Off the beaten track: Wildlife in Costa Rica

March 18, 2019
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Costa Rica
The aptly named resplendent quetzal.

A Latin Routes Travel Specialist shares their experiences from Costa Rica’s famous wildlife trail.

The principal attraction of Costa Rica was the sheer variety of wildlife and eco-systems packed into such a tiny country. This short trip was focused on three main areas Tortuguero, San Gerardo and the Osa Peninsula, all very different from each other, but united in their abundance of wildlife including jaguars, tapirs, hummingbirds, quetzals and sea turtles.

After a night in the Central Valley to rest after the 10-hour flight from London, it was an early rise on the first morning heading north to Tortuguero National Park on the Caribbean coast. After a couple of hours on the bus and a typical Tico breakfast of rice and beans, it was time to leave the roads behind and speed along the rivers and canals into Tortuguero. Soon after boarding the boat, the amazing wildlife began popping up along the densely wooded banks including Caiman, Iguanas and Snow Egrets.

After arriving at the jungle lodge, there was time to relax by the pool, look round the large grounds and check out the frog pond. That evening was one of the real highlights of the trip, despite being November and therefore just outside the season (thankfully nature is always a little unpredictable) right on the beach just a hundred metres from the bungalow, thousands of baby green turtles were hatching. Each nest had around 60 – 80 tiny little turtles, and seeing them erupt out the sand and charge to the sea as fast as their little flippers could carry them, was a very special sight and a wonderful first day in Costa Rica.

Dawn arrived and it was time for an optional ‘awakening’ boat trip. A second boat trip was on the cards after breakfast. Both boat trips were quite different from each other – and really gave us a chance to get up close to sloths, spider monkeys, howler monkeys, river turtles, toucans, herons and plenty more.

The next destination was San Gerado de Dota, a peaceful village nestled in a mountain valley surrounded by cloud forest. It’s one of Costa Rica’s best kept secrets and a brilliant place for bird watching, the cooler climate and misty forest are a real contrast to the tropical coastal areas.

The key attraction here is the impressively named Resplendent Quetzal and seeing them called for an early start. We headed off at dawn and it only took 10 minutes to find a pair of them in a wild avocado tree. They really live up to their name, with their bright red and green colours and long tail feathers.

We also saw a great variety of hummingbirds, some no bigger than your thumb. The rest of the day was spent walking along the scenic woodland trails of both Trogon Lodge and Sevegre Lodge, before heading back to Trogon to try their famous trout for dinner.

The last destination was by far the most remote as we headed down to the Osa Peninsula, a truly remarkable region for anyone interested in wildlife. Described as “the most biologically intense place on earth” by National Geographic, it is thought to fit 2.5% of the world’s biodiversity into an area the size of London. The nearby Golfo Dulce is also a breeding ground for Whales and Dolphins and there a boat trips available when they are there.

We drove to Puerto Jiminez for the start of our rainforest adventure. It takes around 45 minutes in a 4×4 to get there, and the Lapa Rios lodge is completely surrounded by primary and secondary rainforest. Simply walking to your bungalow is a chance to see Monkeys, Coatis, huge Iguanas, Agoutis and plenty more so bring a torch, take your time and always have your camera to hand. The bungalows themselves give you a real feel of being in the jungle, particularly at night when you are totally surrounded by the strange sounds of the forest and you would swear you were outside!

Waking up at dawn to have a coffee on the balcony while the howler monkeys wake up is a great start to the day. There are a nice selection of forest hikes and birdwatching trips to keep you busy here and lots to learn about the forest, the wildlife and the impressive conservation efforts being made here which are helping to maintain the forests. Plus there is a beach nearby too if you need a moment to relax.

Departing for San Jose for the return trip home was a sad time, but as with every trip of a lifetime, as soon as you leave Costa Rica, you know its not ‘goodbye’ but ‘see you again soon’.

If you feel ready to begin creating your perfect Costa Rica holiday, simply complete the enquiry form to get in touch, or call our Travel Specialists on 0208 546 6222.

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