Jaguar Count

Trip Start Oct 10, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Costa Rica  ,
Sunday, March 11, 2007

Spotting a jaguar would be it for me. Itīs all I need and all I could ever hope to achieve on this trip, or in life. I have even been caught making statements alluding to my return home immediately on seeing a jaguar, since the trip could only deteriorate from there. So it wasnīt a surprise that I decided to spend three days camping in the heart of Costa Rican jaguar country, Parque Nacional Corcovado on the Peninsula de Osa.

After three days of hot, humid bug ridden hiking, the jaguar count has reached a grand total of... zero, but it is poised to shoot right up. Only after my time in Jaguar Central did I meet a local guide who told me he has been working at the park for 23 years and has yet to see the elusive creature. Apparently they can be a little tough to spot. I did have one moment when I was sure I had almost seen one. How do you almost see a jaguar? Well as I came around a corner in the trail I heard a sudden crashing through the bushes, very close to where I stood. I strained my eyes but as hard as I tried I could not envision a jaguar, so I resorted to inventing sounds with my ears. What I was convinced myself was the growling of two jaguar cubs off in the distance I later discovered was one of the many varied noises of the scarlett mccaw. And what I was sure was a jaguar footprint in the sand by the pristine stream turned out to be the entirely dissimilar print of the tapir, a dwarfed elephant-like creature that would also account for the crashing through the bush. So the mind was playing tricks with me, but still the excitement was invigorating.

For three days I was unable to walk more than three feet before halting, wide-eyed and staring off into the bush at every perceivable rustle. Although rather void of jaguars, Corcovado is an absolute zoo so my ambition to see the spotted king of the jungle was at least rewarded with other great wildlife spottings. Highlights included a staring contest with a toucan, a lengthy view of the tranquil tapir, mccaws galore, a baby parrot far from its nest and soon to be jaguar prey, and irate spider monkeys first attempting to spear me with branches of nearby trees and then, frustrated with my avoidance agility, attempting a more sprawling attack, urination - which I was also lucky to avoid.

This park was one of the highlights of the trip. Incredible wildlife, perfect rivers and visions of jaguars dancing in my head.
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