La Amistad National Park
Costa Rica’s largest park is the Amistad National Park on the Talamanca mountain range. With a surface area of 193,929 hectares, it extends as far as Panama. It is home to around 20% of Central America’s biodiversity!
The park forms a biological corridor between the Americas and influences local climates. However, the dream corridor is no longer possible since the creation of the Panama Canal, which has cut the Americas in two.
In 1982, UNESCO declared the park a ¨Biosphere Reserve¨ and in 1983 a World Heritage Site on account of its outstanding universal value in terms of science, conservation and natural beauty. Four particular habitats are found only here in Central America: subalpine paramo forests, pure oak forests, high-altitude glacial lakes and peat bogs.
The other main habitats are tropical rainforest, rainforest and cloud forest, not to mention the peaks of rocky regions and cold marshes limited to small areas at high altitude. The park’s geographical location acts as a filter between North and South America.
La Amistad’s biodiversity
The vegetation consists mainly of oak trees covered with epiphytes, forests of Lomaria ferns and sphagnum mosses, and 130 species of orchid. There are also some 380 species of amphibians and reptiles, including lizards, salamanders and anurans. Mammals include tapir, puma, jaguar, capuchin monkey, ocelot, tayra and jaguarondi.
Over 400 species of birds have been observed here, including the famous quetzals and harpy eagles… However, exploration of this park is still in its infancy, and new species are discovered every year. In the last 3 years, scientists have found no less than :
12 new plant species,
1 species of dung beetle,
La Amistad Park is also essential for channelling the water that supplies the Caribbean region of Costa Rica. The torrential rains that fall on the rocky peaks are filtered and retained by the vegetation. If this area were to be deforested, thousands of people would suffer landslides and other disasters. The natural basins also serve as reservoirs, supplying drinking water to the surrounding populations. Its highest point is Cerro Kamuk.
The park does not appear to have retained any traces of human activity. However, archaeological research will be necessary to be certain that no people have lived here in the past.
Visiting La Amistad
4 sectors are open to the public:
Tres Colinas sector: very difficult and rough access. About 6 days in the rain and cold. Camping in refuges. 2 hours from Buenos Aires. 4×4 required.
Pittier sector: easiest access. Excursion time: approx. 4 hours. 45 km from San Vito. 4×4 obligatory.
Biolley sector: difficult access. Excursion time: approx. 8 hours. 1 night in a rustic lodge. 3 hours from San Isidro. 4×4 mandatory.
Santa Maria sector: medium access. Good physical condition. 5-hour excursion. Accommodation in community lodge. 3 hours from San Isidro. 4×4 mandatory.