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Green Ibis in Tortuguero National Park, Costa Rica | SBPR
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Uncommon Photo-Op: Wildlife Safari in Tortuguero, Costa Rica

Uncommon Photo-Op: Wildlife Safari in Tortuguero, Costa Rica

The days start early at Mawamba Lodge in the heart of Tortuguero on Costa Rica’s remote Caribbean coast. Rowdy local residents make sure…

Whoop! Whoop! Whoop! WHOOOOOOOP!!!!

It was just after dawn and by the sound of things there was already no time to waste. The howler monkeys were anxious to introduce us to their friends.

As noted before, Tortuguero National Park is absolutely teeming with all manner of uniquely exotic animals. The howler’s, one of three different types of monkeys you’ll encounter here, were easily the most boisterous. As we set out on a rainy September morning in a small boat toward the canals that intersect the 120+ square mile of protected jungle here, I was sure I’d manage to capture a few good images of the large and loud welcoming committee.

Deep within Tortuguero National Park, Costa Rica | SBPR
Deep within Tortuguero National Park, Costa Rica | SBPR

No dice.

They were just a bit too fast and camera shy. At the same time, the generally adept 14-150mm lens on my Olympus E-P3 camera couldn’t quite give me the close-ups I desired. (You’d think I would’ve learned my lesson after this swamp safari.)

Not all was lost, though, as several other Tortuguero residents were all-too-happy to have their pics taken. The green ibis duo above couldn’t seem to care less as we floated to within a few feet of their perch.

The tiger heron below, though, was a little more perturbed.

Tiger Heron nesting in Tortuguero National Park, Costa Rica | SBPR
Tiger Heron nesting in Tortuguero National Park, Costa Rica | SBPR

He was napping as we approached, the eye you see staring back at you above opening for the first time just as I snapped this image. Prior to that, you could hardy tell where his head ended and his body began, so curled tight was he/she in the chilly morning air.

Also causing a few chills, at least for the reptile-averse among us, this guy…

Jesus Lizard, so named because of his ability to walk on water | SBPR
Jesus Lizard, so named because of his ability to walk on water | SBPR

This practically neon-green lizard actually walks on water, thus his name: Jesus Lizard. Like the monkeys continuing their racket above, our green friend darted off this perch rather quickly as well.

This next guy, though, stood his ground like he owned the whole jungle…

Agami Heron, Tortuguero National Park, Costa Rica | SBPR
Agami Heron, Tortuguero National Park, Costa Rica | SBPR

Like a boss, right? He let us get so close that I swear we could’ve shook hands… if he had hands, of course.

Still the monkeys carried on above, their calls and whoops seeming to mock my futile attempts at photographing them. The rain grew harder. Our boat steered back to Mawamba. I was left wanting for a return safari adventure, this time with more powerful equipment…

Tortuguero is located 52 miles northwest of Limon or about 160 miles by car and boat from San José. The whole area is accessible solely by air or boat – there are no cars or roads in the village or the National Forest. If you’re coming by car, get yourself to Moín near Puerto Limon where you can pick up a boat to the village.

Or better yet, contact the folks at Mawamba Lodge and let them take care of all of the details for you. Tortuguero isn’t the kind of place you just roll up into and figure out as you go. It takes some advance planning to enjoy it to the fullest, a service the folks at Mawamba Lodge are especially good at providing.

Tortuguero National Park is open daily from 8am to 6pm. You’ll want to get in as early as possible to see the most animals, and because the number of visitors allowed in the park at any one time is carefully regulated. Entry fee is US$7.

For more information on Mawamba Lodge, visit them online.

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