Tortuguero - Monkeys,Bites,Rain ... But No Turtles

Trip Start Jan 04, 2008
Trip End Dec 17, 2008

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Cabinas Aracari

Flag of Costa Rica  , Province of Limon,
Monday, May 12, 2008

Spent a couple of days at Tortuguero which is a national park area on the caribbean coast of Costa Rica covering both inland rainforest and a marine area. Itīs most famous (and gets itīs name) for being a nesting area for different types of turtles such as leatherback, green and hawkshead. Unfortunately itīs not the right time of year to see the nesting turtles but I wanted to go to Tortuguero in any case as the Tortuguero canal is renowned for being a very interesting and picturesque experience with lots of other wildlife to see in the waterways and around. There are a few ways to get to Tortuguero all of which involve a boat at some stage but I treated myself to the rather expensive 3-hour "lancha" (speedboat) trip from Moin near Puerto Limon as I wanted to go right along the Tortuguero canal. There is a little village at Tortuguero right next to the national park entrance which has plenty of places to stay, some restaurants and other facilities. The village is located on a thin strip of land between the beach/sea on one side and the canal on the other side and its all very laid back with a caribbean culture and mostly black caribbean Costa Rican people who seem to effortlessly switch between english and spanish or mix up the two ("Si, man"). Arrived around saturday lunchtime and wandered around checking out the village and beach area before watching the sunset from a little park area on the canal with lots of brightly coloured animal statues. Booked a canoe tour for early on Sunday morning to explore the narrow waterways off the main canal which over hang with vegetation - figured a canoe tour would be better to see the wildlife rather than going in a speedboat with itīs engine noise scaring off all the creatures. Turned out the canoe tour was just me and the guide/paddler, an affable and funny caribbean chap named Austin and it was great for about 90 minutes until the rain came! Saw three different types of monkey (howler, spider and cappuccino), caimans and many different species of birds including herons and kingfishers. The large lanchas from the luxury lodges were a real pain - the boats are loud, the tour guides are loud and some of the people in the boats (no nationalities mentioned) were loud, all of which doesnt help in getting close up to the animal and bird life without scaring them off. After about an hour and a half the tour was abruptly interrupted by rain - seriously tropical torrential rain - as it absolutely pelted it down. We carried on for a bit in the rain, especially down a waterway where there was some pretty good shelter from overhanging vegetation on both sides of the canal, but it became impossible after a while ... no way we were going to see anything more in those conditions so we paddled as hard as possible to get the canoe back to the village. Still only just after 8am when we got back (as we had started at 6am) so I went back to bed and it seemed to rain solidly until lunchtime. After lunch it brightened up a bit so I went for a walk in the national park, which is a thin area of forest land between the canal and the sea. There is a trail through the forest which runs parallel and close to the beach so its possible to walk along both as you like. Didnt see much wildlife but it was pleasant trekking, apart from the damned insects who bit me to shreds on my face and neck (long trousers and insect repellent on the arms did the trick there ... don't normally get bitten elsewhere). On Monday morning I caught an early boat back along the canal to Moin - the boat driver seemed to be in a hurry and was really motoring on the way back as we did the journey in under two hours compared to three on the way there ... but we still managed to stop along the way at a sandbank to see two rather large crocodiles on the bank and then slinking their way into the water - after that I decided to stop dipping my hands in the canal over the side of the boat.

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