Flooded Forest

Trip Start Jul 18, 2009
Trip End Aug 03, 2009

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Where I stayed

Flag of Costa Rica  , Limón,
Monday, July 20, 2009

It was an early start, a 6.00 boat ride but with us still adjusting to the time difference it was easy to get up. A quick coffee was gulped down and our group loaded into two smaller motor boats for a trip down the Tortuguero Canal. The canal are an extensive system of man-made and natural waterways and provide an easy way to explore the jungle of this area.

The rain started to pour and out came my bargain plastic ponchos 2 a time off ebay. Unfortunately black was not a good colour choice as we looked like four bin bags in the back of the boat, some more filled than others! “Very budget” was the boys’ reaction and I felt myself very jealous of the posh white plastic ponchos worn by others. Getting wet seemed preferable to wearing these refuse sacks but luckily the rain stopped and we were able to quickly rip them from our bodies and stow them in our bags never to see the light of day again.

The rain seemed to make all wildlife take flight and it wasn’t until it stopped that we started to see some. The first was a Anhinga drying its wings after the downpour and then my first toucan, a long way away but unmistakable. Next was a large Green Iguana high up in a tree relaxing as only iguanas can, catching a few rays. I hadn't realised what good climbers these huge lizards are and iguanas high up in the branches was a common sight throughout the holiday.  The flora of this place is amazing, the most common trees are the Hawk Trees named because the seed pods resemble hawks in flight,  they grow uninhibited along the banks of the river. Many species of trees found in Tortuguero form large buttressed root systems to support their massive height and weight in the shallow, tropical soil. We took a small tributary known as the Palm Canal and were amazed to see the water turn black caused by the tannin in it. It was like travelling through ink. Allan also took the boat under a Canadian Wildlife Refuge building on the riverside to see Long–nosed (Proboscis) Bats clinging to the underside of the wooden structure.

Back at the hotel we discovered outside our room that a large Basilisk Lizard had attached itself to a tree, a great opportunity to see one really close up. Walking around the extensive gardens yielded a wealth of wildlife – hummingbirds and huge iguanas. Colourful birds filled the trees and I was pleased I had bought a bird book before we had arrived so that I would be able to recognise what I had seen.

In the afternoon we went out for a second boat ride and saw spider monkeys along with a rather large black spider – a little too close for comfort! You certainly needed a guide here as often wildlife was  very well camourflaged and it needed local knowledge and very good eyesight to spot things, particularly when you are going along in a boat. There are manatees in the area and one tributary was off limits to the boats as it is an important area for them. One of the most common ways these animals get killed is by being hit by boats! We didn't see any and would have been exceedingly lucky if we had.

Later that afternoon, Allan took us on a jungle walk. It was a short boat ride up the river and consisted of a trail through the forest, much of it turned out to be flooded as we were to find out. “Hope you have sprayed against bugs or this won’t be fun” he called. My face must have dropped – what had we forgotten? Luckily one of our group came to the rescue with some DEET cream and we smeared it over legs and arms ready to face the fierce onslaught of mosquitoes that awaited.

Walk was probably a misnomer as it was more of a paddle as the path became flooded in areas and we were sloshing through 3 or 4 inches of water at times. Spiders (my pet hate) obviously loved the environment and were very much in evidence – sadly! Birds were also very much in evidence,  parakeets screeching unmistakably, vultures flying overhead. We were also to meet the dreaded Bullet Ant, whose bite felt like you had been shot or so the story went. We also saw termites' nests high in the trees forming a black, bulbous growth on the tree like a large wart. Another common sight is the long hanging roots of the strangling fig. These plants begin life as epiphytes, when their seeds, often bird-dispersed, germinate in crevices atop other trees. These seedlings grow their roots downward and envelope the host tree while also growing upward to reach into the sunlight zone above the canopy. Often the original host tree dies enveloped by the fig leaving a hollow area in the centre. We also saw Bare Throated Tiger Herons fishing at the river bank.

That evening we finished off with a couple of cocktails and some good food in the restaurant.

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