tortuguero

We started the day with an early wake up (not too hard as we weren’t adapted to the timezone yet) at 5am for coffee before an early morning boat tour leaving at 5:30 and taking us around the riverbanks and into the park spotting wildlife. The tour started with the local banks just up from the hotel where we started off with an Iguana lounging on a branch of a tree, just a little way up from a Tiger Heron (Tigrisoma fasciatum). José pointed out the different stages of coconuts growing along the side of the river as they go from green with mostly milk to brown with mostly flesh, we then saw a solitary howler monkey or ‘mono congo’ (Alouatta palliata).

Howler Monkey
Howler Monkey
Blue Heron
Blue Heron
Neotropic Cormorant
Neotropic Cormorant

We then headed down into the national park, stopping briefly for José to provide our ticket reference numbers at the ranger’s office to confirm we could all enter the park. As we passed through the parks more vibrant canals, we saw a number of birds including herons, cormorants and then noticed all the tour boats gathered in a circle around something in the water. We joined the circle and then realised what they were watching - dolphins! We continued to watch them for a while - could see a group of them with young, but I didn’t manage to time it right to capture a photo of them - was amazing seeing them making their way along the river breaching the surface in their group.

Dolphin Watching
Dolphin Watching
Juvenile Tiger Heron
Juvenile Tiger Heron
Purple Gallinule
Purple Gallinule

After following the dolphins for a while, we then headed back down the river and heard the sounds of a group of Howler Monkeys and then saw them including a mother with a baby on its back swinging through the trees.

Howler Monkey with baby
Howler Monkey with baby
Howler Monkey with baby
Howler Monkey with baby
Howler Monkeys
Howler Monkeys

After this we went back to the hotel for breakfast and to decide if we went on the next boat tour as well or not - I decided to go whilst the others stayed and enjoyed the hotel pool. It poured with rain whilst on the tour - thankfully I was wearing the provided poncho, but the rain still seemed to get everywhere! I also managed to see some more wildlife and get some better photos.

Tortuguero lagoon
Tortuguero lagoon
Basilisk
Basilisk
Amazon Kingfisher
Amazon Kingfisher

It was particularly amazing to see a sloth asleep in the tree just across the river from the hotel, and to see a Basilisk in a different colour (as they change colour)

Sloth
Sloth
Iguana
Iguana
Basilisk
Basilisk

On this tour we went a slightly different route through the park, into some of the smaller waterways and so saw different wildlife - such as the Caiman and the bats

Bats
Bats
Caiman
Caiman
Green Ibis
Green Ibis

After lunch we had a walking tour around the gardens of the hotel where we saw a surprising number of things just around the hotel grounds. Some of the highlights were the banana flowers, the hanging nests of Montezuma Oropendola birds, the Green Macaws and the Iguana that was relaxing in the bushes metres away from our rooms!

Nests of Montezuma Oropendolas
Nests of Montezuma Oropendolas
Green Macaw
Green Macaw
Iguana
Iguana

The last adventure of the day was an evening tree-frog hunt in the trees around the swimming pool by torch light. We managed to see two different tree frogs high in the leaves.

Tree frog
Tree frog

on to Tirimbina

After an overnight stay in San José, the next part of our travels began with a coach to the docks at La Pavona, followed by a boat from there to Laguna Lodge, as Tortuguero can only be accessed by boat or plane.

We set off from Hotel Presidente at 6:10 after a quick bite for breakfast. José, our guide, had met us at the hotel and took us to meet the bus with the others who were travelling to Tortuguero. After a couple more pickups we headed out of San José along the route 32 heading higher up as we left the city, passing alongside coffee plantations.

We then headed through the cloud forest of Braulio Carrillo National Park and passed over the continental divide between the Pacific and Caribbean sides of Costa Rica. Along the way, José provided a commentary for us about everything we were passing in both English and Spanish, which was really interesting and a great way to get tuned into the language. Some of the highlights were the indicative species of a cloud forest - known locally as the poor man’s umbrella (Gunnera insignis), the dark colour of the Rio Sucio as it picks up the oxides on it’s route from the Irazu volcano.

Rio Sucio
Rio Sucio
Poison-dart frog
Poison-dart frog

We stopped a breakfast of Palmitos and rice at Rio Blanco restaurant in Guapilles where we also got to explore along by the river. As we returned to the coach, José asked us if we’d seen the frog and as we hadn’t, he took us back to see it and scooped up the poison-dart frog from the undergrowth to place on a leaf for us to see clearly. After lunch, we passed through banana plantations complete with their own banana train to transport bananas which we had to stop for while the bananas crossed the road.

Banana plantation
Banana plantation
Banana train crossing
Banana train crossing

When we got to La Pavona, it was interesting to see all the boats waiting at the docks and the supply boat being loaded up with lots of bags of rice!

Boats at La Pavona
Boats at La Pavona
Loading supplies at La Pavona
Loading supplies at La Pavona
River travel
River travel

From there we boarded the boat to head along the windy river to the lodge. Along the way we had our first insight to what was in store for us in the park - passing through jungle landscapes and seeing monkeys, lizards and birds. Our lodges were side by side just around the corner from the botanical garden walk and the path through to the beach on the Caribbean side, which is where the sea turtles’ nest and bury their eggs.

Windy river, low water level
Windy river, low water level
Heron
Heron
Basilisk / Jesus Christ Lizard
Basilisk / Jesus Christ Lizard

We had lunch at Laguna lodge and in the afternoon visited the town of Tortuguero by boat. Tortuguero is a very small town with a number of shops and cafes and we were able to stock up on insect repellent and buy some post cards and souvenirs, however as there is no postal service there we couldn’t get any stamps. When we got back me and Jessica explored the botanical garden and saw a hummingbird, a blue morpho butterfly, a snake and lots of interesting plants.

Carribbean
Carribbean
Our rooms at Laguna Lodge
Our rooms at Laguna Lodge
Tortuguero
Tortuguero

on to Exploring Tortuguero