Gandoca - Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge

From Costa Rica Travel Guide: Vacation and Travel tips

Jump to: navigation, search


Gandoca - Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge


The Gandoca - Manzanillo National Wildlife Refuge is one of a growing number of protected areas that includes marine environments.
The Gandoca - Manzanillo National Wildlife Refuge is one of a growing number of protected areas that includes marine environments.

Gandoca – Manzanillo National Wildlife Refuge is a fairly new addition to the Costa Rican system of parks and refuges and one of a growing number of protected areas that includes marine environments. The refuge consists of 5,013 ha. in its terrestrial area and 4,436 ha. of marine habitat. The inclusion of this area in the National Park system is in large part due to the efforts of a group known as ANAI (Asociación de los Nuevos Alquimistas) that has its roots in the New Alchemy Institute in North Carolina. A group of people belonging to this organization have been working in the region for several decades in projects concerning tropical agriculture systems and appropriate technology and saw the need to protect the remaining bits of land still in their natural state. The five-kilometer stretch off the coast from the village of Manzanillo to the area known as Punta Mona (Monkey Point) is populated by more live coral than is found on the reef at Cahuita to the north, however, the Manzanillo corals have not yet developed formations as large as those at Cahuita.

Video: Gandoca - Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge

The refuge extends to the Sixaola River, which borders Panama. Other important habitats are protected in the southeastern sector of the refuge, including a sea turtle nesting beach, an estuary with a large population of red mangrove that serves as a spawning site for Atlantic Tarpon, oysters, and many other marine organisms, and a 400 ha. area of swamp forest in which the most common plant is the Raphia Palm -- a short-trunked palm tree which has the largest leaves in the world. The leaves of a Raphia Palm can reach lengths of 12 m. or more.

Getting there: From Puerto Limón, take the road south towards Cahuita and Bribri, but after Cahuita take the turn off in Hone Creek for Puerto Viejo and follow the dirt road all the way to where it ends in Manzanillo. From Manzanillo you can hike to Punta Mona (min. 5 hrs., round-trip). There are one or two public buses a day that run from Manzanillo to Limón.

The southeastern part of the refuge is reached by driving to Bribri and continuing on to the town of Sixaola where a boat must be hired to go downriver to the mouth (at least 3 hrs., round-trip). An alternative, if you have a 4X4 vehicle or hire a jeep taxi, is to drive through the banana plantations west of Sixaola to get to the settlement of Gandoca. In Gandoca, inquire about hiring a dugout for exploring the Gandoca River estuary. There is direct bus service from San José all the way to Sixaola.

Due to its remoteness, it’s probably safe to say that the Gandoca-Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge is one of the least visited reserves in the National Park system.

Google