I have one last stop before I make my way back to San Jose and onward to the UK. We depart the earthy Lapa Rios Ecolodge with a quick detour to view their resident beach, and leave the Osa Peninsula. Pan-American Highway Section 2 done. Let's prepare for the last leg.
We drive around the tropical fjord to Piedras Blancas National Park and up to Esquinas Lodge. Once just a forest reserve, this area has now officially become a national park. Even more exciting, a variety of conservation projects aim to turn it into a dense biological corridor between Fila Cruces and Panama. On the map we are in southwest Costa Rica - almost on the Panama border. Here, the forest is quite unique. Highly dense and highly diverse. Home to 700 different species of trees, 360 birds and the largest population of scarlet macaws in the country, 117 different types of reptile and amphibian, jaguars, pumas and tapirs.
The 56km² of Piedras Blancas was the last unprotected tropical forest in CR until 1971, and it was Esquinas Lodge that were fundamental in the protection of the reserve by donating 40km² of land to help it become a national park. As such, Esquinas Lodge continuously help to protect the region. The property itself is a basic but comfortable lodge. WiFi in the lobby, hot water and comfortable beds. An honesty bar (a fridge filled with beer and soft drinks) sits under rows of resting bats. The food is a set menu each day, usually a three course meal including a soup, a hearty main and a yummy dessert (I say this having put on a few pounds in the last 24 hours). As an NGO, the profits generated from the accommodation and tours are reinvested directly back into the Rainforests of the Austrians fund, which continuously helps to develop local rehabilitation, reforestation and renovation projects in the region. For example, between 2009-2016 over $1 million was donated through this NGO, which was used to create a completely new rainforest in an area that was once clear cattle pastures.
Esquinas Lodge have their own trails which are relatively well managed but still very natural. In comparison to other national parks (Monteverde Cloud Forest for example), this is not kept at all, and Piedras Blancas NP doesn't have the manpower or funding to maintain the main national park at all really. With this, Esquinas Lodge's trails offers a safe and sustainable way of experiencing the incredible biological diversity that is Piedras Blancas National Park.
I head home with a warm heart, a full belly and huge excitement for working with such an incredible wildlife destination.