Welcome to Cabo Blanco...
Costa Rica's First Protected Area


Today was quite the experience, a visit to the Cabo Blanco Absolute Nature Reserve in Cabuya, the first-ever protected area in the entire country.

Founded back in October of 1963, the National Park roots not only from 1250 hectares of land - located at the very tip of the Nicoya Peninsula...

Cabo Blanco Anteater
Cabo Blanco Mal Pais
Cabo Blanco Efrain
Cabo Blanco Pizote
Cabo Blanco Frigate Bird

An Anteater Feeds on Termites at the Side of the Swedish Path
The Pristine Beach, South of Mal Pais
Efrain Spots a Blue-Crowned Motmot - Up in the Trees
You Can Call Me a Coati, Coatimundi, or a Pizote!
A Giant Soaring Frigate Bird

...but also from the passion - the perseverance - and the dedication, of two very special people...

Cabo Blanco Nicolas and Karen
Nicolas and Karen

Nicolas Wessberg and Karen Mogensen.

A story going back over half a century...

Please read on to learn more about this remarkable Costa Rican treasure, along with a firsthand recount...

...encounters with some of the many unique animals within the park itself.

Click on any of the following links - and you'll be taken further on down the page to learn more...








Nicolas Wessberg and Karen Mogensen

Before making the trip to Cabo Blanco, I had the opportunity to meet up with Patricia Slump-lacono - owner of both the Ylang Ylang Beach Resort, and El Sano Banano Hotel & restaurant in Montezuma.

Cabo Blanco Patricia
Patricia Slump-lacono

A resident on the Nicoya for over 30 years - and also - a very good friend of the late Karen Mogensen...

Patricia had a unique story to tell - one she was more than happy to share with me - and here on this web page with you as well.

Rewinding more than 50 years...

...

Back in 1955 - Montezuma, the touristy, bustling beach town of today...

Was then, just a tiny agricultural village.

There were no roads.

There was no electricity.

And once every week - provided that the ocean cooperated...

Cabo Blanco House
Living a Simple Life

A boat would arrive just offshore from town... ready to collect fresh produce - corn, rice, beans, plantains...

And to pick up passengers as well - making the trip back to the mainland.

And yes, it was during this earlier time, when Nicolas - a former Swedish Air force officer, along with his wife Karen...

Set out to follow their dream.

Cabo Blanco Our Plundered Planet
Our Plundered Planet

And it was a dream of living a simpler life, in harmony with nature and the environment.

As Karen had once mentioned, part of the inspiration for moving from Europe to Costa Rica - settling on a small farm on the Nicoya Peninsula...

Was a book written by Fairfield Osborn.

It's title...

Our Plundered Planet.

Spoken highly of by the likes of Aldous Huxley, Albert Einstein and others - the book went into great detail, discussing the impact that humans have on the environment, and the importance of living a simpler life.

And yes - its message resonated entirely with the views of both Nicolas and Karen.

...

And so it was - life on the Nicoya...

For Nicolas, it was bliss.

Cabo Blanco Nicolas Wessberg
Nicolas Wessberg

He always had a keen interest in tropical biology, one that led to a number of expeditions - exploring the peninsula bit by bit.

And no - it wasn't long before he encountered the land that would one day become Cabo Blanco - an oasis as he described it, lying at the peninsula's very tip.

A place unlike anything he had ever seen, it was teeming with life - wild cats, monkeys, anteaters, coatis - and numerous species of birds...

Cabo Blanco Animals
Animals of a Tropical Oasis

It was remarkable.

And there was no question in Nicolas's mind - Karen's as well... this tiny paradise needed to be protected - especially at a time when more and more forests were being clear-cut, making way for cattle farms.

A way of life for many on the peninsula - agriculture was strongly promoted by the government during these times.

...

Fast forward to 1963...

On October the 24th, having sought out the help of an international foundation...

Cabo Blanco Absolute Nature Reserve
Forests Can, Do Regenerate!

