The previous posting mentions trails in Corcovado National Park. There's a good trail description and map for those who would like to plan a trip. This is useful if you want to go on your own without a guide. It's located at http://www.itravel-costarica.com/corcovado_national_park.html.
We chose to do the Sirena Station to Sand Pedrillo route with a guide. The guide was very good and the highlights were the howler and capuchin monkeys. It's possible to see the monkeys without a guide on this route.
A word of caution: we pre-booked our trip with a local lodge. Upon arrival, the manager of the lodge pushed us to book a tour to Corcovado through him. He was polite but persistent. This didn't give us an opportunity to shop around. While on the tour, we discovered there were guides that were far better qualified then the one we booked with. With hind sight, it would have been better to shop around. Ultimately, we were a little disappointed with our guide.
One of your options to explore Corcovado is to hike in from the La Leona Ranger Station. It’s a 3.5 km hike down the beach from the pulperia and / or airstrip in Carate to the Station. If you’re not a Costa Rican National it’s $10 US for a pass into the park, payable directly at the ranger station. The trailhead is clearly marked and once in the park runs parallel to the ocean so it’s difficult to get lost. The trail is also well worn, but primitive, so it is easy to follow but feels non-invasive in the environment. You can do this hike on your own hire a guide to take you into the park. The advantage of taking a guide with you is they are trained to find wildlife so you are likely to see more. The hike is not strenuous. It is a relatively flat dirt path. If you are planning to hike in and out on the same day make sure you plan your departure from the park according to high tide or you will be getting wet on your trek back to Carate. Also hike in with your own food and water as there are no services past the La Leona Ranger Station until you reach the Sirena Ranger Station, 15 km away.
One of the major birds which the English couple and others wanted to see was the Scarlet Macaw (Ara macao) in the wild.
The Scarlet Macaw is native to humid evergreen forests in the American tropics, from extreme eastern Mexico locally to Amazonian Peru and Brazil, in lowlands up to 500 meters (at least formerly up to 1000m). It has been widely extirpated by habitat destruction and capture for the pet trade. Wild Scarlet Macaws eat mostly fruits and seeds, including large, hard seeds. Like most parrots, the Scarlet Macaw lays 2 to 4 white eggs in a tree cavity. The young hatch after 24 to 25 days. They fledge about 105 days later and leave their parents as late as a year. (From: Wikipedia, March 2006)
It is the only macaw on the Costa Rican Pacific coast. Populations have decreased and by 1950, they had disappeared from the Caribbean side of Costa Rica.
They are quite spectacular birds with their red, yellow and blue plumage (photo 2), and flocks of them live in the Corcovado area.
The English couple was quite disparaging of my ability to keep up and they particularly wanted to see these birds. They apparently felt that I would hold them back, so they forced the Drakes Bay lodge people to send a second boat and tour party to Corcovado. The other couple with us was quite indignant on my behalf, so we were all triumphant when we saw a flight of scarlet macaws from the boat on the way back to Drakes Bay, and the other group did not see any.
This picture, taken with a point and shoot camera does not really show the birds. I will have to find my slides (taken with a telephoto lens) to see if the macaws show up better there.
I outweigh the capuchin by a thirty to one ratio, my brain is far better at solving puzzles, yet I wouldn't last a week in the capuchins habitat (unless I had a great deal of help). But if the capuchin minds his p's and q's, he will live upwards of forty years. Forty years in an environment where all sorts of predators, from the harpy eagle to the stealthy jaguar, think the small monkey would make for a tasty snack. That is an impressive survival record.
Small, but large-brained. The capuchins have the largest brain relative brain size of any non-human primate. The white faced monkey is adept at using tools and is a social animal, living in groups of five to thirty individuals.
We got good looks at these little monkeys and it is really quite amazing to get a closeup look at their human-like facial features. The white faced capuchins will venture to the forest floor in search of proteins such as beetles and grubs. In contrast, their cousins the howler monkeys and spider monkeys stay high in the canopy even though they are larger animals and one would think better able to handle ground-based predators.
Small but brazen. The white faced capuchins chatted us up without fear. These two monkeys teamed up to put on a teeth baring exhibition. An adult capuchin will not exceed eight pounds, but they don't give an inch to human intruders.