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Tuesday, December 6, 2016
DEEP INTO THE WILD GANDOCA
Gandoca: Remote Caribbean refuge is a window into the wild.
TRAVEL TO COSTA
RICA’S REMOTE CARIBBEAN COAST
Source: This solid
travel story was written by a staff writer with the English language
newspaper/website: The Tico Times.It
was posted on October 31, 2016. http://www.ticotimes.net/
GUEST BLOG / By Erin
Skoczylas, The Tico Times--We were driving up a hill, in a jungle in the
southernmost part of Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast. My hands reached from within
the car to the leaves on towering trees. Not satisfied, I poked my head out to
get a better view of where we were heading. Surrounded by high walls of
impenetrable forest, there was barely enough room for the ribbon of road we
drove on. Sunshine fell onto my face and danced on my arms through the openings
in the canopy.
my eyes caught a movement, and with a shiver I pulled my hand back into the
car. Matching almost the size of my hand, there were webs on the trees next to
my face, filled with banana spiders.
showed Diego, the son of the family I was traveling with. He smiled and
shrugged. “It’s the jungle.” He said. “don’t put your hand out.”
banana spiders were golden silk orb weavers, whose venom is harmful but not
lethal to humans, unlike that of its deadly cousin the Brazilian wandering spider.
had left the shops and reggae beats of Puerto Viejo far behind for this venture
into the wilderness. Now we were surrounded by ficus trees draped in vines,
orchids and moss, and the road was getting rough. I realized we would have to
slow down to avoid damaging the car. The farther we went, the more banana
spider webs we saw. My hands remained in the vehicle this time.
you sure this is the only way there?” I asked, more curious than worried. I was
drawn to anything that was hard to reach, and the destination became more
anticipated as the road turned deeper into the woods. The green on the trees
glowed and was drenched in wet heavy drops. Messy plants and roots crept back
out onto the road behind us, ready to take back their land.
the trees cleared, hills turned to curves on a paved road. We moved past banana
plantations southwards. Our destination: the Gandoca-Manzanillo National
accommodation was on the refuge in a little shared house cabin called Albergue
Kániki. The seaside cabin is run by the family of Roberto Serrano Ramirez and
Rita Calderón Quiros. They gave us one of the spare rooms with two bunk beds
covered with mosquito nets. After placing our stuff on the bunks, we headed
outside to explore the water.
Gandoca-Manzanillo refuge opened in 1985 and covers much of the southern
Caribbean coast. It is located in the canton of Talamanca in the province in
Limón on the very southeastern tip of the country, just across from Panama.
It’s a refuge that protects a lush and biodiverse ecosystem, home to sloths,
turtles, tapirs, snakes, frogs and around 360 species of birds, including
toucans, owls, eagles and hummingbirds.
Black sand meets mist and jungle in the wilderness of Gandoca. Erin Skoczylas/The Tico Times
stepped out onto the vast open beach, with its distinctive dark sand, and saw
rows of waves taking turns at washing the shore.
first impression of the water was that it was a dark, sedimented color that
swirled in the waves. It wasn’t the famous blue I soon learned came from
neighboring beaches like Punta Uva, Manzanillo and Cahuita.
are all the people?” I thought to myself.
was a wilderness beach. My feet sank deep into the sand, making it difficult to
walk. The tide rose high to wash away any footprints I left. The humidity mixed
with salt made the air hazy, misty and warm.
A wilderness walk on the beach, on the way to the lagoon. Erin Skoczylas/The Tico Times
belongs to nature, not people. The beaches are nesting grounds to a few species
of turtles including hawksbill, green and leatherback turtles.
manatees are spotted in the lagoon. and this refuge is known for its red
mangroves. Just a bit past the lagoon was the Sixaola River, the border of
Panama. We crossed our way to the lagoon, accompanied by the son of our hosts.
our young guide ran eagerly, whistling to horses that walked freely along the
beach. He told me he wanted to study birds in Brazil one day.
passed a few manta rays washed up on the beach. I continued to be most
surprised by the color of the water, and the sediments that stirred within it.
When I dove into the water, little water bug creatures I had never seen clung
to my skin and pinched, letting go when I rose above the water.
are the waves full of sediment?” I asked.
guide explained there are two sedimentary environments here. Some think the
sediments are old remains of coral, while others say the sediment is part of
the runoff in nearby creeks and lagoons.
A view of the small gap between Punta Mona and a neighboring island. Erin Skoczylas/The Tico Times
next day, after a breakfast of yucca bread and coffee, we set out for the hike
to Punta Mona. In the distance I saw the curved beach leading out to a point,
covered in palm trees, and facing it was an island. “The point of the beach is
Punta Mona,” Diego said.
walked along the black sand at low tide. The beach was larger than last night.
Trees pushed their way out onto the beach. I climbed over the trunks, and the
crabs crawled away when I approached. The logs were stained and slippery from
the tide. I was greeted again by banana spiders in the branches above. I felt
the urge to swim out to the island, but the waves were too strong. Finally I
came to a cliff and knew I couldn’t continue without hitting rocks.
hours of hiking north, we made our way back toward camp. As the light got
dimmer and the sun disappeared behind the trees, a full moon rose over the
ocean. The sediment and the waves had a misty, hazy, salted smell. The two
horses we’d seen heading south toward the Sixaola River were on their way back.
They slowed down, and then sped up to a canter to pass.
reminds us that beaches are natural habitats and not always ones that make us
comfortable. But when you get away from commercialized areas and into a remote
spot like this, you’ll find a wild beauty that is extraordinary.
A surfer catches a wave in Puerto Viejo. Erin Skoczylas/The Tico Times
If You Go:
From Puerto Viejo,
drive south along the coastal road until it ends in Manzanillo. Several trails
lead into the refuge from there. The refuge is mainly for conservation and
accommodations are few, though neighboring cities of Puerto Viejo and Cahuita
offer many hospitality options.
Tico Times readers of this travel feature:
sediment in the ocean, in that area, is caused by run off from the banana
plantations and deforested cattle farms along the coast. Years of that run off
have caused devastating effects on the coral reefs in the Gandoca region and
elsewhere, including the Cahuita Marine Reserve.
The rivers that flow into the ocean
also carry sediment from the same banana plantations as well. The tide carries
the sediment all along the coast there. The sediment covers much of the coral
reefs and suffocates it, causing them to die.
Most guides and biologists don’t refer
to the Golden Orb Spider as a banana spider. That term may be used more
specifically in that area. Golden orb spiders live in many parts of the country
and have no relationship with bananas.
They are basically harmless and even
though they can get quite large they usually prefer to catch smaller insects in
their webs to kill and eat.”--Henry
tiny fishing village,Manzanillo has several great places to stay Most notably
is Mango Tree Café and Hotel. Great food and reasonable overnight rates. Tell
Don PEDRO I sent you.” --Peter Tringali.
the MEPE bus runs from Puerto Viejo to Manzanillo almost every hour.” –Peter