Costa Rica 2011

Costa Rica is the original eco-tourism destination, and is still one of the best places in the world to view wildlife and enjoy the beauty of nature.  Nearly one third of the country is protected in a network of well over a hundred national parks and reserves, many of which are world-famous.  During our time here we will explore the highlights of Costa Rica from north to south, and east to west.  Our adventure takes us to the inland waterways of Tortuguero National Park, where we look for Central American spider monkey, mantled howler monkey and the gravity-defying basilisk lizard.  From here we travel to the perfect cone of the active Arenal volcano, where we venture up into the canopy on aerial walkways; and then to the cloud-forests of the Central Highlands in search of resplendent quetzals.  We end our expedition by heading south to the remote Osa Peninsula, and to spectacular Corcovado National Park, home to 140 species of mammals and over 400 species of birds.

Day 01,                      April 24th

We arrive in San Jose, capital of Costa Rica, and transfer to our beautiful hotel which is set in forest on the outskirts of the city.  This evening we meet for our Welcome Dinner.

Day 02,                      April 25th

After breakfast we begin our adventure with a drive through Costa Rica’s varied landscapes, towards Tortuguero National Park on the Caribbean coast.  We travel through the pristine rainforest of Braulio Carrillo National Park, and on into agricultural land dotted with banana plantations.  At Caño Blanco we will be met by our hotel launch for the two hour cruise through the canals to Tortuguero National Park, looking out en route for spectacled caiman and numerous waterbirds, such as roseate spoonbill, jabiru stork and bare-throated tiger heron.

Tortuguero is a small village with no cars.  Dugout canoes are the main form of transport.  The National Park protects over 320 species of birds, including all six species of kingfisher found in the New World, three species of toucan, and 8 species of parrot, including the endangered great green macaw.  The Park is also home to four of the world’s eight species of marine turtle.  Tortuguero gets its name from the Spanish word for turtle, and is the largest nesting ground for green turtles in Costa Rica. Our visit does not fall during the main laying season for green turtles, but we may see leatherback or hawksbill turtles laying eggs at this time.

Day 03,                      April 26th

The canals are the best way to get around this area, and are great fun to explore. This system of rivers and man-made channels parallels the coast and cuts through beautiful primary forest.  One of the wettest regions in the country, it is also home to some of its greatest biological diversity.  During our two days here we take boat tours through the canals, and along Tortuguero’s coast, looking for the abundant wildlife, which includes mantled howler monkey, Central American spider monkey and white-faced capuchin monkey, as well as brown-throated three-toed sloth, Neotropic river otter, and American crocodile.

Day 04;                      April 27th

This morning we take the launch back to the main dock, and transfer to the beautiful town of Sarapiquí.  It is named after the river that crosses the zone, and the town rests at the base of the Central Volcanic Mountain Range.  Bordered by the Tortuguero Plains to the east, the Braulio Carrillo National Park to the South, and the Monteverde and Arenal areas to the West, it is one of the most productive food areas in the country, producing pineapples, bananas, rice, heart of palm and much more.  The humid rainforest that blankets this area also makes it home to a great variety of mammal and bird species.   

Day 05;                      April 28th

Today we spend the day looking for the fauna and flora of the world-renowned La Selva Biological Reserve.  La Selva was established in 1954 to research the management of natural resources.  It is now one of the most important centres for research on tropical lowland rainforest, with more than 200 scientific papers being published per annum.  As well as being a research facility, La Selva is also home to a diverse range of fauna, including the four primate species and two sloth species found in Costa Rica, as well as northern tamandua and white-lipped peccary.  Nearly half of the 850 species of birds in Costa Rica have been identified here, and the varied habitats include beautiful old-growth forest, as well as an arboretum that is a showcase for 1,000 trees. 

Day 06;                      April 29th

Following breakfast we drive to Arenal, home to one of the five active volcanoes in Costa Rica. A perfect cone emerging 5,300 feet from gentle green hills, Arenal first became active in 1968 when it erupted spectacularly.  This afternoon we head to the Hanging Bridges, a series of aerial walkways and bridges set deep in the rainforest and high up in the canopy.  The Hanging Bridges let us experience the rain forest from a bird’s eye view.   As we explore the forest we may be lucky enough to see capuchin monkeys at eye-level.  This evening we can relax in the thermal waters at our luxurious hotel, with its unrivalled views of the Arenal volcano.   

Day 07;                      April 30th

After a delicious breakfast we drive to Cano Negro Biological Refuge, one of the world’s most important wetlands – designated a RAMSAR site in 1991.  We explore this area by boat, looking out for two- and three-toed sloths hanging motionless in the trees, “Jesus Christ” basilisk lizards walking on the black, tannin-rich waters, and numerous waterbirds, including glossy Ibis, limpkin, American anhinga, northern jacana, and snail kite. There is also the chance of seeing a bull shark, far from the sea, hunting for fish in the fresh waters. 

Day 08;                      May 1st

This morning we travel to Savegre Private Biological Reserve, located in a narrow valley high in the cloud forest of the Talamanca Mountains.  Our cosy, family-run lodge is at an elevation of 7,220 feet above sea level.  The Reserve covers nearly 1,000 acres of mainly primary forest.  It is less well-known than some of the other cloud-forests in Costa Rica, and so fewer tourists find their way here.  As a result we have an exclusive experience, and a better chance of seeing mammals and birds: the highlight for most visitors being a glimpse of the resplendent quetzal.

Day 09;                      May 2nd

Today we explore the ethereal cloud forest around Savegre Lodge in search of some of the 170 species of birds that are found here.  In addition to the resplendent quetzal, there are also 10 species of hummingbird, several of which come to the feeders dotted around the lodge.  This is a wonderful place to get great photographs of these flying jewels.  The forest itself is also a highlight, a fairytale habitat with towering oaks and laurels playing host to countless species of orchids and bromeliads.

Day 10;                      May 3rd

After breakfast we continue our journey south towards the Osa Peninsula, home to the famous and remote Corcovado National Park.  We cannot drive into the national park, and so we say goodbye to the road at Sierpe, where we board a speed-boat for the remainder of our journey.  From here we travel down the Sierpe River, through the mangroves (where we look for Central American squirrel monkey), and out to sea.  Access to our lodge, and to the national park, is from the ocean.  The national park covers the south-western corner of the Peninsula, and protects the most pristine rainforest on the Pacific Coast of Central America.  This 100,000 acre park was established in 1975, and protects 140 species of mammals, nearly 400 species of birds, and more than 500 species of trees.  Costa Rica’s largest population of scarlet macaws are found here, along with Baird’s tapir, both white-lipped and collared peccaries, and all four species of primate found in Costa Rica. Our lodge is in the heart of the rainforest, the only lodge which actually borders the National Park, and is a wonderful place to base our explorations.

Day 11, 12 & 13;      May 4th, 5th & 6th

Each morning we wake to the sound of the rainforest. After an early breakfast it will be time to head out for our daily adventure. We will undertake a different activity each day, including hiking in the National Park looking for mammals and birds; taking a boat trip to beautiful Caño Island for snorkelling and to look dolphins; as well as visiting Sirena Station to look for the elusive Baird’s tapir.

Day 14;                      May 7th

We enjoy our last morning at Casa Corcovado, before transferring to the local airport to fly to San Jose. During the afternoon we explore the city of San Jose, visiting the beautiful National Theatre and the Gold Museum, before returning to our hotel for our farewell dinner

Day 15;                      May 8th

Transfer to the International Airport for our flights home.

 

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