Parque Nacional Braulio Carrillo
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Just 20 kilometres from San José, Parque Nacional Braulio Carrillo encompasses lowland plains and high mountains. These mountains are the main source of water needed for agricultural and domestic purposes in the Central Valley, Costa Rica's most densely populated region. In spite of being so close to urban centres, the park is still very wild and largely unexplored. This is due to the height of the mountains, the density of the forest and the lack, until quite recently, of good roads going to it.
With an area of 45,899 hectares, this is the largest park in the Central Valley.
It was only in 1977 that the project of building a road to the coast was revived. Because it was feared that building the road would lead to the destructive encroachment of settlements and massive deforestation, the Parque Nacional Braulio Carrillo was created to protect the area on April 15, 1978.
With an abundant 4.5 metres of precipitation per year, plant life thrives in the park. There are seven different ecological life zones, ranging from tropical rainforest to high altitude rainforest. The flora is exceptionally diverse because of this broad range of altitudes and climates. Some 6,000 species of plant life have already been counted. The lowest area of the park lies 36 metres above sea level, while the highest altitude is 2,906 metres at the top of the Barva Volcano. The average temperature varies between 25°C and 30°C in the low lying areas, and drops to an average of 15°C in the mountains. Although it rains very often, there is less rain during the dry season, from January to April.
Animal life in the park is also very diversified. There are over 100 species of reptiles and amphibians, and 135 species of mammals, including pumas, ocelots, jaguars, capuchin and howler monkeys, tapirs and sloths. Among the 350 birds species are toucans, aras, eagles and the famous quetzal.
The park is named after the third president of Costa Rica, Braulio Carrillo, who governed from 1837 to 1842. Carrillo overthrew the elected president, and proclaimed himself "President for life". He was eventually deposed and exiled to El Salvador, where he was assassinated. Although this president was a merciless dictator, he is credited with conceiving the idea of building a road from the Central Valley to the Caribbean Coast to make it easier to ship coffee to Europe. A small road to the coast was only completed in 1882. However, it was superceded by the railway between San José and Limón in 1891, and was subsequently abandoned after several bridges on it were destroyed.
Rainforest Aerial Tram is a cable car that travels above the rich and diverse tropical rainforest, giving you the chance to admire the plant and animal life of the canopy. The Rainforest Aerial Tram is part of a 450-hectare private nature reserve just a few minutes away from the Parque Nacional Braulio Carrello. Donald Perry, a biologist from the United States, came to Costa Rica in 1974 to study the extraordinary wealth of flora and fauna in the forest canopy. In order to spend hours comfortably observing plants, mosses, ants, insects, larva and reptiles in trees that are more than 30 metres high, he devised various methods of installing himself in the canopy, including platforms.
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