtle nesting beach at night.

After experiencing this most incredible event (definitely the highlight of my trip), I crawled into the comfort of my tent and laid awake in awe for quite a while. After finally falling asleep, I awoke around 2am to the sound of pouring rain and had to close my curtains to keep the mist out.

Day 3: Canopy Exploration, Turtles and Stargazing in Pictures

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