A barely-used road leads from Orosi to the 5,100-hectare Tapanti game preserve, which has now been officially designated a national park. Tapanti still harbors several hectares of virgin evergreen forest at an altitude between 1,200 and 2,500 meters above sea level. Tapanti has the highest average rate of precipitation in the region, 3,000 mm, providing an ideal environment for epiphytes such as orchids and bromeliads. Rainfall of up to 7,000 mm has been recorded in its higher reaches. This mass of water has to flow somewhere, accounting for the more than 100 streams and rivers that amble through the park. During the rainy season countless waterfalls appear and the hiking trails turn into rivers of mud.
Tapanti is also the name that Huetar Indians, who live in the area, gave to the tapir. The park also harbors jaguars, ocelots and tiger cats, but they are very difficult to spot in the heavy vegetation. Howler monkeys, raccoons and agoutis also inhabit the jungle.
More than 250 different kinds of birds, including toucans, quetzals, parrots and antbirds inhabit the tree tops, along with butterflies of every possible color combination. Frogs, snakes and toads hop or slither along the permanently humid forest floor.
On sunny days it is possible to spot one of the apparently permanently busy hummingbirds that make the park their home. Many of the 51 species of hummingbird native to Costa Rica live in Tapanti. They come in all imaginable colors: iridescent green, dark blue and glittering violet. Some have an orangecolored throat, others sport glowing sapphire-blue crowns on their heads. With up to 100 wing beats per second, they flit amongst the flowering plants sucking the sweet nectar, along with any small insects hiding in the cups of blossoms, with their long, fine-pointed beaks. Because their front and back wings are separate, they are able to fly backwards – the only species of bird able to do so.
Hummingbirds are phenomenal creatures for many other reasons: their hearts beat up to 1,200 times per minute, and they require eight times their body weight in food and water every day. They are also loners, spending only enough time with a mate to accomplish the sexual act, which lasts only a few seconds. The female hummingbird is a single parent, taking over the hatching and the feeding of the fledglings on her own.
A very useful information center is at the entrance to the park. Several wellmaintained trails head off in various directions. The four-kilometer-long Sendero Oropendola leads to a natural basin filled with cool water and offers beautiful views as well as picnic tables.
The administration office has an interesting collection of fossilized seashells from the Eocene period (40-45 million years ago). Most of the shells were found in the area.
The best time to travel to Tapanti National Park is in the dry season between January and April.