The Peninsula de Osa remains one of the most remote, biodiverse places on Earth. This Guide will help you be a good guest as you travel through this amazing habitat.
Know Before You Go
You're going to be sleeping in the middle of a giant ecosystem! One of the best ways to make the most of your visit is to do a little learning (and planning) beforehand.
Get to know the Osa! Understanding a bit about the entire peninsula and its ecosystems can help you get the big picture of how the animals, plants and geography all fit together. A good place to start is Osa Conservation, a nonprofit working to protect the Osa's rich biodiversity. Follow National Geographic's new expedition - they began in March 2019, and are reporting back on the status of the marine ecosystems. And of course, there are lots of resources on the land and culture of Costa Rica, as well as the Golfo Dulce and Osa Peninsula. [Check out our Guide]
Know what to look for. You might not see the animals you expect - for example, jungle cats (especially the big ones, like jaguar and puma) are nocturnal and have an acute sense of smell, so they know we're coming before we even get close. Expect to not see them directly, but get familiar with the clues they leave behind, like tracks, scat or tufts of fur - you will know you got close! Our guide to the wildlife near Ojo del Mar can get you started spotting from the minute you arrive.)
Pack right. For hiking, bring some drab-colored clothes, shoes that are already broken in (and cover your whole foot!), and bug spray. For water expeditions, you'll want water shoes, quick-dry tops and bottoms, and plenty of sunscreen. Make sure you bring something to take your trash out with you. (Our longer guide on what to bring will help with the details!)
Be Wise in the Wild
Hiking and boating through the rainforest means you are entering the homes of a lot of different kinds of living organisms.
You might be worried that you'll frighten (or maybe accidently hurt) some of them - but it's easy to practice responsible Wildlife Watching!
Act casual (and be quiet.) It's exciting - sometimes too exciting! - to be in the jungle, but try to move slowly, quietly and casually, and not directly toward wildlife. Let animals to keep you in view, but don't approach them. The louder you are, the more likely animals will scatter or hide before you even get near enough to see them.
Pay attention. If the animals you're observing seem stressed or nervous when you move, or hold their heads up with ears pointed toward you or pinned tightly back, you are probably too close! Stand very still without making eye contact, and then move away slowly.
Don’t feed the animals. Feeding animals changes their diet in sometimes-unhealthy ways. It also can lead them to expect food from their human visitors, so they hang around for treats when they should be out foraging, socializing and getting exercise.) Even familiar tropical foods that we might eat at home, like bananas, are best kept for us.
Keep your hands to yourself. Unless you are in a place where it's ok to interact with animals, don’t touch the animals you might find. Some are poisonous, but most are just very shy and nervous - and some are protected because they are very rare or fragile. You can safely touch most uninhabited shells, as well as rocks, but do not pick plants or eat anything. picking plants, gathering seashells or taking other items is not okay - and it may get you into trouble. Most of the life in the rainforest is protected by the government, and of course, Mother Nature.
Be present. Think about it: you might not have ever been in the middle of so many amazing sights, sounds and smells. Try to take a moment to stop, breathe and reflect on the magnificent environment you're immersed in. Even younger kids can enjoy focusing on one sense at a time (sight, hearing, smell, and touch are the easiest to start with.)
A Quick Note on Selfies: There is a good deal of controversy around selfies with wild animals. In short, it is OK to take a selfie with a wild animal only if:
- You are at a safe distance from the animal
- The animal is in its natural habitat, or a rescue facility and is unstressed
- The animal is free to move (not being restrained)
Pay attention to the animal's behavior, and be sure to be on the lookout for nests or signs of young. Back off if you see little ones, or if an animal seems stressed. Be especially kind to the highly-endangered sea turtles you might spot on beaches; they cannot get away from you, and they are there to nest - critical, time-sensitive work. Your sea-turtle selfie could have serious consequences - it's best to skip the closeup.
Be Safe Out There!
The Osa is a wild and beautiful place. It’s essential to use common sense and follow basic safety rules, whether in the water or in the jungle. It keeps you and the Rainforest safe!
Number one rule of hiking: Look down while walking so you don’t trip, or make noise breaking twigs and rustling leaves.
When crossing streams be cautious of ‘rock hopping’ trying not get your feet wet. The rocks are slippery and you might fall.
Never put your hands or feet anywhere you can’t see.
Stay on trails, and listen to your guide. Remind children (and some adults!) that some animals have toxins in their skin or are poisonous, or are endangered.
Keep applying sunscreen, even if you think you don't need it. Even people with darker skin can get sunburn quickly this close to the Equator.
Shake out your shoes before putting them on. Some small creatures might think your footwear is a ready-made habitat.
The surf is often rough on the Pacific side of the Peninsula. Follow the age-old wisdom for swimming and other water activities: be vigilant, swim with a partner, and tell someone where you’re going. We are located in the Golfo Dulce with no rip tides or currents, but do get big waves.
If you have a wildlife encounter or miscalculated adventure that leaves you hurt or worried, let us know. Even if it’s nothing, we’d all rather be safe than sorry. For more serious events, please let us know right away - should you need medical assistance, it can take some time. There are local doctors in Puerto Jimenez and a small clinic in Puerto Jimenez (45 minutes by car).
Leave No Trace
You might already know about the seven principles of Leave No Trace - a set of guidelines for conserving our natural spaces and leaving minimal impact on the environment.
It includes a reminder to “leave what you find” - but it's understandable that sometimes we want to take a special reminder with us! However, we all should leave rocks, plants, animals, archaeological artifacts, and other objects alone - to preserve the environmental and cultural history, as well as to allow others a sense of discovery.
Our Guide for Photographers gives more information on Ethical Wildlife practices, and is good for advanced birders and other spotters as well.
Students from Dartmouth College created a great guide to the animals of Corcovado that gives a beginner-friendly overview of the park's mammals, reptiles, marine animals and insects.
More ideas on how to GREEN YOUR TRIP from the Corcovado Foundation
The IUCN creates the annual "red list" of endangered animal and plant life around the world. This is a "saved search" of Red List Animals logged with 25 KM of Ojo del Mar shows the animals nearby - limited to Critically Endangered, Endangered and Vulnerable; there are another 46 Near-threatened species in our immediate radius. Using the search filters, you can further expand or limit the search by conservation status, and change species, range and more.