Going with the flow in Tortuguero National Park - Day 567
We'd paid our US$15 each to enter Parque Nacional Tortuguero, and looking forward to seeing what wildlife we would spot in this fabulous protected wilderness early in the morning.
We were just with Kevin, a young couple from Switzerland and our driver, travelling down a wide lagoon of the Tortuguero National Park. Within a short while, we could see lots of leaves moving in a tall tree. A Mantled Howler monkey had been sitting, peacefully enjoying the early morning sun when some cheeky White-headed Capuchin monkeys ganged up, forcing him to move.
As we stopped to watch, a large black Darter bird sat with its wings spread out to get dry from its dawn dip. It wasn't the least bit bothered about us.
We sailed around a bend and Kevin had spotted something in the reeds. (no, I don't mean us). It was a big caiman lying perfectly still. They only grow to 2m, unlike their cousin the croc who grows to a whopping 7m in length.
After much snapping of cameras, we rode off and then saw two heavily laden canoes following our path. These precarious boats should only have a couple of passengers but, as Kevin said, the owners get greedy and pile the people in. A few of the passengers were standing capturing photos of the caiman.
Kevin did a rundown of what could happen: the caiman moves, the people veer to one side of the canoe, it tips, and they fall into the water. They panic, thinking that a 7m croc might come their way, so swim to the other boat, try and climb in resulting in this canoe also tipping over. The croc has dinner, and we capture a Youtube hit. I am glad we went with Kevin!
We sailed down a quieter creek which was Harold's canal; humanmade before the existence of the National Park and once used to transport logged timber. There are no roads or cars here, just waterways and boats to get around and explore.
We saw a couple of large iguanas and a few birds including a bare-throated tiger heron. In the 77,032 acres of National Park there are approx 375 species of birds with over a million using the area as a migratory stopover annually. You would have thought we'd see loads, but the surrounding rainforest is dense, making it hard to spot those pesky birds who are so good at hiding together with the elusive jaguar and manatee
Time to head back for breakfast and a wander around our hotel grounds were we saw another caiman and a freshwater turtle. The Swiss couple were lucky enough to spot a black, red and white striped poisonous snake!
We joined Kevin again and was taken to a larger hotel for a walk around its grounds and further into the rainforest. I must admit it felt a bit tame walking along a concrete path. Not what I was expecting. Where was the machete to cut through the undergrowth?
One of the hotel staff called Kevin over. Ten minutes previously, he had disturbed a giant boa constrictor. We all searched amongst the leaves and up a tree to find it — no such luck.
We did have a lovely walk but didn't see much wildlife apart from a few large spiders and bullet ants (not quite as big as those we saw in Malaysia) and a humming bird nest with two scrawny chicks in it. Ah!
In some way, we were lucky as it wasn't raining; it usually does. With 6m of rain annually, Tortuguero is one of the wettest places in Costa Rica. However, the storm does bring the animals out to play. Never mind. We did chase after a Toucan, but it won the game, and I only managed to get a snapshot of its head. Fabulous birds.
Our short trip here was drawing to a close. It would have been nice to explore further the diverse eleven different habitats that the Park is made up of including mangrove and rain forests, lagoons, swamps and beaches.
We didn't initially plan to come here. Our deciding factor was when we heard that our sons' friends Will and Rosie had moved to Panama and then our friend Eve, who we met in South Africa, with her sister Nathalie were in Nicaragua. As Costa Rica lays in between, well, it would be rude not too! And it's great going with the flow.