GANDOCA-MANZANILLO NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE
The Gandoca Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge is situated in one of the most stunningly beautiful regions of Costa Rica. Located just a few kilometers north of the Panama border in Talamanca County, this wildlife refuge protects some the region’s most endangered flora and fauna. Lying on the Caribbean coast of Limon province and bordered by the Caribbean Sea to the east, this refuge is classified as a humid tropical rainforest and also looks after the only natural mangrove oyster beds found along the reefs of the coast.
Encompassing several rare habitats like a lowland rainforest, a wetland and a mangrove swamp, the Refugio Gandoca Manzanillo also safeguards the only orey and jolillo palm swamps in Costa Rica. This wildlife reserve is very important from an ecological point of view because it contains the only intact mangrove swamp in the Atlantic, and the primary lowland small rainforest found here is the only one of its kind in the region. A unique habitat, this reserve includes a 10 kilometer beach strip, a 740 acre forest, a coral reef and 2 swamps. The Refugio Gandoca Manzanillo is also the nesting area for several species of turtles, manatees, crocodiles, caimans, tarpons and dolphins. The turtle nesting season here lasts from March to May.
Remote and exotic, the Gandoca Manzanillo Refuge lies 73 km from Limon, past the Cahuita National Park and the towns of Puerto Viejo and Manzanillo. Not very easily accessible as the roads that lead to here are mostly dirt routes, the best way to get to the refuge is to drive from San Jose to Limon and then head south to the village of Cahuita. Drive past the town of Puerto Viejo for 12 kilometers and you will reach this wildlife reserve. Do keep in mind that the small villages of Punta Uva, Punta Mona, Home Creek and Manzanillo are also part of the Gandoca Manzanillo Refuge.
Among the plethora of wildlife found here are; crocodiles, pacas, West Indian manatees, caimans, tapirs, tarpons, dolphins, green sea turtles, leatherback sea turtles, frigate birds, woodpeckers, parakeets, eagles, pelicans, toucans and motmots. Inhabiting the lovely coral reef here are many brightly colored fish and marine life including the blue parrot fish, angel fish, sea anemones, urchins, Venus sea fans, shrimps, oysters, sea cucumbers, lobsters and sponges. While its rains here throughout the year, the best time to visit this refuge is between March and April and from September to October, which are considered drier months.
To reach the beach you will just have to walk a few steps over a trail that goes between the tall trees and exuberant vegetation of the rainforest to be met by a beach of golden fine sand and dark turquoise waters. The beach at Manzanillo Limon is almost pristine and unspoiled; perfect to find the peace and quiet needed to relinquish all your stress and worries. The sounds of the rainforest behind you, combined with the soft roar of the waves splashing over the shore, are just glorifying.
The beautiful always changing watercolor painting of the sky, the light green ocean with its constant calmness, the soft golden sand, the fresh breeze, and the sounds of the rainforest that meet the beach gather together to overpower your senses.
You can sit on the golden sand of the Manzanillo beach, watching the sea and have almost all your senses being stroked by nature, sight, smell, touch, hearing, and savor a cocktail elaborated to perfection by the hotel’s wonderful bartenders.
The natural elements that the beach of Manzanillo Limon offers at Almonds and Corals lodge compiles all that is necessary to replenish you and make you forget all about the city life, making it just the place where you want to be.
PUERTO VIEJO TOWN (OLD HARBORD)
Puerto Viejo de Talamanca is a coastal town in the Talamanca Canton in Limón Province. The town is located in southeastern Costa Rica. Puerto Viejo de Talamanca is known simply as Puerto Viejo to locals.. A town in northeastern Costa Rica is also commonly known as Puerto Viejo; this fact can confuse visitors. Buses leaving the same San José terminal for either Puerto Viejo will simply display the destination "Puerto Viejo".
Puerto Viejo de Talamanca is a popular destination for all types of tourists. It is known worldwide in the surfing community for the biggest and most powerful wave in Costa Rica, known as: "Salsa Brava". It is also home to beautiful beaches, such as Playa Chiquita and Punta Uva, which are a couple of Costa Rica's most spectacular beaches which can be found between Puerto Viejo and Manzanillo. Manzanillo is a popular location for kayaking and is 13 km (8 mi) south along the beach.
