La Fortuna Waterfall in central Costa Rica’s central Alajuela Province plunges more than 70 meters into a chilly jungle pool near the base of the dormant Chato volcano. The country attracts more than 2million visitors every year, making tourism its biggest foreign exchange earner – more than its banana, pineapple and coffee exports combined.
Costa Rica – Been There

Can a jaguar smell your fear?

Photo by Darran Rees

Costa Rica – Been There Can a jaguar smell your fear?

The word “jaguar” is often said to come from an old Mayan phrase meaning “the beast that kills with one leap”. I am painfully aware, however, that the jaguar’s prey is very unlikely to ever witness the leap before a single crunching bite crushes the back of the skull.

Mark Eveleigh
Mark Eveleigh Travel Writer & Photographer

Osa is perhaps the most biologically intense place on earth – and this section of the jungle is particularly packed with wildlife. I am starting to imagine things as “safari syndrome” kicks in: the scuttling panic of a basilisk lizard out of the foliage is the first sudden lurch of a springing big cat; the ungodly roar of howler monkeys echoing out of the distant valleys sounds like the low, impatient growl of something much closer, and infinitely bigger.

Then we find the tracks of a very large jaguar. I have tracked lions and leopards before and am surprised by the size of a pugmark that somehow seems to radiate such power. Over the course of the morning we have followed the spoor in such erratic circles that, by now, I’m now not entirely sure who’s following who.

“One of the men I hunted with was always afraid of jaguars,” an old prospector once told me “He’d never go out of camp alone and always insisted on sleeping in the middle, between the others. But el tigre would sometimes follow us and, when we turned back to camp, it always looked like the jaguar was deliberately treading on the tracks of the man who was most afraid.”

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The silhouette of an anole lizard, probably a neotropical green anole (Anolis biporcatus), on the Pacific coast’s Osa Peninsula, which is home to at least half of all species that live in Costa Rica. With 750 species of trees, 120 species of reptiles and amphibians, 360 bird species of birds and more than 120 species of mammals, it has 2.5 per cent of the world’s biodiversity. Photo by Roy Toft / Getty Images

Roy Toft

Roy Toft

Agency
Getty Images

The silhouette of an anole lizard, probably a neotropical green anole (Anolis biporcatus), on the Pacific coast’s Osa Peninsula, which is home to at least half of all species that live in Costa Rica. With 750 species of trees, 120 species of reptiles and amphibians, 360 bird species of birds and more than 120 species of mammals, it has 2.5 per cent of the world’s biodiversity.

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