Carara Biological Reserve
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Size: 4,700 hectares
Distance from San José: 110 kilometers
Dry season: November through April
This reserve is a must for anyone interested in tropical biology. Its high species diversity and ease of access make it a worthwhile day trip from San José, or on the way to parks farther south. Carara’s diversity is a result of its situation in an "ecotone" or melding area between the dry forests to the north of it and the wet forests to the south. Added to this are the wide variety of soils in the reserve and, despite its relatively small size, the range of precipitation between different altitudes.
Here you will find several ecosystems: marshland, a lagoon, and gallery, primary and secondary forests. The marshes are formed by the seasonal floods of the Grande de Tárcoles River in the northeastern region of the reserve. The marshes are especially rich in waterfowl and wading birds and in amphibians and reptiles native to this environment.
The word Carara is an indigenous term, reputedly meaning "river of crocodiles." The area in which the reserve is located was occupied by an indigenous culture that is thought to have been allied with groups located in the Central Valley from 300 B.C. to A.D. 1500. Extensive tomb sites have been excavated here, and the burial places of people of high status are remarkably complex. They contain all that the occupants would need for a long journey, including wives, slaves, armaments, and large vessels of food.
The lagoon covers a large, abandoned meander of the Grande de Tárcoles River. It measures 600 m. long, 40 m. wide and 2 m. deep and is U-shaped. It is almost entirely covered with water hyacinth and other floating water plants. Clear water can only be seen in a few spots. The lagoon is also home to numerous species of amphibians and reptiles, such as the crocodile, which grows 3 meters long. There are also numerous crocodiles which can be easily seen in the Grande de Tárcoles River.
Primary forests cover the largest portion of the reserve. They grow on slopes with a 20%-60% incline and they have a wide espave, silk cotton, wild fig, cotonron, quamwood, etc.
An Indian cemetery that is almost 6 hectares is located in the park.
Animals found here: gray four-eyed opossum, agouti, two-toed sloth, kinkajou, margay cat, white-tailed deer, tayra, and collared peccary.
Birds found here: scarlet macaw (endangered species), collared aracari, great tinamou, American egret, tricolored heron, turkey vulture, laughing falcon, gray-breasted martin, violaceous trogon, and cayenne wood-rail, roseate spoonbill, American anhinga, northern jacana, pied-billed grebe, and Mexican tiger-bettern.