Yes, a guide is mandatory. We guarantee that this person who welcomes you, looks after you and do everything for you to have a wonderful time will be a great addition to your Corcovado trip. Guides definitively bring a plus value to the tours. They are there to ensure you get the most out of your time while having the most authentic experience possible. Not only do they know the area intimately, but as they spend so much time in Corcovado, they know where animals tend to be depending on the season.
Another major role of the guides is to keep you out of Mother Nature’s dangers so that you have a worry-free travel journey. Hiking in one of the most biodiverse national parks in the World is a truly unique experience, and we want you to enjoy it safely. No wonder why to be able to guide in Corcovado there are so many requirements and rules for the visitors.
Only university degree holders can get a license as a general tourist guide. Once ICT (Costa Rica Tourism Institute) certifies a guide who has completed a career in tourism, there are several
additional requirements before being able to conduct tours in Corcovado National Park. A lot of paperwork needs to be presented and approved by the park administration. Previous knowledge of all the trails and completing a certain number of hours inside the park is mandatory. Most guides also attend additional classes and seminars in order to obtain additional specializations and be up to date. In addition, every 3 months guides need to provide updated information and renew some classes every year to keep their license active and continue to guide legally in Corcovado. Licensed guides are recognized by the badge they wear when on duty and the park rangers make sure they are on the effective list. You can imagine how prepared guides are to take tourists to the wild.
Being a tourist guide in Costa Rica is considered a prosperous career and it has its reasons to be. It is not only about being certified but mostly about passion and dedication. Guides are passionate about nature, spend a lot of time in it, and love sharing with guests their newfound discoveries and stories. Their most thoughtful teacher will always be Mother Nature.
Importance of having a guide in Corcovado
A guide is much more than a person who leads you through the trails and ensures you’ll find your way out. Your guide will tailor the tour to your needs and tastes, answering all questions and making sure his interactions match your interests. From offering tips on how to get prepared, which trails to take, where to go, what to enjoy and avoid, and how to get the perfect photography shots with their spotting scope, your guide looks after you from arrival to departure.
Before the tour, the person with whom you book normally gives you all the necessary information to enjoy your Corcovado tour. For overnight tours, it is more frequent for tourists to have additional questions as the tour comes up. You will be provided with your guide’s contact information so you can sort out all your last-minute questions in a phone call, by text message, or even by meeting your guide the day before the tour if necessary.
Guides take advantage of this previous first contact to make some recommendations and give accurate information about the experience you will have.
Some of the topics they want to exchange are:
- Current weather and trail conditions
- The importance of traveling light and leaving the belongings you won’t need at your hotel.
- Clothes and footwear
- Where to leave your rental car during the tour
- Allergies: if you are allergic to bees, plants, fruit, nuts, and even a certain medication, your guide should know.
- Health issues
Nature and Wildlife dangers
Guides have that special ability to point out animals you would never notify, including spotting pretty much anything harmful. From a venomous snake ahead on the trail, a flamboyant poisonous plant you would touch, a spiky tree you are about to use as a grip, or a colony of ants crossing the path, they make sure every footstep you make is safe.
Let’s elaborate on the most feared animals and the about nature.
Some rivers in Corcovado are home to bull sharks and crocodiles. Crossing rivers might be quite an adventure. It is why your experienced and prepared guide always ensures that the conditions are fine for you to cross, they give you the right instructions. When there are no crocodiles or bull sharks in sight, you’ll take your shoes off, put your backpack over your head and follow your guide to the other side of the river. For the records, chances of seeing crocodiles are quite high, but nobody has ever been attacked by a crocodile in a Corcovado guided tour.
Another challenge of crossing rivers can be flash floods during the rainy season. It is real and it happens a few times a year on specific rivers. Mostly in October, the rainiest month of the year, and the park is closed during that month. However, flash floods are predictable. Guides know when the river current is stronger than usual and if safe to cross or not.
One of the main preoccupations of tourists is venomous snakes. Yes, there are several species of snakes in Corcovado, some extremely venomous and some harmless. In a 3-day tour you are going to see any… maybe 1 or 2 species. Guides walk first on the trail to spot them ahead such as all the other wildlife. Like most of animals, they don’t attack if they are not bothered and don’t feel in danger. Guides do not carry antidotes in their first aid kit as they are not allowed to use them with tourists. You can bring your own if it makes you feel safer. A few snake bites have been reported in Corcovado since the park opened in 1975, but mostly from illegal gold miners and illegal hunters
traveling off trails and at night.
