The Pacific Croc Stop
By Adam Williams
Some places in Costa Rica are like zoo exhibits without the barred enclosures – places where a particular species gathers by instinct, and on a consistent basis. People inevitably flock to these locations to “oooh” and “ahhh,” standing with mouths agape as they observe animal behaviors in the wild.
Perhaps the most conspicuous example of this natural “zoo effect” is above the brown Tárcoles River, which empties into the Nicoya Peninsula on the Pacific Ocean. There, on the muddy river banks beneath the bridge of the highway that connects the Pacific town of Jacó to San José, dozens of monstrous, prehistoric crocodiles congregate. At any given time of the day people are there, leaning over the railing to get a better look or to snap photos of the 10 to 18-foot silt-covered behemoths.
According to the National University of Costa Rica (UNA), the Tárcoles River hosts one of the world’s largest populations of crocodiles in the world. While theories explaining the herding of these dinosaur-like beasts are varied, it is generally assumed that the reptiles enjoy the cool shade offered by the bridge – and also the fact that locals feed them in an effort to maintain this tourism niche.
“People come to Costa Rica to see and enjoy the wonderful biodiversity and animals that live in the country,” said Gerardo Abadía, a researcher at the UNA. “The Tárcoles crocodiles are a primary example of that. There aren’t many rivers in the world that provide a glimpse of 20-30 crocodiles at a time, and here, it is available only an hour away from the capital city.”