We left on Friday morning to go check out the island of Tortuguero, on the northeastern coast of Costa Rica. We would be catching the tail end of the green turtle watching season, but we remained optimistic as ever! I belong to a Yahoo group called Costa Rica Living, and many generous folks there, recommended a stay at Casa Marbella, in the little town of Tortuguero. The innkeeper, Daryl Loth was quick to reply to our inquiry, and we headed out, instructions, and maps in hand. Many visitors sign up with the larger lodges, which provide transport to and from the Central Valley (San Jose,) to the riverboat that takes you to the lodges. These are “all-inclusive” packages and sounded like something we would absolutely NOT be interested in!
We set off from Grecia, and headed east to Guapiles, on the Caribbean side. From there, we followed a road up to a small farm called La Pavona, about 30 kilometers(15 of those on a dirt road) north of Cariari. We found the farm and left our car with a congenial fellow named Ronald. The farm belongs to his father-in-law. Ronald then drove us another kilometer to the river’s edge. There we caught one of the water taxis heading up river.
The initial river we traveled, is very shallow this time of year, and the captain had to slow and lift the trim often, but we also swiftly banked on the turns, to the thrill of all of the passengers. We soon came to the larger river, and cruised up to the island town of Tortuguero. Periodically we let off local residents and their bags of staples to carry them through another month of isolated living at their small riverside casas. We were then dropped off at the Casa Marbella lodge (http://casamarbella.tripod.com/,) and found a very comfortable and and tidy room. We arranged for a night tour to see the turtles laying their eggs, or deshove.
We ate a great lunch at the nearby Buddha Cafe, then walked over to the Visitor’s Center. It was a very informative stop, then we began our return along the beach and came across baby turtles, recently hatched, who were making their way out to the surf, it was breathtaking to see! Everyone was very respectful, and equally entranced by what we were witnessing.
Our evening tour to, hopefully see adult females come up on the beach to lay eggs, was unsuccessful. In the park, the long length of beach is “divided” into sectors. The visitors are led to a waiting point near, but off the beach. Two park rangers, per sector, scan the beach for incoming turtles. The park, and guides, do a great job of keeping the humans away from the beach until a turtle is spotted. Once they feel the time is right, they lead one of the small groups to the beach, with their guide, to witness a portion of the process from a safe distance. After a period of time, that group is led off the beach, and another goes out with their guide. The entire process is about two hours long, so there is plenty of time for everyone to see it all. Our visit was at the end of the green turtle season, and alas, during the two-hour block of time we waited there near the beach, no turtles were spotted. We felt very fortunate we had seen the babies earlier in the day.
We went for a morning boat tour of the surrounding jungle waterways with Isabel, from Casa Marbella. We gathered on the hotel boat dock at six am, with five others, staying at the hotel, and set out on a wonderful journey! The experienced boat driver deftly maneuvered our little four-stroke boat around, to get us close enough to beautiful flora and fauna, without disturbing anything. We saw two types of toucans, numerous beautiful birds, a baby caiman, baby, teen, and 20-something iguanas, long nosed bats, a large bright yellow viper, a large spider that creates a golden web that is incredibly strong, howler, white faced capuchin, and spider monkeys. We learned so much about the plants and trees, it was fantastic!
We periodically passed large boats that sped by full of tourists from the larger resorts. They could not possibly have seen and learned a portion of what we did, I do not recommend them at all.
We left the next day, and once we got back to Guapiles, we headed northwest over to Agua Zarces, and the magnificent natural hot springs of Termales del Bosque (http://www.termalesdelbosque.com/english/.) We spent the balance of the day soaking in the various hot spring pools, and then cooling off in the river…aaaah! We spent the night in one of their very comfortable cabins, and went horseback riding in the hills after a hearty breakfast, the next morning. We rode into a forest, where a group of howler monkeys went wild at seeing us. We hooted, barked and howled at each other, it was great!
Time to head home…exhausted and amazed at our magical weekend.