...one that shared Nicolas and Karen's views regarding the preservation of land on the Nicoya...

1250 hectares of land were purchased.

And as a result...

The Cabo Blanco Absolute Nature Reserve was established -- first-ever protected area in the entire country.




More than ten years since the park's inception - Nicolas and Karen continued with life on the Nicoya - active in promoting conservation education and awareness.

Cabo Blanco Corcovado
The Corcovado

In the early 70s - Montezuma saw its first road.

And yes, long after the establishment of the country's first national park...

Agricultural expansion continued.

Nicolas's passion for protecting wildlife in Costa Rica - eventually took him to the far side of the country...

A place called the Osa Peninsula.

Today - still the most biologically diverse place on the planet, it was on the Osa - a battle for establishing the Corcovado National Park, where in 1975...

Nicolas lost his life.

...

Nineteen years after her husband's passing - Karen Mogensen, resided on the very same land that she and Nicolas had purchased.

Cabo Blanco Karen Morgansen
Karen Mogensen

Staying true to her ideals - dedicated and passionate about her work, Karen made efforts to raise money, and continue the expansion of Cabo Blanco.

She built two cabins on her land, inviting students to visit - a chance to teach others about the importance of wildlife conservation.

She also helped bring the Humane Society's Spay & Neuter program to Montezuma.

...

Two months before her passing, in 1994 - Karen made the decision to donate her land to the Costa Rican government, with the agreement that it would remain protected as an absolute wildlife reserve - no humans would be allowed - the exception of a caretaker...

Cabo Blanco Karen Mogensen
Karen Mogensen - Then, and Later in Life...

And today, more than 15 years later -- it continues to be -- named after her late husband...

The Nicolas Wessberg Absolute Reserve.




It's an incredible story.

Patricia - thank you so much for sharing this with us. :-)

It's so important that visitors making the trip here - an opportunity to take in the beautiful nature of Costa Rica...

...have an even better understanding of how the first-ever protected area in Costa Rica, came to be.

...

Well next then...

Please come along - a journey from Montezuma to Cabuya, an very soon afterward - into the Cabo Blanco Reserve itself!...





The Road to Cabuya

It's only about a 30 minute drive, heading south from Montezuma to Cabuya, the small fishing village where Cabo Blanco is located.

Cabo Blanco Scott
To Cabuya by Quad...

And it's a gorgeous drive at that.

Along the way - there are some really neat spots.

Beaches for example - lined by unique volcanic rock formations.

At low tide - you can explore them - various ocean life to observe... and from a safe vantage point too.

Further along the way, and closer to the village of Cabuya itself - you might want to stop at the Rio Lajas (Lajas River)...

Cabo Blanco River
Great Place to Spend a Lazy Afternoon

...great little spot to spend a lazy afternoon.

Just after Lajas, you'll come across another interesting sight - just to the right along the road...

Cabo Blanco Banyan Tree
A Tree of Enlightenment

A giant banyan tree.

And it really is huge!

It's trunk(s!) and vines extend every which way - unlike any tree I've ever seen before.

And did you know?...

It's believed that in India...

...while sitting under a banyan tree, like this one...

The Buddha first achieved enlightenment.

Pretty neat.

Something else about this tree... walk around to its left side (facing if from the road) - and in an opening, a number of bats can be seen -- sleeping away the day.

...

Onward a short distance, and very soon enough...

We've arrived in Cabuya!

Cabo Blanco Efrain Brenes Picado
Meet Efrain Brenes Picado

Just on the other side of town, arriving at the entrance to the Cabo Blanco Absolute Reserve...

I was just in time to meet up with Efrain Brenes Picado.

A park ranger here for some time, Efrain has a wealth of knowledge about the reserve, its history - and the incredibly diverse array of wildlife found within it.

But best of all...

Today he was more than happy to join me - a walk through the park, and an opportunity to learn even more about it!...




