Green, greener, Tortuguero

The WorldTravelerTortuguero on the Caribbean coast has long been on my excursion wish list. As a great frog lover I want to see the poison dart frogs. And since it is raining constantly in the Caribbean anyway, it doesn’t matter when I go there. So I book my hostel and leave. Three busses and a boat later I am in Tortuguero. For the welcome it starts to pour immediately.

In my nice „Aracari Garden Hostel″ I luckily can borrow rubber boots and a good rain poncho. My clothes are already soaking wet the first evening after I walked through the small town with my umbrella. Rain is not that bad in itself. But with about 80 percent humidity almost nothing dries, no matter if outside or inside. As I have to economize my dry clothes, I put all three excursions on day two. At least it’s worth getting wet!

Boat trip in Tortuguero

The boat trip starts at six in the morning. Surprisingly it is not raining. Our group, consisting of a Canadian family of four and me, is waiting for guide Luis at the entrance of the national park. A little later he appears in a small rowing boat. As we look a little surprised, he explains to us that only the hotels use motor boats and that the animals are disturbed by this. In some channels it is not allowed to enter with motor boats. We understand of course. And we’re not that slow, because Luis has cleverly brought extra oars for us…

At the beginning of the tour we „only“ see a few birds. This sounds rather ungrateful, but we have no idea about the feathered creatures that sit around in the branches, and we prefer to see sloths, crocodiles and monkeys. Luis does his best to give us an understanding of the birds‘ way of life. For example, we see a larger bird sitting motionless on a branch in the river, its plumage wide open: This way he tries to dry his feathers, which is quite difficult in Tortuguero. When we pass the bird again an hour later, he is still sitting in the same place and drying …

Since an animal observation tour is not a visit to the zoo where the animals „present themselves“ to the visitors, one should not be disappointed if there are sometimes not so many animals to be seen in the wild. An alternative are the animal rescue centres („Rescate de los animales“), of which there are several in Costa Rica: There, sick or endangered animals are nursed up and – if possible – made fit for life in the wild. I visited such a park a few weeks ago. The animals live in enclosures, apart from the iguanas that walk around everywhere. The well-tended Rescate Wildlife Rescue Center (former Rescate Zooave) with more than 125 different species of animals was definitely worth a visit – and a nice introduction to my stay in Costa Rica!

But back to my boat tour. Luis has a sharp, trained eye and actually spies out some things that might interest us: Sloths sit in the treetops, capuchin monkeys jump around in the branches, two different kinds of turtles bask on tree trunks in the river, and a caiman peeps out of the water … I never expected so much fauna! Just in time on the way back it starts raining again. I don’t care, I have already taken some nice pictures.

The same day I walk with Luis through the national park. The others don’t feel like splashing around in the rain anymore. The path has turned into a stream and the water is so high that it almost runs into my rubber boots. Since I am alone with Luis, I can ask him any question: He really knows a lot about the animals and plants of the area! Among other things we see monkeys and on the beach traces of a jaguar, of which there are over 30 in the park. In the evening we go on another animal observation tour, again with Luis. In the beginning it is dry, then it starts to pour again. But at the top of the tree we see an anteater working hard on a branch, a tiny, rare frog and an opossum running over a power cable and not daring to jump into the branches. You can’t really expect more and I am glad that I was not deterred by the wetness!

Unfortunately I didn’t meet the Blue Jeans frog; he is probably on the other side of the river. One more reason to come back!