PN Tortuguero, Costa Rica

The Flooded Costa Rica of Tortuguero

Mrs. of Tortuguero
A Lady sheltered by a large tortoise sculpture, outside La Pavona.
Palma channel below
Public boat transports passengers through the Canal de Palma.
Tortuguero. El Pueblito de
A resident of Tortuguero passes behind the village's two avian statues.
golden afternoon
Couple under the porch of their house in the village of Tortuguero.
Great Fishing
Don Emílio and his sons return from another fishing trip on the Tortuguero river, with large sea bass.
lazy maternity
Sloth mother holds a cub and looks for the sun after a long period of rain.
Socializing by the water
Friends live in a house on the banks of the Tortuguero canal.
anhinga anhinga
PN Tortuguero, Costa Rica
Intersection in the Channel
Captain Mainor maneuvers one of the many boats that navigate the Tortuguero canals.
dizzy iguana
Iguana climbs back up a tree after an ostentatious fall in his sleep.
The sun sets over the horizon and gilds the Caribbean coast of Tortuguero, on Costa Rica's northeast coast.
The Caribbean Sea and the basins of several rivers bathe the northeast of the Tica nation, one of the wettest and richest areas in flora and fauna in Central America. Named after the green turtles nest in its black sands, Tortuguero stretches inland for 312 km.2 of stunning aquatic jungle.

Traveling 50km across the rural and sunny Limon province, the road threshold of La Pavona quickly puts the dots in the i's in terms of the illusion of some barometric goodness.

We were still heading for the protection of the bar-restaurant when leaden and unrelenting clouds cast a deluge over the shipboard.

At a time when the boats lightened, we climbed aboard the boat we would follow with final destination to Tortuguero. Waiting for other passengers, we went back out on photographic prospecting.

We find ourselves trapped by another rain under a rough shelter of beams and planks.

Blessing it and the newcomers to the riverside a sanctuary the like of which we had never seen, composed of a leggy turtle carved from dark wood.

And, under the high carapace, a bright green statuette of what looked to us like Our Lady holding a baby Jesus.

Finally, with everyone on board, Carlos Arceyut, the host at Laguna Lodge welcomes us, introduces us to the captain of the boat Minor.

Minor sets sail for the Suerte, a tributary of the Tortuguero River, another of several rivers that flow from the Cordillera Central towards the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica and that flood vast areas in its path, as is the case of the de Caño Negro, further west.

After 20 minutes, as if by a miracle of the unusual divinity, the clouds open up. For almost an hour, under a dome that was almost azure blue, we zigzagged through the meanders of the Suerte, until we entered a wide channel pointing to the town of San Francisco and the Laguna Penitência.

Folding the hook of an Isla Quatro Esquinas, we left a passenger in the village of Tortuguero. We went back up the channel parallel to that of Laguna da Providência until, about the scheduled time, we anchored at Laguna Lodge.

Laguna Lodge, between the Tortuguero Canals and the Caribbean Sea

There we settled, between the last channel of the trip and the Caribbean Sea and, as soon as we went out onto the porch of our room, we were already in contact with the surrounding fauna.

A great thud makes us startled. It occurs to us that it should have caused a coconut discarded by its coconut tree.

A closer look reveals a large iguana that has just fallen from the top of a tree and sprawled on the wet ground. We accompanied her, unharmed but somewhat stunned, as she returned to her interrupted sleep in the heights.

In a unique setting and ecosystem like that, we didn't want to waste even a minute. Accordingly, we returned to the canal, once again captained by Mainor and guided by Carlos Arceyut.

Tortuguero's Almost Amphibious and Risky Life

We scour the vegetation on the banks for animals when a trio aboard a canoe “rosmery”, struggling to row against the current, catches our attention. “It's Mr. Emílio and his children.” tells us Carlos. “They went fishing at the mouth of the river. Let's see what they caught"

Carlos questions them. Moments later, the fishermen show us a huge sea bass and a snapper just a little smaller. “For them, fishing like this is routine. They know these channels like no one else and have been through it all.

Just to give you an idea, once, one of Mr. Emílio's children was attacked by a crocodile, even close to where they caught these fish. Do you know how he got away with it? Hit him with a stick. That's not why they stopped going back there.”

Emile and his descendants were not the only ones to refuse to be intimidated by the omnipresence of the voracious reptiles.

