Tortuguero NP, Costa Rica

Tortuguero: From the Flooded Jungle to the Caribbean Sea

Keeping an eye on the Jungle
Guide Luis Torres tries to spot animals in the trees around one of the PN Tortuguero channels.
simian astonishment II
Spider monkey observes human visitors from the top of a coconut tree.
lizard Jesus Christ
Specimen of basilisk lizard, green as is usual on the "Caribbean side" of Costa Rica, as opposed to brown on the "Pacific side".
Boat about to dock on the bank of the Tortuguero channel closest to the Caribbean Sea.
golden afternoon
Couple under the porch of their house in the village of Tortuguero.
indolent iguana
Iguana on a tree at Laguna Lodge, Tortuguero.
Socializing by the water
Friends live in a house on the banks of the Tortuguero canal.
anhinga anhinga
Anhinga Anhinga pays attention to the movement of fish on the surface of one of the PN Tortuguero channels.
risky bath
A resident bathes in the Penitência de Tortuguero Lagoon.
Channel Navigation
Boat travels through a mirrored channel of PN Tortuguero.
simian astonishment
Howler Monkey amazed by the unexpected proximity of humans.
Great Fishing
Don Emílio and his sons return from another fishing trip on the Tortuguero river, with large sea bass.
little cayman
Cayman rests in a nursery full of his brothers in Caño Harold on PN Tortuguero.
The sun sets over the horizon and gilds the Caribbean coast of Tortuguero, on Costa Rica's northeast coast.
After two days of impasse due to torrential rain, we set out to discover the Tortuguero National Park. Channel after channel, we marvel at the natural richness and exuberance of this Costa Rican fluvial marine ecosystem.

continuation of  The Flooded Costa Rica of Tortuguero

We complete the entrance to the Tortuguero National Park through the whimsical fluvial intersection established by the Isla de Cuatro Esquinas.

As would happen on any road, at a certain point, a signpost, in this case, with yellow letters on a black background, subsumed in a corner full of vegetation, indicates the possible directions of navigation.

Not that Chito and Luís Torres, natives, experts in those parts, ever needed directions.

Guide, PN Tortuguero, Costa Rica

Guide Luis Torres tries to spot animals in the trees around one of the PN Tortuguero channels.

Accordingly, the duo follows Caño Água Fria above. Água Fria (Fold Water) because, as Luís explains, it is made of river water which, unlike other rivers nearby, comes directly from the mountains with a darker tone. The Água Fria channel flows full of nutrients.

The Freshness of the Fauna and Flora of Caño Água Fria

It feeds the surrounding lush flora, habitat for the panoply of creatures that we continued to see, especially birds and reptiles. We pass black ibises and anhingas that the locals call pianos, due to the kind of keyboard their black and white wings appear to form.

We find basilisk iguanas and lizards, also known as Jesus Cristos, due to the skill they exhibit in walking on water.

PN Tortuguero, Costa Rica

Specimen of basilisk lizard, green as is usual on the “Caribbean side” of Costa Rica, as opposed to the brown ones on the “Pacific side”.

We came across toucans, blue and white herons and families of jacanas.

If the long list of names that bears in Brazil and the rest of South America, in Costa Rica, the females of this species are referred to by bags mothers.

Enthusiastic about Tortuguero's peculiarities, Luís Torres explains: “it's that the mother lays the eggs and, like this and whenever she can, she goes for a walk and leaves the offspring in the male's care. Note that there are even two males back from their cubs, but the father is the one that the cubs don't hesitate to follow.”

Eccentric palm trees sprout from veritable walls of suffocating vines, at the base of the real trees of this tropical forest made Pantanal.

On the highest branches, woodpeckers perfect wild perforations.

Howler monkeys spread their dramatic howls through the jungle and, suspiciously, follow the passage of outsiders on board.

Howler Monkey, PN Tortuguero, Costa Rica

Howler Monkey amazed by the unexpected proximity of humans.

Here and there, the Tortuguero narrows. It forces Luís to go up to the bow and check if his depth and smoothness of the current allow us to continue ascending.

At one of these checks, the guide and the captain decide that we should turn around.

Isla de Cuatro Esquinas, the Central Entroncamento dos Caños do PN Tortuguero

As we approached the Isla de Cuatro Esquinas, we came across a lone visitor paying on a kayak, against the flow of the flow, still free to greet us without going back ten meters.

Another signpost for Isla de Cuatro Esquinas shows us the direction of three pipes neighbors, Harold's, Chiquero, Mora.

Directions board, PN Tortuguero, Costa Rica

A sign hidden by vegetation, next to Isla Cuatro Esquinas, indicates several indications.

The next morning, we would also tour the one in Palma.

We find it like a perfect mirror, its water was so dark and immobile, flanked by an even tighter jungle and, at intervals, traversed by the public boats that ensure the connection between La Pavona and the main towns of Tortuguero.

Vessel in Caño Palma, PN Tortuguero, Costa Rica

Boat travels along the Caño de Palma, one of several in Tortuguero.

During the time that had passed, as a joke, we upset Luís with the fact that we couldn't return to the lodge without photographing the star species that we were missing: a jaguar, a boar, crocodiles.

Luís responds with the patience of many years as a guide and humor that makes us all laugh. “Sure you don't want to make this list better? Well, let's look for some caimans that, yes, we have an obligation to show you.”

Traveled only a few hundred meters winding in one of the pipes signaled, we come to a dead end branch.

There, in a dense amphibious forest, Luís Torres shows us a cayman nursery, with twelve or thirteen little caimans out there, warming themselves supported by the foliage.

Juvenile Cayman, PN Tortuguero, Costa Rica

Cayman rests in a nursery full of his brothers in Caño Harold on PN Tortuguero.

Returning to the main channel, Chito detects a river turtle, camouflaged against vegetation of matching tones. It did not belong to the marine species that spawn in impressive numbers in the black sands of the Caribbean.

These, in their time, we would admire them.

Strategic Return to Laguna Lodge

And, speaking of time, we were on board for four hours, discover the Tortuguero National Park. Accordingly, Luís Torres decreed an already urgent return to the lodge for lunch and a well-deserved rest.

Instead of resting, we decided to wander through the landscaped and forested lands of Laguna Lodge. The pair of iguanas, our neighbor, dozed at the top of their tree.

Resting Iguana, PN Tortuguero, Costa Rica

Iguana on a tree at Laguna Lodge, Tortuguero.

On the seafront, there is no sign of animals on the beach. We ended up chasing, as furtively as possible, a flock of macaws that were shrillly debating any topic of the day.

Until they arrive at 2:30 in the afternoon. The time for a reunion with Luís and Chito.

And a new foray into the Tortuguero channels.

Navigation through Laguna Penitência, PN Tortuguero, Costa Rica

Captain Chito at the helm of a boat, off San Francisco de Tortuguero.

Once again, we point to the Isla de Cuatro Esquinas. We go around it heading north, through Laguna Penitência above, much more open than the parallel channel in which Laguna Lodge is located.

Passing through San Francisco

With the meander in a hook opposite that of Isla Quatro Esquinas in sight, Chito's navigation reveals the lake houses of San Francisco de Tortuguero, to the sound of some cumbia that is less and less diffused.

After the deluge, the lagoon had almost taken over the village, but its shoreline was resplendent with life.

Uncomplicated, a heron dried its feathers in the sun, on a tin roof. Next door, festive, a resident was bathing in the muddy waters in front of a terraced bar restaurant.

Luís and Chito don't talk about it, but from what we had learned about Tortuguero, something there didn't make sense. “So how is it, Luís? Aren't the channels full of crocodiles?” we ask you.

“Yes, they are, but what do they want? Some people here, sometimes, have no idea. It gives me the idea that the man has already drank more than he should.”

In front of the entrance to the Casita del Bosque, the way of the turkey Tortuguero's leafy tree stands out like never before.

To the Conquest of Cerro Tortuguero…

We anchor at its base, in the northern extension of the Tortuguero National Park.

We went deeper into the dense, high, waterlogged forest around the hillock, along a path that wound through countless roots, inhabited by bloodthirsty mosquitoes.

Trail to the top of Cerro Tortuguero,PN Tortuguero, Costa Rica

Guide Luís Torres walks along the shady trail leading to the top of Cerro Tortuguero.

And by poison frogs oophaga pumilio, with red upper section and blue legs, the reason why they bear the Anglophone name of blue-jeans frog.

O path goes around the mound. The viewpoint hidden among trees at its top reveals an incredible panoramic version of Tortuguero, with the lines of the homonymous river undulating from the distant base of the Central Volcanic Mountains and replicated in various channels.

PN Tortuguero, Costa Rica

Boat about to dock on the bank of the Tortuguero channel closest to the Caribbean Sea.

We are captivated by the ocean breeze and by the bonus of being able to admire the mouth of the Tortuguero River, the black sand enclosed by a small forest of coconut trees and the Caribbean Sea.

… and the mouth of the homonymous river

a pair of vultures buzzards they fluttered around the mound. With the sun almost setting west of the Central Volcanic Mountain Range, we descended to the base of the mountain opposite the one from which we had ascended, on the Boca from the river, which is how to say, its mouth.

On the other side, we enjoyed the bustle at the end of the day of some fishermen intrigued by the attention we paid them. When the dark takes hold of the afterglow, we set sail back to the shelter of Laguna Lodge.

Tortuguero, Costa Rica

The sun sets over the horizon and gilds the Caribbean coast of Tortuguero, on Costa Rica's northeast coast.

We were supposed to have a night of some computer work and, as soon as we could, of sacred rest.

Once again, Tortuguero changed our laps.

The Nursery facing the Caribbean Sea

It wasn't even seven o'clock when a security guard from the lodge knocked on the door. “Carlos asked me to let you know that they found turtles. I'll take you there.”

We followed in his steps. The light of his lantern illuminates the pitch and, at times, several holes in the sand filled with small white eggs already broken by the newborn turtles.

We watched them, disoriented by the glare of the lanterns, which they sought instead of the reflected moon.

In spite of some detours and unnecessary turns, most of the little turtles there reached the surf, overcame the coming and going of the waves and entered higher water that allowed them to swim.

One after another, we watched dozens disappear into the vast marine wilderness of the Caribbean.

The life cycle of the species was thus renewed. With him, the sense of the dazzling Tortuguero.

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