Wildlife-Watching in Tortuguero - Costa Rica

This post is part of our week in Costa Rica.

We spent two days in Tortuguero, Costa Rica. Here's what we got up to. 

Day One

We arrived into Tortuguero on the East coast of Costa Rica at 7:45am on a tiny plane from San José. The flight took around 30 minutes and the scenery was spectacular. Views included an active volcano and banana and pineapple plantations as far as we could see.

The ‘airport’ at Tortuguero consisted of a short runway and tiny terminal building, all adding to the magic of arriving in such a tropical place and a huge contrast to the busy city we’d left behind.

We were generously hosted by the Costa Rica Tourist Board and British Airways for the entirety of this trip so we would like to thank them for these experiences.

Flight from San José to Tortuguero.
Flight from San José to Tortuguero.
Tortuguero, Costa Rica.
River taxi to Pachira Lodge in Tortuguero, Costa Rica.

A 5 minute boat trip from the landing strip and we moored at Pachira Lodge to be welcomed by a glorious breakfast buffet of fresh fruits and gallo pinto (which we totally got used to eating for breakfast!) before dropping our bags off in the room and heading for a walk around the hotel grounds. The lodge is situated right next to the main canal and a few minutes from the entrance to the Tortuguero National Park.

The accommodation was set out like a small village, with small paths connecting up the the different communal areas and rooms. The rooms here were basic but comfortable and in all honesty we appreciated that whilst it wasn’t a mega fancy resort it must have been an immense effort to build anything there (it can only be accessed by water) so what we had got was a feat in itself. The wildlife here is what people come for and we would go back in a heartbeat. There is a fairly large pool (shaped like a turtle) which we found was brilliant for wildlife-spotting. Offset from the pool is a trail that allows you to walk through the El Poponjoche Trail.

Pachira Lodge in Tortuguero, Costa Rica.
Pachira Lodge in Tortuguero, Costa Rica.
Pachira Lodge in Tortuguero, Costa Rica.
Pachira Lodge in Tortuguero, Costa Rica.
Pachira Lodge in Tortuguero, Costa Rica.
Pachira Lodge in Tortuguero, Costa Rica.
Pachira Lodge in Tortuguero, Costa Rica.
Pachira Lodge in Tortuguero, Costa Rica.

We then took a short boat trip to visit the small village of Tortuguero and walk along the almost-black sandy beach. The village had so much character and provided us with a real insight into village life in the jungle.

Tortuguero village in Costa Rica.
Tortuguero village and beach in Costa Rica.
Tortuguero village in Costa Rica.
Tortuguero village in Costa Rica.
Tortuguero village in Costa Rica.
Tortuguero village and beach in Costa Rica.
Tortuguero village and beach in Costa Rica.
Tortuguero village and beach in Costa Rica.
Tortuguero village and beach in Costa Rica.

That afternoon (it was India’s birthday!) we vetoed the planned kayaking and spent some time relaxing by the pool, watching the birds and monkeys move from tree to tree. We saw pairs of McCaws, Spider Monkeys, Toucans and Weaver birds. Weaver birds make the most incredible noise and made us laugh pretty much every time we heard them.

NESTING TURTLES

In the evening we returned to the beach to meet a guide who took us to see nesting turtles. This was a first for us and the whole experience seemed to be very well regulated. Tortuguero was made a National Park in 1991 and is a very special place in the world due to its vast number of ecosystems and rich biological diversity. It’s a famous nesting spot for Green Sea Turtles and that was our goal for the night: to try and see a turtle in the wild. We had to wear all black, be in a group of no more than 10 and the use of any kind of light was strictly prohibited. No cameras or phones unless you had an infra-red recording device and so far, we don’t think there’s an app for that! Tonight was a night to enjoy with our eyes.

We huddled on the runway that we arrived onto this morning and our guides paperwork was checked and we were all counted. Once the turtle spotters on the beach gave the ‘ok’ we were allowed onto the beach and led carefully by our guide. We watched quietly as the turtle lay her eggs, bury them in the sand and then walk (read drag-herself-because-she-was-knackered) back to the sea. It was pretty magical and though we’ve seen it on the tv before nothing can replace the feeling of seeing in for real. The tropical storm in the distance, the darkness, the muggy-temperature and the trust that you put into the guide all add up to a fairly sublime Monday evening - and a birthday that India probably won’t forget in a while.

 

Day Two in Tortuguero:

The next morning we were awoken by the loud calls of the local howler monkeys, the noise they make is fascinating.

They must have known we had a 5:45am boat tour through the National Park...

Tortaguera Boat Tour
Tortaguera Boat Tour
Tortaguera Boat Tour
Tortaguera Boat Tour
Tortaguera Boat Tour
Tortaguera Boat Tour
Tortaguera Boat Tour
Tortaguera Boat Tour
Tortaguera Boat Tour
Tortaguera Boat Tour
Tortaguera Boat Tour
Tortaguera Boat Tour
Tortaguera Boat Tour
Tortaguera Boat Tour
Tortaguera Boat Tour
Tortaguera Boat Tour
Tortaguera Boat Tour

The time we spent in the boat looking for wildlife was incredible, there was so much to see and we could have easily spent all day on the water. In fact, when we return to Costa Rica (because we are already thinking about planning a re-visit) then we will probably stay here for much longer because the time on that boat was just the best ever and we thoroughly enjoyed it. 

We spotted:

  • Caiman

  • Tiger Heron

  • Little Blue Heron

  • Capuchin Monkey

  • Aningha

  • The biggest spider ever in the whole world (not a confirmed fact and not the actual name)

  • Grey-necked Wood Rail

  • Northern Jacana

After the boat trip we ate breakfast, collected our gear and made the 1 hour boat journey along the river to meet our driver who would take us on to La Fortuna. The route took us through small villages and huge banana and pineapple plantations. We saw workers transporting the bananas around the plantations and also the fruit being prepared for sale.

Banana plantations in Costa Rica.

Our lunch stop along the way was made at a Palm plantation in Sarapiquí called Tour de Palmito, where we were given a short tour of the farm and shown the ins and outs of a certain palm tree: the ‘Bactris gasipaes’ or Pejibaye which is its CR common name. Firstly our minds were blown by just how a Palm grows and secondly we were fed heart of Palm in about a million different ways - our collective favourite was in a lasagne, and as the heart of Palm replaced any meat, it was completely vegetarian. Maria even prepared heart of Palm ceviche for us which was sooooo good. And what Costa Rican meal is complete without a Tres Leches at the end?! We left Tour de Palmito with new knowledge, full tummies and in the wake of another torrential rainstorm.

Tropical rain in Costa Rica.

(Apologies for the ridiculous length of this blog post but we took so many pictures and really wanted to share them - also that lasagne at the end was far too good to not mention).