InBioparque - A Park in the City
It's a perfectly beautiful sunny day in the central valley. A great day to take a break from the hustle bustle of the city and visit INBioparque, located in Santo Domimgo, just outside of San Jose. INBioparque was created by INBio (Instituto Nacional de Biodiversidad) to demonstrate the variety of biodiversity and the importance of conservation of Costa Rica's natural resources. Costa Rica has almost 5% of the world's biodiversity in a country as small as the state of West Virginia.
When you drive up to InBioparque, you immediately get the impression that it mimics a US amusement park or museum with its nicely manicured, colorful landscapes and large, flag like signs. You'll know the difference immediately once you figure out they don't charge an arm and leg to park.
The welcome center is a nicely organized building with large glass windows that tease the newcomer with what awaits beyond the cashier. Admission is about $15 for adults and less for students, children and residents. A nature guide is included in the fee, should you choose to want one.
I choose to wander without a guide so I will be able to take my time and browse the labeled plants and displays. They give me a map and off I go. It's a little confusing in the beginning as there are many buildings to bypass, but eventually I find the paved trail that passes through the "Bosque de Valle Central" , meant to mimic the type of forest found in the Central Valley.
There are many trees labeled for the curious botanist and above my head I spot a plant I recognize. It is a much bigger version of a Virginia native called Dutchman's Pipe. It is not one of the labeled plants but I know it to be an Aristolochia sp. Very exciting!
There are a number of exhibits to visit along this trail including the bromeliad garden and the frog and ant displays. There is an amphitheatre I pass by on my way to the Aquarium, along with a restaurant where there is this very unusual vine growing as a canopy over the area. It has enormous fruits that are very oddly shaped. Is it a type of passion flower?
There is a lagoon with some basking caimans and Iguanas above the aquarium display, which is underground. There are several types of turtles in the turtle pond, along with a Green Heron who sits along the pond's edge tossing bits of plants into the water to entice an unknowing fish to the surface for his lunch. A quick trip up along the Mirador trail reveals a sleeping Mott Mott, the Nicaragua National Bird. He sleeps as I photograph him, while trying not to disturb him.
Along this same section of trail there is a bee exhibit with non stinging bees, a farm with pigs, goats, a sugar cane patch, a garden with all sorts of herbs and veggies and a fruit tree display garden where I sample a few juicy, ripe fruits. There is also a small butterfly garden with lots of Blue Morpho Butterflies and nectar producing plants like Verbena and Lantana. The entrance is adorned with a favorite host plant of some butterflies and a favorite flower of mine, the Passion flower. There are hug fruits hanging from the curly vines, reminiscent of a once beautiful flower.
At the other end of the park is the dry forest and humid forest display gardens. All these garden areas are maintained as naturally as possible. There are only paved, paths cleaned of fallen leaf debris, everything else is left as one would find it in the forest. Fallen leaves, broken branches, and seedlings permitted to sprout as they wish help lend the natural feel to the garden areas. There are even sloths living in the naturalized canopy. There is a juvenile two toed sloth sleeping in the trees in the humid forest on my way to the orchid display. He is so cute a furry.
The animal displays are well maintained and clean; all the animals look healthy and free of pests. There are a few large educational displays. One building lists all the national parks in Costa Rica, but the lights were out in this building so I was not able to get the full experience.
The main educational building had beautiful displays on biodiversity, ecology and conservation.
To me, the most beautiful display was the Boa display in the dry forest exhibit. There were 4 or 5 gorgeous boas intertwined around one another. One of them was absolutely huge, its girth was bigger than my upper arm. It was hard to tell which head belonged to which tail. What stunning, sleek creatures.
All in all, INBioparque was a pleasant way to spend the day and to quickly learn about Costa Rica's biodiversity, thought the park really only touches on the surface of all that Costa Rica has to offer. It's a great way to learn about the differences between the main types of forest biomes found in Costa Rica and to begin to understand some of the plants and animals in Costa Rica without having to travel all over the country. It's a good place to sum it all up.