Map of the Cabo Blanco Reserve

Here's a map of the Cabo Blanco Absolute Reserve. Outlining the path from the entrance to Playa Cabo Blanco (the ocean!)...

Click on the various markers, and you'll be taken further on down the page to learn more...

Cabo Blanco Map Legend Bats Trees Osa Coati Pelican Island Ocean Ocean Volunteer
  • Click on the markers to learn more...
TICR Maps - Cabo Blanco


An Adventure! This is Cabo Blanco...

First setting foot on the path, Efrain and I made our way to the right - along the Danish Trail. And yes - looking on the map, you can see that it loops around at the very beginning.

Heading from the entrance - the right part of the loop is the Danish Trail (named after Karen Mogensen). And the left part of the loop - is the Swedish Trail (named after Nicolas Wessberg).

Very soon enough, we came to our first stop...

Cabo Blanco Efrain and Jeff
In Front of a Giant Panama Tree

...a Panama tree.

And yes - just as its name depicts... this tree (Sterculia apetala) -- growing to heights of 50 meters, and a diameter of 2 -- is the national tree of the country of Panama.

Cabo Blanco Bat
A Bat

Similar to the banyan tree - the one spotted previously, on the way to Cabuya...

You can see a family of bats resting inside its trunk.

...

As Efrain pointed out...

Just as Panama has its own national tree...

So does Costa Rica.

It's called the Guanacaste (Enterolobium cyclocarpum), quite common throughout the Cabo Blanco Absolute Reserve, and the Nicoyan Peninsula as well.

Interestingly...

Some people call it the Ear Pod Tree, given the large brown fruit that grows on it.

More on trees at Cabo Blanco...

Cabo Blanco Squirrel
A Variegated Squirrel at Cabo Blanco

There's the zonzapote (Licania platypus) - often referred to as the Monkey Apple Tree - as both monkeys and squirrels love feasting on its fruit...

Cabo Blanco Tree
Amazing Trees of Cabo Blanco!

The guachipelin (Diphysa americana) - a tree with very high quality wood...

The jobo (Spondias mombin), one that grows pretty tall at about 30 meters - a tree used as a living fence...

And one more...

The pochote (Bombacopsis quinataI) - a tree common in the area - quite characteristic of the Cabo Blanco Reserve.

And something really neat about pachote trees...

They're covered with sharp spikes - perfect for warding off animals.

Also...

Pachote trees actually shed their leaves during the hotter months of the year...

Cabo Blanco Pachote
The Spikes of a Pachote Tree

...conserving water in the process.

Pretty neat!

...

Well, our walk through the Cabo Blanco Reserve continued - and along the way... there was plenty of interesting things to learn from Efrain.

One incredible fact -- the Cabo Blanco Absolute Reserve comprises mostly secondary forest... 85% to be exact!

Cabo Blanco Nicolas and Karen
Nicolas & Karen

What this means exactly - is that given the efforts of Nicolas and Karen...

...the park has had close to 50 years to regenerate.

And yes, during this time -- the forest that has been renewed throughout the land, is called 'secondary'.

And the remaining 15% of 'primary forest' - as would be expected... is found at the highest points throughout the land.

...

Continuing on, Efrain described more of the various species of animals found throughout Cabo Blanco - one's like coatis, also known as pizotes.

There was one coati in particular - wondering around the entrance of the park when I first arrived.

Cabo Blanco Coati
A Coati Stopped to Say Hello

While you'll normally find them traveling in groups...

Sometimes - as Efrain explained - you'll see older male coatis, on their own.

Cabo Blanco Howler Monkey
A Howler Monkey

Abandoned by their packs - like the one I'd seen earlier this day... the spend the rest of their days, roaming solo through the jungle.

More animals...

Both howler and white-faced capuchin monkeys - can be found in Cabo Blanco.

And although extremely rare to spot...

Wildcats live in the park as well. One example of such - is the smaller-sized jaguarondi, unique in that they have long slender bodies - with a tail to match.

...

