Tortuguero and Caribbean Coast

Trip Start Jan 26, 2005
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Costa Rica  ,
Friday, May 6, 2005

At last we have got rid of the 4x4 and are venturing by boat to the far northeast of Costa Rica. There are no roads, only rivers and canals. Managed to get charged nothing nothing for the damage to the car, pretty lucky! Dry season, so low water and lots of debris in the rivers made the journey to Tortuguero slow but lots of wildlife to entertain us. The canals were started in 1971 to for logging but in 1974 a Wildlife Refuge was set up and the area protected. It's slightly ironic that without the logging the recreation would be much more difficult. The main attraction is the turtle nesting. It is the most important site for the Green Turtle in the Western Hemisphere. We were very lucky and blagged our way into the program as a volunteer for a night. Normally the volunteers have to pay $1000 a week for the pleasure! We walked the beach for 5 hours only finding one leatherback, 1.57m long, beginning to nest. We logged the position, measured the turtle, checked its tag, checked the flippers and shell for any damage or injuries and let her get on with her job. A group of tourist did appear to take a look to her progress but we managed to observe the whole thing. Such magnificent beasts but their future looks grim. The conservation effort is helping but still the locals steal their eggs and hunt them, as with many other animals, including endangered cats and monkeys.

We also took a few canoe trips along the canals, looking for manatees, crocs, caiman, herons, kingfishers, snakes, monkeys, toucans, parrots, parakeets etc... as well as getting up at 4.15 for the sunrise and canoe trip. We only normally see the sunrise after a good night...

Hired a boat one afternoon, to head north a little and climb into the jungle to the peak of the area. Landed, had a beer cos it was so hot, chatted to the locals, wandered past their small holdings. The guide explained all the important local plants and trees... saw 3 types of bat, including vampire bats in a cave, lots of poison arrow frogs, toads, spider monkeys, various birds etc... back down for a beer and back to the village for a large night out.

Tortuguero is a lovely Caribe village, several souvenir shops but generally a very local and laid-back vibe. The locals are very friendly and chilled out about everything, so much more relaxed on this Caribbean coast. We ended up in the snake bar, a rough locals hangout with its share of fights but we managed to avoid them!

The 80km boat trip south to the main port gave us more wildlife opportunities but we seemed to turn it into a bar crawl, persuading the skipper to stop at most establishments en route! This took us to Cahuita, a lovely little town on the edge of a national park with the usaual array of flora and fauna plus a wonderful reef. We have since moved to Puerto Viejo, 15km south and are not doing a great deal. Today consisted of sleep lunch and maybe will find the energy for going out tonight... lots of hacking into coconuts and lazing in hammocks... until next time, when I should have done a little more!
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