The most common bites in Corcovado come from ants, mosquitoes and ticks. Your guide will aware you of where and why you will be more likely to get stung so you can use extra protection (insect repellent, essential oil, Vaseline, long-sleeved clothes, etc.). Allergic reactions to some bugs happen once in a while. The area where you get bitten comes red and sometimes you can feel it warm, it usually lasts for a few days only.
To see a wild cat in Corcovado is real luck! It is probably the dream of every tour guide. The least common cat is the jaguar, only a few guides in Corcovado have been able to see one in a lifetime. Cats normally get scared and run away as soon as they hear people. Pumas are more common in some periods of the year, and it is a huge excitement for everybody when getting spots.
Peccaries and wild pigs are known to be aggressive. Especially the wild pigs. However, there is no report of accidents with these animals in Corcovado. Guides often know they are close just by smelling them. Then they will give you some instructions by precaution if you face a herd.
Every component of nature has its own way of protection. Some trees have harmful fungi, others have spikes and certain toxic plants can burn your skin or itch after touching it. Your guide will be careful to tell you which tree or plant not to grab or touch along the trail, even trees where you shouldn’t sit while taking a break.
Adventures and preventions
The adventure level of visitors varies a lot. Adventurous folks will be challenged crossing bull shark and crocodile rivers, climbing between rocks on the beach, and running between waves crashing the rocky shore. Your guide will give explanations before each section that requires specific safety attention.
Guides also know which trails to skip for the best use of your time. So, you won’t walk to a closed or dead-end trail, nor he will bring you to a muddy one that can be avoided or an area that can be visited before the crowds arrive for a better appreciation of nature.
The sea tide is one of the everyday struggles for guides to deal with. Knowing what the sea tide will be is crucial to take the trail between Sirena and La Leona for example. If the tide is high in the morning, some sections of the beach cannot be walked at a certain time and the river might get pretty high. Guides need to calculate the hours you will reach different sections to avoid waiting times, make sure you stay out of danger, and fully enjoy the adventure. They even know how many waves need to hit the rocks before telling you to rapidly cross some challenging sectors of the beach. They give the best recommendations to avoid certain midday sun sections considering that you may start your tour earlier or finish later. They have tricks and tactics that will help you get the most out of your journey without hassles.
Sighting & Explanations
If you were to take the tour by yourselves, you would probably never find any of the lesser-known sights. Corcovado is home to truly unique hidden gems. One of the most important park guidelines is to stay on the main trails to avoid getting lost and reduce the chances of being harmed.
However, the park rangers may allow the guides to use some specific secret paths to have guests discover some massive trees, incredible caves, and exclusive spots for wildlife watching.
Guides are good communicators and can share interesting information about most animals you are looking at. They have extensive knowledge of the environment they live in, their behaviors, and their habits. They can answer questions about anything that sparks your curiosity about animals, history and culture. Most of the guides are born in the Osa Peninsula and have lived all their life surrounded by Corcovado and its nature. They are an open book with so many stories to tell.
Motivation & Precautions
Does taking a long hike improves the chances of seeing wildlife? No, this is wrong all over Corcovado. Most wildlife concentrates in specific areas where there is food and the right habitat
according to their species. Do not book a long hike without considering its difficulty. While you may walk 20 km in your Country with ease, doing it with a backpack on your shoulder, under the sun and in one of the most humid climates in the entire World is quite a challenge. If you embark on the adventure, your guide will be supportive and motivating along the way. He will give you some tips, make sure you stay hydrated, have sun protection and have fun even in the hardest sections of the hike. Doing this type of adventure shouldn’t be in the first few days of your trip, we recommend that you adapt to the climate first to avoid heat exhaustion.
You will be provided with a schedule according to your Corcovado itinerary. However, this schedule will vary. Before each tour, guides need to take into consideration several factors for the tour to be a success. Whether you enter or exit Corcovado by foot or by boat, guides need to deal with the sea tide, the height of the rivers, and the weather.
In Sirena, guides adapt to the groups’ interests and physical conditions. While some tourists may prefer to sleep longer in the morning, others rather be on the trails as soon as the sun rises to spend as much time as possible looking for animals while others prefer to have several 2-3 hours hikes and relax at the station between each one.
Guides can adjust and deliver a friend-family tour to wildlife lovers, a fact-filled experience to biologists, or a challenging adventure to a group of adrenaline junkies.
A tour guide boosts the travel experience and satisfaction level while exploring Corcovado. As the principal interface between tourists, guides are key in making sure the tours are run sustainably creating a positive impact on our so precious Osa Peninsula.