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Our expedition continues, and this week we will have a packed itinerary as we visit ten protected areas in the provinces of Cartago and Limn. Get ready to see the popular and cute slot and the most biodiverse area of the whole country. Let’s get started!

Irazu Volcano National Park and Turrialba National Park

The highest volcano in the country, the Irazu and the second highest, the Turrialba share their base and are considered siblings. From the top of Irazu, on a clear day, you can see both the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea.

 

The Turrialba volcano has presented important activity since 2015, forcing the authorities to close the park as a safety measure. Meanwhile, the Irazu National Park remains open being one of the most visited National Parks in Costa Rica.

Turrialba Volcano – Image by CRHoy.com

The flora of the Irazu is typical of the Sub Alpine Tropical Wet Paramus with the presence of limited fauna due to the volcanic activity.

 

 

La Amistad International Park

 

This partially unexplored and massive protected area covers a total of 990,892.6 acres gathering two countries in a mission: the conservation of an area of incalculable value for the entire planet. Costa Rica features 49% of the protected extension and 51% is located in Panama.

 

Its variety of types of soil, altitudinal range and different climates results in the display of seven different ecosystems and six transition zones (Holdridge Classification). La Amistad, or PILA as is also known, was declared by UNESCO as: A Biosphere Reserve, an International Peace Park and a World Heritage Site.

 

La Amistad is also very significant because of the protection it gives to the most important sources of hydric resources for the country, in its territory more than 10 rivers originate that later feed important collectors such as the Sixaola River and the Rio Grande.

Image by Fincalilo.com

 

The fauna that can be found here is extensive with more than 400 species of birds, more than 250 species of amphibians and reptiles, more than 2500 species of insects and more than 130 species of mammals including 6 species of felines like the jaguar, the puma and the jaguarundi.

 

Most of the areas of PILA cant be accessed, however it does have an administrative area with a camping zone, an amphitheater, an observatory, a viewpoint, parking lot, picnic area and several walking trails.

 

Tapanti National Park (Part of PILA)

This evergreen and rainy area is home to five different life zones, being one of the most diverse of the country. The flora in Tapanti is so rich that speciation (the process of new and distinct species due to evolution) and endemism (unique species found in a particular location) can be found.

The importance of this protected area also extends to its water resources, as it guards more than 150 rivers in an area of 144,557 acres.

 

The fauna is diverse and rich with more than 250 species of birds, 28 species of reptiles, 32 species of amphibious, abundant species of insects and butterflies, and 45 species of mammals including the Tapir, the Lowland Paca, the Deer, the ocelot, the Kinkajou and the white-faced monkeys.

 

Hitoy-Cerere Biological Reserve (Part of PILA)

This protected area is one of the less visited and researched due to its difficult abrupt grounds. An area of the country where rain is the only constant, trees raise up to the sky with more than 160 ft. covering fragile and valuable ecosystems. Waterfalls and rapid rivers furrow the tropical wet forest and the premontane rain forest that live on these lands.

 

If your goal is to spot a wildcat on your visit to Costa Rica, this is probably the best place to visit, even though their nocturnal and treetop life makes it more difficult. Forty species of mammals inhabit the park, including the three and two-toed Slots, the Silky Anteater, the Ocelot, the Jaguar, the Gray four-eyed Opossum and the Howler and White-Faced Monkeys. More than 300 species of birds decorate the trees of this forest, also 30 species of amphibious and 30 species of reptiles.

 

Chirripo National Park (Part of PILA)

This highly visited National Park has a great scenic importance as it protects the highest peak in the country the Chirripo Hill (12,532,8 FASL), but above all a great geological value. Experts have found glacial landforms that date back to 25,000 years.

Three ecosystems can be found here: the Paramo, cloud forest and rainforest. The hydric resource that is born on this National Park has an invaluable importance too.

