What’s about half the size of a hippo, but not aggressive?
That would be a tapir, and some people might want to punch me in the face if I said I went to the Corcovado rainforest and this was the only thing I thought worth mentioning.
Corcovado National Park is isolated in the southwest corner of Costa Rica and is one of the most biodiverse places in the world. I had read a lot about the park and finally decided it was time to see it for myself.
To get there, you boat through canals on what could pass for the set of Jurassic Park, then hit the open ocean to make a beach landing on one of the few primary rainforests left in the world.
For most any visitor, this would be the trip of a lifetime and I was hoping for a great experience. But honestly, I’d be pressed to remember much of this visit because I’d done and seen most of it before.
Our visit started out traversing the ocean, which could be an experience in itself. Though I had never been in that much open water in such a small watercraft, I wanted to avoid seasickness, so I daydreamed, studying the coastline for jagged rock formations, to take my mind off the rolling waves. I’d seen many similar coastlines up and down the pacific side of Costa Rica before and this was nothing special.
There was no dock at the beach, so we had to jump in the water barefoot to get to shore. It was an exotic beach with the rainforest right at the edge, but it was familiar to me as it reminded me of the beaches in Manuel Antonio and Samara.
Even when we saw a coati looking for food as we approached the ranger station, I didn’t bother taking my camera out. I’d seen these in La Fortuna many times before.
We started hiking and encountered a beautiful group of red scarlet macaws, each with a mate and a few with children. They were having a lively conversation while eating their lunch in the trees and gave us many photo opportunities.
Of course, these things fly all around Jaco and the Carara National Park, all places I’ve been. This would be the equivalent of taking a picture of a squirrel.
That’s when it hit me. In a way, I’d seen it all. That’s why this trip been so ho-hum despite all the adventure it had taken to get to this point.
I recalled going to other national parks and being intrigued by everything, but Corcovado just couldn’t turn the switch for me. We’d go on to see a spider monkey, sloth, herron and some capuchin monkeys, but it was so “been there, done that” for me.
I was actually disappointed we didn’t see all four types of monkeys that are in the park. It felt no different from Tortuguero, a national park in northeast Costa Rica I visited two years ago.
The most drama on the trip was me forgetting things and Mother Nature making me pay, like getting sunburned and drenched (only in Costa Rica can you get that combo that quickly) on a 1.5hr hike without a change of clothes.
I’ve been dumb before, and I’ll be dumb again so thank goodness I saw the tapir to have more than just a funny story to laugh about in the future. But even at that, the reality is watching the tapir was as about as exciting as watching a cow graze.
All this is not to say Corcovado isn’t a great place to visit. I just have higher expectations for my forests now that I’ve been living in Costa Rica since 2013. I can’t believe the non-effect it had on me. A first-time rainforest visitor would fill an entire scrapbook.
I’ve really been spoiled by rainforests though, and they really have to work hard to amaze me. I still have a few parks on my list left to visit, and I hope one of them will spark some excitement.
I now know what guides and rangers must feel like. Our guide spent over an hour tracking the tapir and was noticeably excited when he spotted it. At least now, he’ll have something to want to talk about at dinner.