A few hundred meters upstream, we crossed paths with another trio, this time aboard the canoe “Miss Sibella”. Dona Rosana, Axel and Genesis fished for river shrimp, which they unraveled from floating islands of vegetation. We established a new approach.

Despite a certain initial shyness, they also remind us that they live on water and that if crocodiles kept them away from the canals, they would not be able to live. “Anyway, it's to avoid any hassles that I have the canoe between me and the bank. We do what we can.”

Tortuguero, the Caricata Village

The sun was almost setting over the jungle to the west. We continued the navigation towards the Tortuguero village. We landed to the sound of cumbia coming from a street bar, at that hour, with few customers.

More than the Caribbean soundtrack, it is the imposition of an unusual nucleus of statues that takes us seriously.

Just in front of the pier, beyond the colony of tires that cushion the mooring of boats and above a multicolored playground, a green macaw coexisted with a toucan. A few yards to the left, two polar bears sat on a shed enjoying the birds' chatter and their flickering reflection in the dark water of the canal.

The raison d'être of birds was clear to us. That of polar bears lacked an explanation. “Ah! It stayed there from an advertising or sponsorship of an ice cream brand.

I think it was Eskimo.” elucidates us Carlos.

Statues on the sidelines, the hamlet of Tortuguero was generated by ancestors, mestizos of Afro-Caribbeans, Indigenous Miskitos and immigrants from far away places.

From the Origins of Tortuguero to the Rewarding Return to Laguna Lodge

It was mainly developed by the need for labor in cocoa plantations, which, due to its imminence, ended up giving rise to additional exports of turtle meat, also for the USA and Europe.

We admired the way the sunset gilded the houses of Tortuguero. Exhausted from a whole day of road and river travel, we decided to exchange the intriguing dimness of the village for the cozy shelter, which recharges energy at Laguna Lodge.

While we ate, we resisted an attempted assault by a family of hungry coatis.

We went to bed early, convinced that we would face a new sunny day, full of newness and activity, like the one that was closing. We were wrong and it was not little.

An Unexpected Meteorological Dramatism

In the middle of the night, a roar like the Caribbean Sea passing over the room makes us wake up with a start. When we looked out the window, we realized that it was a deluge rain, pushed from the north by almost cyclonic gusts of wind.

The Caribbean hurricane season had ended some ten days ago. Still, in December, it is common for cold fronts to descend across Central America and release their moisture and fury on the Caribbean side.

Bategas followed each other every night. They continued throughout the day. They agitated and inflated the grayish Caribbean Sea and, there, even in calm times, not suitable for bathing, due to the strong currents and the abundance of bull sharks.

Every other day has passed. The storm has not passed.

In this meteorological disaster so natural in the rainy Tortuguero, the Caribbean Sea was limited to projecting its waves almost to the coconut forest.

In the canal, the water rose before our eyes. He invaded the pier. He climbed the edge of the garden.

In that time, three times, Luís Torres, another guide at the service of the lodge, appeared at our service and, to our shared frustration, saw his services postponed for us.

So it went on until, two tenebrous and stormy dawns later, on the third, the bad weather took over.

We wake up without rain or wind. Instead of the angry sky unfurling over our heads, a gentle mist massaged the verdant top of the jungle.

Finally, Back to the Channels of PN Tortuguero

When we finish breakfast, Luís Torres is once again ready at the pier, accompanied by the boat's captain, Chito, nickname that replaced his real name Braulio.

“This time it really is, Luís, don't worry. It is, and it will be soon”, we assure you, imbued with the same evasive anxiety as the guide. Minutes later, we were browsing the channel.

The predicted territory was much wider than that of the opening day. And yet, it was enough for us to cross to the opposite bank to marvel at it.

After the long soaked punishment, like us, a good part of the animals yearned for the sun caress. Chito and Luís detect a family of howler monkeys in a tree.

As we admire and photograph them, they find a lazy mother, still soaked, dozing in the sun, with a winking cub on her back.

Enthusiastic about the absolute setback in the luck that Tortuguero kept for us, we made an effort to leave the creatures to their perennial sleep.

We point once more to the village of statue birds and then to the hook of the canal. In the extension of the village, we reach the entrance of the homonymous National Park.

After three days of access and forced shelter, we finally reached the wild and flooded heart of Tortuguero National Park.

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