Tortuguero on the Caribbean Coast

Trip Start Feb 24, 2014
Trip End Mar 12, 2014

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Where I stayed

Flag of Costa Rica  , Province of Limon,
Friday, March 7, 2014

We left the Arenal area at 5:30 in the a.m. in order to catch the jungle riverboat to Tortuguero.  There are very few roads through the wetlands of the Caribbean lowlands of Costa Rica, and Tortuguero is accessible only by boat or plane.  We munched muffins and fruit supplied by the hotel and looked forward to a real breakfast stop along the way to the boat landing.  That was the plan, anyway.  After a couple hours on the road we were delayed for a long time at a road construction site, and when the traffic started to move again, our driver couldn't get our bus to go into any gear (I guessed a clutch cable problem which turned out to be correct--too bad I had no tools to fix it with!).  Our guides promptly got busy on a solution--there was a small town called San Miguel less than half a kilometer from where we were stuck.  They scouted ahead and found a small "soda"--the Costa Rican term for a neighborhood diner--and we all walked up the road and had scrambled eggs with rice and beans while we waited for the tour operator to send us another bus.



Jheudy went behind the counter and helped the owners prepare the breakfast plates, and what could have been a disaster turned into a fun adventure we'd all remember.  The new bus showed up and we transferred all the bags and got back on the road.  They also sent another boat to meet us at Cano Blanco, since our first boat was long gone by then.  


 Our originally scheduled breakfast stop became a quick bathroom break and a chance to visit another butterfly garden.  I loved the shrimp flowers and passion flowers!



  Cano Blanco (white canal) was a busy spot, reached by a 20k dirt road, where all the Tortuguero hotels and attractions picked up their customers.  There was a huge parking lot for tour buses plus restrooms and a busy convenience store.  After a quick break we got in the boat for the hour-and-a-half ride to Tortuguero.



On the boat ride we got a little preview of what we would be seeing the next few days along the Caribbean coast.  A network of canals takes the place of roads in this area of squishy wetlands where road building just wouldn't work.  Even the canals frequently change course with the weather.  The whole area is teeming with wildlife, and domestic life as well.



Finally we reached Laguna Lodge, our home for the next two nights.  As we got off the boat those of us who had been to Barcelona enjoyed the mosaic tile decor and architecture that resembled something designed by Gaudi.  The rooms were spartan and I kept getting lost on the way to breakfast, but the ambience was magical.



Next morning we were up at dawn again, this time for a boat ride through the canals around Tortuguero.  The wildlife viewing was simply amazing here.  Birds, monkeys, name it, eventually you will see it here!  See the last entry in this blog for a complete (ish) bird list for my adventures in Costa Rica.


The basilisk is also known as the Jesus Christ Lizard, because of its ability to scamper across the surface of the water.  They can run as much as a couple meters before they sink.  We also saw some amazing birds, including the rare sun grebe and black-throated trogon.




 A Cayman (small crocodile) poked his head up out of the water briefly, just as we were distracted by the noise of monkeys up in the trees.  We tracked one little white-faced monkey for quite a while through the trees until he finally showed his face.



But the biggest treat of the day was watching the spider monkeys swing through the trees.  These monkeys have a long prehensile tail that allows them to do amazing things.  This is their most famous trick--the mother monkey is making a bridge between two trees, so her baby can walk across!


 Next morning we set out on the trail next to the beach for a walk to Tortuguero town.  A green iguana up in a tree provided entertainment.  Near the town is the headquarters of the Sea Turtle Conservancy, which protects the green sea turtles that nest on this beach.  A few tourists are allowed to go out with guides during nesting season, on assigned, marked portions of the beach.  The rest of the nesting area is off limits.  The money from these tourists helps to support the work of the conservancy. 



Tortuguero is a small town with a main street leading up to the entrance to Tortuguero National Park.  As we strolled past the school we were reminded of the high literacy rate in Costa Rica--one of the highest in Latin America.  School is compulsory up to 8th grade.



We didn't venture far into the national park but checked out some of the wildlife near the entrance, including the golden orb spider, named for the color of its web, and the various crabs that inhabit little holes all over the beach and adjacent areas.


Next morning Janet and I woke up early to catch a photo of a Caribbean sunrise.  It was a bit cloudy but interesting enough.  After breakfast we got back in the boat for the return to Cano Blanco, and we were lucky to see a baby anhinga sitting in its nest with its mom watching over.  Anhingas are the birds you see that dry their wings in the sun like a cormorant.




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