Off the beaten track wildlife in Costa Rica

March 18, 2019
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The aptly named resplendent quetzal.

Owen shares his experiences from Costa Rica’s famous wildlife trail.

For me, 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, I was up early 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, I was able to begin spotting wildlife 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 though 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 meters or so from my 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 can carry them is a very special sight and a wonderful first day in Costa Rica.

The next day I was up at dawn for an optional ‘awakening’ boat trip, heading back to the lodge briefly for breakfast before heading out again on a second boat trip after breakfast. Both were well worth doing, and 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, and with their bright red and green colours and long tail feathers they did live up to the name.

We also saw a great variety of hummingbirds, some no bigger than your thumb. And the rest of the day I 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 I 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 fully 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 pick up by Lapa Rios and the start of the rainforest adventure. It takes around 45 minutes in a 4×4 to get there, and the lodge itself is completely surrounded by primary and secondary rainforest. Simply walking to your bungalow is a chance to see 4 kinds of 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, and there is a nice selection of forest hikes and birdwatching trips to keep you busy and lets you learn about the forest, the wildlife and the impressive conservation efforts being made in the area which are helping to maintain the forests, plus there is a beach nearby too if you need a moment to relax.
I then took a small 20 passenger plane back to San Jose for the end.

If you’d like to see Costa Rica for yourself get in touch Owen on 0208 546 6222


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