Tortuguero National Park
This is one of the parks where a small canoe is the best option to roam around and catch wildlife, compared to walking. We spent the entire day in the park and village, yet seemed too less in terms of a wholly immersive time. Our tour guide (Jessica and Francisco), who we found miraculously, were amazing. Starting from their hospitality, timeliness, and care to make sure we got the best experience possible. Read more about them and their reviews in Tripadvisor.
Here are the highlights of our day in the park –
We started our tour around 8-30am, which is by far the best time to spot wildlife after the park opens around 8am. Francisco took the two of us around the canals in his little canoe and on the way pointing towards the numerous herons, iguanas, migratory birds, turtles, snakes, monkeys, and other interesting plants and trees that adapted for survival in these harsh environments. We even went within a foot of a Caiman waiting for its prey. It rained for a little bit and we took shelter under a tree that acted as a natural umbrella. With insects and animals all around us, danger lurking right below our little canoe, snakes hissing from the wood next to us, our voyage through the narrow (sometimes less than 6 feet wide) canals and passage ways was truly a humbling experience.
Walking during the day
In the afternoon, we hiked in the park. With one ticket, you can reenter the park multiple times. In the hike, make sure to get boots. We got them from Tanya next door, and the prices were reasonable. During the hike, Francisco made sure we saw many animals, and unlike other tour guides we had in CR, he was especially keen in giving us a fantastic experience. We saw pit vipers, howler monkeys, beautiful toucans, and several other unique insects. Spotting toucans were by far the most elusive as they hovered in the top most branches of the canopied forest and apart from their sharp voice, it is impossible even to know of their presence. At one point, in our quest for the bird, we stumbled upon a beautiful eyelash pit viper. A tiny golden hued coil camouflaged within yellow-green leaves of a bamboo tree lurked apparent danger. We also spotted some other colorful insects that made the journey through the forest enjoyable.
It felt like we could never get enough of the rainforest, be it in the day or in pitch black darkness. A 2-3 hour walk after dark in a small group started from the La Pavona pier area. With flashlights, opulent bugspray and rubber hiking boots, we walked around the park through the bushes and along barely used trails. On our way, we spotted night frogs, spiders, and other scary looking insects. In a quest to spot some sloths and bats, we encountered some raccoons and smaller mammals hidden in the bushes too.