Turtle hunting

Trip Start Jun 20, 2007
Trip End Sep 03, 2007

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Flag of Costa Rica  ,
Monday, July 9, 2007

Time for some hardcore nature watching. Tortuguero is an extremely remote village on the east coast of Costa Rica. From the south (where we were coming from) its a three hour boat ride from Moin, itself 15 minutes by cab outside Limon. From the west its 3 hours by bus followed by two hours by boat. There is no town north of it. The town itself is only reached by boat and is tiny in the extreme, with a couple of minimarkets, several souvenir shops and a host of tour operators, all of whom offer the same tours albeit at slightly differing prices. One word of warning though, there is no ATM in Tortuguero. We (by which I mean I) managed somehow to miscount our cash and noticed on our first night that we had very little cash.We had a frantic hour or so trying to find a shop to give us an advance on a credit card, which we eventually did.

We took the boat from Moin, leaving in an incredible rain storm, which meant that we endured the entire journey with wet clothes. The scenery as we went through the rivers and canals was great and on a couple of the wider rivers we saw crocodiles basking on sand banks. They usually headed into the water at the sound of the motor but some didn't. There were loads of birds and monkeys too but they were even harder to see, due to the noise of the boat which sent them looking for cover.

The whole point of our trip to Tortuguero was to see nesting green turtles,who come ashore from July to October. We were very early in the season but fingers crossed that they'd be ashore when we were there. All the things to see in Tortuguero have to be booked with a tour agency and there are loads of them. The tours are the same no matter who you go with so shopping around can really save the dollars. Also, to repeat, there are no ATMs here so bringing enough cash is very important, especially as its an expensive couple of days.
We booked our turtle tour on arrival with Bony Scott and our other tours (canoe, Cerro Tortuguero) with Ernesto which proved to about $5 dollars cheaper for them. The turtle tour itself was not as expected. We got lucky and one did come ashore eventually, whereas the previous day none had come in. So no complaints there but be prepared for a long wait this early in the season. We got there around 8.30 and waited for our guide to let us know a turtle had arrived until about 10.30. We took a boat then walked for 15 minutes to get to where it was. There were loads of other people there too and as a result we only got to file past as it laid the eggs. The guides are really careful not to let people shine lights on the turtle and they just use an infra red torch so that you can see the egg laying. It would be great to see the whole process where they drag themselves out, lay, cover up the nest and head back but it wasnt to be. We might try again further up the Carribbean, in Belize or Honduras.

It turned out to be a late enough night so we didnīt bother to book the canoe tour (6am start) for the next morning. In the afternoon we took a water taxi to Cerro Tortuguero, a hill nearby which is the highest point for miles around and affords excellent views. The hike was fine, only about 45 minutes each way and really enjoyable. We could hear howler monkeys all the way but never saw them. There were loads of frogs and some serious spiders though.

Next day we did the canoe tour, which I would recommend to anyone. Steer clear of the motorboats and get in a canoe! There were nine in ours which made me a little worried as we were very low in the water especially when motorboats were passing but we were fine. There was a paddle each so we could help our guide,something I felt was only right with so many in the boat. Unfortunately only a couple of others agreed with me and three really annoying people at the front of the boat didn't lift a paddle once.

We saw loads on this tour with an otter, caiman, loads of birds and monkeys. A spider monkey and her baby crossed the river through the branches overhead which was really cool. After the tour we took another boat ride upriver for the bus journey to San Jose, with more crocodiles on this journey.
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