Many tourists stop in Puerto Viejo en route to the Panamanian border at Sixaola. This border crossing is popular with people going to/from Bocas del Toro. Puerto Viejo offers the closest accommodations, restaurants, and services to the border. The small border towns of Sixaola and Guabito, Panama are 49 km (30 mi) south of Puerto Viejo. The border towns have no accommodations or restaurants. Tourists need only stop at Costa Rican and Panamanian customs. Changuinola, Panama offers accommodations, restaurants, and services about 10 km (6 mi) away from the border.
The townspeople are made up of Ticos and Ticas (native Costa Ricans), a substantial Jamaican population, as well as a number of Europeans who have emigrated to the area.
The outskirts of town and the mountains are home to the Bribri Indians. The famous Howler monkey is native to the region.
Puerto Viejo has a tropical climate. Temperatures remain consistent during the year. Sunrise and sunset change very little during the year (about 6:00 AM and 6:00 PM, respectively). Limón International Airport is near by and has similar average temperatures and precipitation.
What Happen by Paula Palmer
“Old Smith” as he is remembered by the few people alive
today who know him, rowed and sailed north from his home to
Bocas del Toro, Panama (then part of Colombia), with fellow
fishermen, following the northward migration of green and hawksbill turtles. The fishermen left their families in Bocas each year during the turtle season. May through September, to trace the path of the turtles so their nesting destination at Turtle Bogue (Tortuguero, Costa Rica). The fishermen made temporary camps for themselves along the Talamanca Coast near the shallow reef areas where the turtles gathered to feed. They planted provisions (cassava, plantain, yam, coconut) that they would harvest each season when they returned to the camps.
In 1828, William Smith decided to make one of his fishing camps his permanent home. He brought is family to a calm bay protected by a broad coral reef on the north side of Cahuita Point. There he built a “ranch”, rustic, thatch-roofed dwelling, and planed the lime trees that mark his spot until today. Old Smith is the founder of the early settlement of Cahuitam and Selles Johnson, born in the house by the lime trees in 1894, calls him grandfather. The history of the settlement of the Talamanca Coast begins, then, in 1828. But there stories which have been handed down through the generations of Afro-Caribbean settlers, which tell of events, along the coast before their arrival. The legends of Indians and pirates.
PUERTO LIMON (LIMON PORT)
Puerto Limón, commonly known as Limón, is the capital city and main hub of Limón province, as well as of the cantón (county) of Limón in Costa Rica. It has a population of about 60,000 (including surrounding towns), and is home to a thriving Afro-Caribbean community. Part of the community traces its roots to Jamaican laborers who worked on a late ninteenth-century railroad project that connected San José to Puerto Limón. Other parts of the population trace their roots to the Nicaraguan, Panamanian, and Colombian turtle-hunters who eventually settled along the Province of Limon's coast. Until 1948 the Costa Rican government did not recognize Afro-Caribbean as citizens and restricted their movement outside Limón province. As a result of this "travel ban", this Afro-Caribbean population became firmly establish in the region, which influenced the decision to not move even after it was legally permitted. The Afro-Caribbean community speaks Spanish and Mekatelyu, a creole of English.
Puerto Limón contains two port terminals Limón and Moín, which permit the shipment of Costa Rican exports (primarily banana) as well as the anchoring of cruise ships.
Puerto Limón is famous in Costa Rica for its yearly fall festival called carnaval which occurs the week of October 12, the date Columbus first anchored off Limón's coast in 1502, on his fourth voyage. The event was started by local community leader and activist, Alfred Josiah Henry Smith (known as "Mister King"), who helped organize the first carnaval in October of 1949. The event stretches ospans for about a week (across two weekends), and includes a parade, food, music, dancing, and, on the last night, a concert in the Parque Vargas headlined by a major Latino or Caribbean music act. Previous artists have included Eddy Herrera (2002), Damian Marley (2003), El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico (2005), and T.O.K. (2006).
Although the show goes on rain or shine, the event has recently suffered some setbacks. Organizers cancelled carnaval in 2007 due to a major dengue outbreak, and again in 2008 due to major municipal trash-removal issues and related health worries. While trash removal had long been an issue due to lack of trucks and a 62-mile haul to the nearest landfill (in Pococí), the ordered closure of this and other landfills in 2007 meant Puerto Limón had to send trash 135 miles to Alajuela and pay a higher disposal fee. The situation led to a bottle-neck in trash removal, which, combined with the major dengue breakout, caused organizers to cancel 2008's carnaval as a precautionary measure. Given the severity of the situation, the city bought land in nearby Santa Rosa and, in April of 2009, opened its own landfill (called El Tomatal). Given the improved situation, carnaval picked up in 2009 after its two-year hiatus.