Image by info.co.cr

Bird watching is one of the main activities that can be enjoyed besides the main one that is to hike up the hill and get to the breathtaking points of La Sabana de Los Leones, the Valle de los Conejos, the Chirripo peak, the Valle de las Morrenas and the Valle de Los Lagos. Another fauna that can be seen is Collared Peccary, wild rabbit, Tapir and the Coyote.

 

If you plan to visit the Chirripo we recommend you book your space quite in advance as the waiting list can be extensive and can take more than a year. The reservation can only be made online through the National System of Protected Areas SINAC

 

 

Barra del Colorado Wildlife Refugee

This remote and unvisited refugee adjoins to the Nicaragua border to the North, the Tortuguero National Park to the south and is divided by the Colorado River into two sections Barra del Norte and Barra del Sur. The National Park can only be accessed by boat or air.

 

The star of Barra del Colorado is without any doubt The Manatee or Sea Cow, a large aquatic mammal that is highly endangered. This giant and noble animal is protected by law in Costa Rica and has been declared a Marine National Symbol in order to educate the population and help its protection.

Image by Tripadvisor

Other animals that can be seen around this wetlands and canals are caimans, crocodiles, three-toed sloths, spider monkeys, howler monkeys. A great variety of birds are found too, with the presence of toucans, jacanas and military macaws.

 

 

Parque Nacional Tortuguero

Visit a national park composed mainly of canals, lagoons and rivers, with 123,948 acres of marine extension and 64,632 acres of land.

As its name suggests the Tortugas or turtles are the main attraction of the park. For more information about Turtle nesting or hatching, you can visit our blog post dedicated to this precious animal. Other species that are of great importance in this area are the Manatee, and the Tropical Gar, an animal that has remained unchanged in more than 100 million years and that is considered a living fossil.

Image by Pucci

Three life zones are found here: the tropical rainforest, premontane wet forest and tropical moist forest. Another fauna that can be found is 38 species of mammals, 442 species of birds, 118 species of reptiles, 58 species of amphibious and 460 species of arthropods.

 

Cahuita National Park

Breathtaking turquoise waters encountering the dense the rain forest in contrast with white sand is what you will find on this Caribbean National Park. Fell in love with secluded beaches in an exemplary protected area managed by its town.

Image by supercoolbeaches.com

Home for the most important coral reef of Costa Rica, Cahuita protects 55,351 acres of marine area with 1,482 acres of reef extent and 2,733 acres of land.

 

The flora and fauna safeguarded on this park cant be found anywhere else in the country. The flora is characteristic of swamp forests, not-flooded mix forest and coastal vegetation. The recorded wildlife counts 35 species of coral with presence of Elkhorn, Montastrea cavernosa and brain coral; 140 species of mollusks; 44 of crustaceans; 128 of seaweed; 123 species of fish including the queen angelfish and the blue parrotfish; 3 species of sharks; a few mammals like the three and two-toed sloths, howler monkeys, otters, coatis; and many species of birds.

 

Gandoca-Manzanillo Wildlife Refugee

 

Six miles of yellow-sand beaches covered with tall palm trees and Prioria Copaifera trees, 740 acre of rainforest, 1,235 acres of coral reef and 2 swamps, is what you can find in this tropical refugee.

 

Gandoca-Manzanillo, as Tortuguero is a Turtle sanctuary. It also protects the larger and only intact mangrove in the Atlantic coast and the only natural oyster bed in the country.

Image by culturetrip.com

The fauna that can be seen includes some mammals like the endangered Ocelot, Cougar and Manatee, Slots, monkeys, Low Land Paca and the Tapir; 350 species of birds; 500 species of fish; 34 species of mollusks; 11 species of crustaceous; and a variety of amphibious including the famous Red-Eyed frog.

 

We invite you to explore Cartago and Limn and its unique natural beauty, as well to read our previous blog posts of this Biodiversity Guide (Part I and Part II)

Contact us for more information and find more information about Costa Rica`s Biodiversity next week.

 

*Featured image: Gandoca-Manzanillo Beach, image by tropicalherping.com