Saturday, April 18, 2009

Tortuguero 2

Although we'd visited Tortuguero, Costa Rica already back in September (see blog archive), we felt that it was such an amazing place to see wildlife that my parents couldn't miss it. Fortunately they're well used to packing it in on holiday, so we squeezed a two-day-one-night tour into their itinerary.

The wildlife in Costa Rica really is abundant. Even on the journey to Tortuguero, we saw the Three-toed Sloth at the top of this post and the beautiful Blue Jeans Dart Frog above. To give you an idea of how tiny he is, I should point out that he's perched on our guide Mauricio's thumb in the photo. Watch out though! Despite his size, he's pretty poisonous.

We stopped on the way there at a banana plantation in the tropical lowlands of the Caribbean slope. Another great place to spot wildlife as it turned out; here's an amazing male Elephant Beetle. They're among the biggest beetles in the world.

Mum decided to get some refreshment in the form of a fresh coconut. The guy selling them took a bit of a shine to her, and I think she got more than her $1 worth!

The main event though is touring the Tortuguero canals. Here are Mum and Dad enjoying the ride, and a run-down of some of the wildlife we saw follows.

Caiman. Differentiated from crocodiles by the ability to lift their head. Seems like a minor difference but it means they can sit in the water with just their head poking out, while crocodiles must have their body protruding. You never see both in the same place, as they're rivals.

Tiger Heron. When young, they have yellow and black striped plumage around the neck, hence the name. This one is spreading its wings out to catch the sun.

Green Iguana. You can tell this one's a female because she has less of a 'dewlap' under her chin than the male has.

Red Brocket Deer. We didn't expect to see deer in the tropical Caribbean rainforest. Apparently they're rarely spotted.

White-faced Capuchin Monkeys. Look closely; there's a baby in there!

Anhinga. Aka Piano Bird, owing to the black and white plumage.

Pit Viper. Deadly poisonous!

We stayed at a lodge in what was basically a clearing in the forest. As a result, we saw wildlife when we weren't even trying! From the (turtle-shaped) pool, we saw toucans.

Oh, and there were, of course turtles. Last time, we saw Green Sea Turtles nesting, which was pretty amazing. This time, the Leatherback turtles were in nesting season. However, we soon realised they'd be harder to spot. In fact, we managed to arrange a tour but were told by the guide (after we'd paid) that there was a "99%" chance of being disappointed. Well, we decided a 1% chance of seeing a Leatherback was worth the effort. So, after walking up the beach in the dark for an hour, then walking back down for another hour and almost giving up, we came across a turtle digging her nest just 5 minutes away from the town of Tortuguero. At around 2m in length, they're the largest sea turtles in the world. The largest specimen ever found was in fact over 3m in length and almost 1000 kg in weight. We were incredibly lucky to see her. Normally just one turtle per night comes ashore to nest and the nesting sites are up to 20 miles apart. Tortuguero is an immensely important area for these amazingly beautiful (and critically endangered) creatures. We couldn't have hoped for better highlight to the trip.


No comments: