On the edge of a Costa Rican jungle, a woman’s screams shattered the evening air. Our nerves were shattered along with it – what dire creature could cause such a blood-curdling yell, and more important, where was it!
My wife and I, along with a tour group had just arrived at the Laguna Lodge, an eco-touristic lodge located in Tortuguero on the northern Caribbean coast of Costa Rica, and were relaxing after the trek from the higher country inland.
The Tortuguero region, due to the dense, lush rainforest is accessible only via air or boat. We had bused in as far as could, then transferred to a boat for the remaining leg of the journey. Even this leg was iffy – there were a couple sections where the river was so silted up the boat got through only by bumping along the bottom. But once into deeper water the river cruise was a beauty; an ever increasing sea of tangled green along the shoreline, with regular sightings of egrets and herons.
The lodge is located within Tortuguero National Park. The park is a protected area with considerable biodiversity, including rainforest, mangrove forests, swamps, beaches, and lagoons. The beach is of particular interest: it’s the most important nesting site of the endangered Green Sea Turtle in the western hemisphere. Leatherback, and occasionally Hawksbill turtles also nest in the area, giving rise to the meaning of Tortuguero: Land of Turtles. There was no nesting going on while we were there, but as we walked along the dark sandy beach empty turtle egg shells made regular appearances.
What do you do at Tortuguero if it’s not nesting season? The lodge is located on a 650 foot wide strip of land between a lagoon and the ocean, and you can walk some of that or just wander the beach. There’s a frog pond, and for bigger swimmers there’s a nice pool.
But what’s the point of going to a rainforest area if you don’t delve into the rainforest? Cruises are offered into the lagoon and canals in the area, and there’s no better way to see the flora and fauna.
The guides know all the nooks and crannies, and have a quick eye for the obscure and hidden.
It’s the sea turtles that give Tortuguero its fame. I didn’t see any of those, but I did spot this artist’s canvas.
Not all the fauna seemed so harmless. Just when you thought it was safe to dangle the fingers overboard, this guy showed up with blood in his eye. This, however, did not trigger a spate of screaming from any of the ladies, so it must not have been a rogue caiman playing butler that had triggered our arrival fright.
While the caiman didn’t look like he was monkeying around this guy did; while cruising around we saw spider monkeys and a white-faced capuchin.
Green. This would be a lousy place to be colorblind. So many shades of green, and depending on the fickle nature of the sunshine, even those shades had shades.
Look at this picture closely – there’s something in it that isn’t necessarily common to the area. Spot it yet? It’s blue sky. Remember, this place is a rainforest. As in, up to 250 inches of rain per year rainforest. We had an up close and personal encounter with this phenomenon earlier in the day, and learned why they call it “coming down in buckets.”
When we reported to the boats in the morning we were issued heavy duty rain slickers, and an eye on the threatening skies overhead did not bode well. A little sprinkle didn’t stop us from getting to the canals, but not long afterward the skies let fly. The rain pounded down, and we soon headed back to the lodge, trying to see beyond 100 yards and to keep the cameras dry.
The boats had molded fiberglass seats, well suited for getting wet. For comfort, they were molded in the shape of bucket seats. Upon arriving back at the dock, standing up showed that the buckets were full of water (at least, for those who’s bottoms weren’t big enough to play cork.) So, how hard was it raining?
We did get a retry on the canals in the afternoon. Fortunately, the weather cooperated and the cameras could come out of hiding.
The evening was free to check out the tree frogs and any other creatures we found wondering around the grounds.
The basilisk is also called the “Jesus Christ Lizard”, as it sometimes runs across the surface tension of water so fast it stays on top, i.e. it walks on water.
But would any of this flora or fauna trigger ear shattering screams?
Nope. That first evening, after hearing the commotion we headed out of our room to find out what was happening, joining a few neighbors who were equally bewildered and nervous. We soon discovered the dread cause.
Ants. Ferocious no doubt, at least for a city girl in our group with a bug phobia. Her husband, a big brave New York City transit cop, although initially terrified by his wife’s screams soon bravely dealt with those terrible creatures, and at least temporarily stopped their march through the bathroom sink.
Costa Rica has a large diversity of climates; anything from rainforest at sea level, to cooler mountain regions, to arid desert-like regions. This makes it a botanist’s paradise, but it’s also heaven for bird watchers. In the interest of keeping the number of pictures in this post at a reasonable level I’ve left out a lot of bird photos. I do plan on posting an individual photo or two each day for the next several days, so keep an eye out.