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Puntarenas & San José

It lies on the road from Orotina - Jacó - Quepos 66 kms from San José and 22 kms from Orotina.

Carara is a region of mountain ranges, marshes, meanders, forests, swamps, rivers and ravines, of crocodiles and macaws, of archeological sites, and very hot and humid climate. This small reserve of 4,700 hectares is located 4 kms. southwest of Orotina, as the crow flies, in the lower river basin of the River Grande de Tárcoles, which waters the Central Occidental or Western Valley. It ranges from the rolling alluvial lowlands to the steep slopes of volcanic and sedimentary hills that rise 634 meters above sea level.

The terrain is carpeted with grasslands and forests of predominantly evergreen species, which stands out sharply in a region that has been heavily deforested and developped. The forests on the slopes are composed of species such as the espave, wild fig, silk cotton, quamwood and purple heart. The forest mass on the lowlands has little diversity although palm trees are abundant. Their frequently seen stilt roots are signs of occasional floods. The gallery forests that grow along the riverbank are thick and tall, whith few species, mainly the espave, but their appearance likens them more to a rainforest type of growth. The marshes are covered with water hyacinths, a plant that typically grows in shallow waters rich in nutrients or in polluted lakes. The predominant species in the altered areas are deciduous, mainly quamwood and thorny viscoyol palms.

These tropical dry forests of Carara are higly susceptible to forest fires, an accurrence that takes place almost every year during the season of strong winds from January to April. Despite the fact that the reserve is remote and frequently visited by poachers, it houses a very diverse wildlife. Over 100 pairs of scarlet macaws, perhaps the most beautiful birds on the Pacific side of Costa Rica, live and nest in the forests. Towards dusk they can be seen returning to their roosts in the mangrove swamps at the mouth of the river grande of River Tárcoles. The reserve also provides shelter for howler and white faced capuchin monkes, white tailed deer, red brocket deer, collard peccaries, pacas, rattlesnakes and fer-de-lance snakes. Some of the birds of the region are the black guan, great egret, turkey vulture and laughing falcon. The swamps, an area where the river overflows, are where cayenne wood-rails, racoons, lizards and several species of snakes and frogs find food and shelter.

Anhingas, blue-winged teals, roseate spoonbills, Mexican tiger-bitterns and a large colony of boat-billed herons (a curious bird with a beak in the shape of a boat) can be seen in the lagoon formed by a meander in the acient river basin. Crocodiles, which can grow 3 meters long and are an endangered species, lie on the shore here and also on the little beaches along the River Grande de Tárcoles.

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The Carara Biological Reserve
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