After the 'loop' at the very beginning of the path (Danish and Swedish trails)... it's a couple hours (depending how you pace yourself!) at least to Playa Cabo Blanco.

Cabo Blanco Island
Cabo Blanco Island

Cabo Island can be spotted off in the distance - beyond a 1km stretch of protected azul waters. And yes - even here in the ocean...

Life is abundant.

Cabo Blanco Nurse Shark
Cabo Blanco - Breeding Ground for Nurse Sharks

The waters around Cabo Blanco, an area with numerous conch shells - are a prime breeding ground for the nurse shark.

Cabo Blanco Whale
A Humpback Whale

Fish of every scale can be found, from rooster fish to snapper to marlin.

And every so often, far off in the distance...

...whales and dolphins can be seen - splashing about.

...

Spotting a number frigate birds - soaring about the coastline, Efrain also went on to mention some important species of birds here at Cabo Blanco.

Cabo Blanco Pelican
A Pelican

As he explained...

Cabo Blanco is home to the single most important population of pelicans on the Nicoya.

And also...

It's home to the greatest number of bobby birds - of anywhere else in Costa Rica.

Truly - there are tons of different birds here...

One of my all-time favorites...

Cabo Blanco Blue-Crowned Motmot
The Blue-Crowned Motmot

Is the blue-crowned motmot.

...

What a day this was!

Exploring the Cabo Blanco Reserve with Efrain - so much to see and learn... such an educational experience.

Cabo Blanco Osa
An Osa

But it wasn't over quite yet.

During the walk back - there was a unique encounter with yet another animal, native to the peninsula...

An anteater.

And yes *almost* as its name would suggest... there it was - off to the side of the path - feasting away on termites, from a nest I had just witness it rip open with its claws.

And lucky for us - camera in hand, I was able to capture part of the experience, in video...





An Osa Encounter

Walking back toward the entrance of the park - there, just off to the right of the path...

Was an anteater!

Feasting away on termites, from a nest it had just ripped open... I had the chance to capture this brief video...

TICR Videos - Osa at Cabo Blanco





Volunteering at Cabo Blanco

One occasion - making the way out to Cabo Blanco, I had the opportunity to catch up with Naomi Mori.

Cabo Blanco Naomi and Jeff
With Naomi Mori, at the Entrance

A couple weeks into a volunteer program, offered here at the Cabo Blanco Absolute Reserve...

...she was mentioning how there are volunteer placements not only here - but at the Corcovado National Park, as well.

Originally from Switzerland, Naomi had previously completed a four-month stay in Heredia (close to San Jose), Costa Rica -- studying at a language school.

Cabo Blanco Agouti
An Agouti at Cabo Blanco

...

Walking around the park for a while - it didn't take long before we spotted some wildlife.

On the path just ahead of us - an agouti made itself visible.

And as Naomi recounted... before I arrived - she spotted a white-tailed deer and some coyotes.

...

Asking her what she thought of her experience so far at Cabo Blanco...

As she described - duties included things like cleaning the beaches and trails, as well as creating new trails throughout the park.

Cabo Blanco Cabin
The Volunteer Lodge at Cabo Blanco

...

Cabo Blanco Volunteer View
View of the Gulf, from the Volunteer Lodge

Living and working in an environment up close and personal with nature, quite the transition from Heredia...

It was easy to tell she enjoyed it here.

And yes - if volunteering at a National Park in Costa Rica sounds like something you'd be interested in, be sure to check out the jobs in Costa Rica page on the site.




And so wraps up, another incredible experience - here on the Rich Coast.

Thanks to Patricia - sharing her story about Nicolas and Karen, to Efrain - sharing all sorts of interesting things about the park, and to Naomi - offering a little insight, what's it's like to live and work here...

Cabo Blanco Overhead
Cabo Blanco -- The First Protected Area in All of Costa Rica

...we now have an even better insight to Costa Rica's first-ever protected area...

The Cabo Blanco Absolute Reserve.

Until next time!