Tortuguero

Trip Start Jan 01, 2014
1
10
Trip End Jul 31, 2014


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Flag of Costa Rica  , Province of Limon,
Tuesday, June 24, 2014

School was over for the girls and most of our friends had left Monteverde, so it was time for us to explore another part of Costa Rica. Tortuguero had a number of draws for us. It is one of the most remote areas in the country as it is only accessible by airplane or boat, it has a huge national park where you are surrounded by rainforest, and it is an important nesting site for the amazing green sea turtle. Taking advantage of a super cheap one way ticket on a regional airline (let's put it this way- the taxes were more than the ticket), we flew out of San Jose at dawn and a half an hour later were looking down on an amazing site: green jungle all around, a large network of canals and the waves of the Caribbean crashing on the large beach in the distance. We landed on a dirt airstrip in the middle of the jungle and were taken to our hotel in Tortuguero Village by boat taxi. Our hotel was nestled among the other buildings of the village that lined the main canal with docks sticking out into the water. You noticed right away that while there were many boats of all kinds on the water, there wasn't one person IN the water. This is crocodile territory! 

 Very early the next morning we had a guide, Roberto, take us out in his quiet electric motor boat to explore the canals of the National Park area. A very nice young couple from England that was also staying at our hotel joined us. We enjoyed getting to know them while Roberto puttered through the canals, pointing out plants, birds and wildlife along the way. We saw a group of Spider monkeys playing in the trees, large iguanas, a green heron sitting on her nest, toucans, and even a Caiman hiding deep in the weeds near the shore. At one point Roberto pulled the boat way into a small canal off of the main canal and we just sat there for a while listening to the pulsing of the jungle, the myriad of insects and birds joining together in a chorus that surrounded us. 

The rest of the day we enjoyed exploring the village, which has a number of tourist shops loaded with things all things turtle, and the beach, (again nobody is in the water- rough surf, riptides and sharks keep people out)! We also took out a large canoe from the hotel to explore the canal a bit. The girls and I were a bit freaked out about being in a canoe with crocs around, but luckily we just saw birds and monkeys!

We headed down to check out the Turtle Conservancy Research center, which has a small museum and information about the famous turtles that come to nest. Tortuguero is one of the most important Caribbean nesting sites for the green sea turtle, and while we were there at the beginning of the nesting season we were really hoping to see one.  We spent a long time chatting with one of the research associates, a nice young man from Spain, who explained to us all of the things they do when they have a turtle that comes onto the beach to lay her eggs. We saw the tools they use to measure and tag the turtle and the counters they use to count the eggs (up to 120!). We learned about the history of the area and how over the years the area turned around from poaching and selling the sea turtle eggs to a focus on tourism and protection, which has been much more profitable and sustainable.The conservancy and an association of guides, which you need to go out on the beach at night to look for the turtles, have been very successful in protecting the green and other varieties of turtles that come there to nest. We knew we only had a 50% chance of actually seeing a turtle come to nest, but the couple  we were with on the boat had seen one the night before, so we were very hopeful we would have a lucky night!

Our guide came to get us at 9:30 that night to take us out on the beach and she explained the rules to us. We would walk the beach for two hours looking for turtles. No cameras or flashlights, which would scare any turtles coming onto the beach, and she would be in communication with the other guides by phone if anyone spotted any activity. She had a special red flashlight to see with and we would walk in pairs behind her. It was raining slightly as we set out on the beach. It was warm and humid so we were all sweating in our raincoats. It was almost surreal being out there in the beach, in the total darkness, the waves of the sea crashing on one side and the humming of the jungle on the other. Our eyes adjusted to the darkness and I could see the girls up ahead of us behind the guide holding each others hands. We trudged along through the sand at a fast pace, following closely behind our guide who lead us around big logs and other debris that had washed up on the beach. We walked all the way to one end of the beach, then turned around and took a break in the sand for a while. At this point the girls were fading. They were hot and sweaty, and getting really tired. The rain had stopped and the moon was peaking out from behind the clouds. We all continually scanned the beach and the surf hoping to see something emerging. As we started to head back towards town, the guide got a phone call and we heard her speak in Spanish that no, we hadn't seen anything. It just wasn't our night. When we got back we talked about our disappointment, but also about how amazing and beautiful it was to be out there, and that we were glad we had given it a try. It was close to midnight, and we all collapsed into bed.

We finished up our time in Tortuguero with a night at a resort off of the main canal and further into the rainforest. This was a fancier place for sure, and the girls' eyes were popping when we got off the boat and they had welcome drinks for us-- just like Fantasy Island! There were beautifully landscaped grounds, a big pool with a waterfall, and all of the buildings and walkways were  raised up on stilts. Most of the day was spent poolside, and at one point a big family of white faced capuchin monkeys came swinging through. They were climbing and swinging in all of the trees, and a mama with a baby on her back came walking right by me. So much fun to watch them! We took some tandem kayaks out and explored a small side channel, and then had more pool time. 

The rain started up that evening and kept on through the next morning until it was time for us to leave. We had an hour long ride on a boat through the twisting turning channels that were swollen with water from all of the rain. We got to the main dock which was busy with other boats full of tourists, and also crews loading supplies onto other boats to bring into the village.There we waited for our bus that took us on the five hour long journey back to San Jose. Even though we missed out on seeing the sea turtles we were so glad we had experienced this amazing and beautiful part of Costa Rica!

 
 
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Comments

Tracy on

Beautiful pictures and post.

kita mcvay on

I feel like I am right there with you on this adventure, thanks to your fluid and colorful writing, Alice. What a fabulous adventure - though my heart is in my throat when I look at the photo of the kayak in crocodile waters. And thank you for supplying the footage of a sloth in motion; it adds to my fondness for those little critters.
Safe travels; we are thinking of you always.
Lots of love -

Paul Vargo on

Hi Johnsons! We enjoy living vicariously through your blog posts. Great descriptions and photos. Keep them coming. Hope your remaining travels continue to be fun and eventful only in the good sense.

Julie K. on

Wonderful photos and descriptions of each location. Hope the rest of your travels go as well.

Brigi on

Hi Johnsons, Thank you to include me in the list of friends to get those wonderful diaries and pictures of your trip. What a gift for the girls and you, life time memories. Alice you are an amazing, talented writer. So fascinating that it gives me the feeling to be there. I am sorry that your trip and so our entertainment comes to en end, but happy to welcome you back. Love Brigi

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