Tag Archives: Tortuga Lodge

Day 12 – Tortuga Lodge. More Monkeying About

Thursday 2 March 2023 – Two activities were in the frame for the day, both (surprise!) involving wildlife watching and, as it happens, both led by Miguel “Monkey” with his usual blend of passion, knowledge and cheeriness.  The first was a morning boat ride around the local waters to catch wildlife at the start of the day so, guess what? An early start. Again. Fourth time on the trot. No wonder I’m such a poor wildlife photographer normally. I can’t be arsed to get up at the right time to catch them at it.  However, when we’re travelling, early mornings seem to be (a) not uncommon and (b) normally quite a good idea.

0430 alarm, then.

The Lodge was, as ever, well organised.  Breakfast is not served until later, but coffee, tea and biccies were available before we set off at 0600. In fact, the relentless stream of never-before-seen wildlife started before then, as a Green Basilisk Lizard could be seen on a branch, waiting for the sun to warm him up.

We set off in an open boat similar to this one (and grateful that it wasn’t raining),

past some engagingly ramshackle properties on the waterside

and soon Miguel took the boat towards the bank and started indulging in his favourite game: “What can you see?  It’s right in front of your nose”. As usual, I couldn’t see anything apart from foliage, but after patient guidance from Miguel and Jane, I eventually spotted the sloth.

You can make out a dark strip down its back, which means it’s a male three-toed sloth. Of course.

We saw a selection of birds at the water’s edge.

We saw another sloth, also a three-toed sloth, as you can see the three finger claws identifying it.

You can also clearly see the green tinge on part of its coat. This is moss, which won’t gather on a rolling stone but will on an immobile sloth.

Miguel had some more fun with us being unable to see what was in front of our noses.  Eventually, we all spotted it.

A Caiman – a small one, actually.  They can grow to four and a half metres, but this one was much smaller. Exactly how much smaller, I don’t know since everything except snout and eyes was underwater.

Miguel then took us into the system of creeks around the area, which have some lovely scenes

and, of course, more wildlife that was difficult to spot.

These are Boat-billed Night Herons and they couldn’t have been more than a couple of metres away. However, because I was looking for something further away, my eyes initially slid over what was actually directly in front of me and quite close.

We had a little cabaret with Green Ibises.  There was a female in a tree

and, in an adjacent tree, three males were fighting over her.

Typical male behaviour, eh?  Fighting for a shag, or, in this case, an Ibis.

Some obvious things could be seen, such as the Greater Spotted Kayakers (well, I spotted them, anyway)

who were also trawling the creeks for wildlife.

Miguel called the Charlie a “feminist”.  Each female’s territory encompasses those of one to four males who (unusually) do all the hard work – building nests, looking after the chicks, that stuff. The females are larger than the males and get to do the macho things like fighting off predators.

We saw another Caiman, a Spectacled Caiman, so-called because of the bony ridge which you can just see running between the eyes,

and some Spider Monkeys, including one very well-endowed male.

and then it was time to get back to the Lodge for breakfast.

Our second excursion of the day was to walk up the only hill in the area. I made a bit of a tactical error here by using my camera’s normal lens (instead of the lovely long lens which has enabled me to bring some of the photos above to you) because I thought the emphasis of the walk would be on scenery rather than wildlife, Our guide was Miguel again, so that was the wrong call, but the walk wasn’t an entire dead loss, photographically speaking.

The start was a boat ride away, and, as we waited to board, one of the Lodge’s resident iguanas came over to see what was going on.

A shortish boat ride took us to our start point, where we were counted off the boat by officials from the national park.

The trail around the hill is a concrete path with information boards at various points. Miguel, being Miguel, almost immediately spotted something that it took the rest of us quite some time to see,  It’s in this scene.

Can you see any animal there?  I never really got to see what was there, which was a Potoo.

That’s the best I can do – it’s roughly in the centre of the picture and it’s a weird-looking beast, one of a group of birds related to the nightjars and frogmouths.

Jane had a go with her phone and got frankly better results than me – but it’s not at all clear, which makes it all the more remarkable that Miguel could see it.

Here’s what one looks like close to (courtesy of Encyclopedia Britannica).

Potoo (image credit – Britannica.com)

To be honest, I’m not sure that having the longer lens would have helped, but I was a bit frustrated about my choice of gear.


We carried on walking, and came across a Pale-billed Woodpecker doing his wood pecking thing.

and we saw another Eyelash Palm Pitviper.

These vipers are potentially deadly, but not big.  Miguel broke his own rule by getting off the path to take a close up for someone. You can just see the viper on the left of the picture.

We also came across some more Spider Monkeys

before we started our climb of the steps that take one up The Hill.

We were told that there were 402 steps. Wrongly, as it turns out.  I counted them and I reckon there are 431.  Anyway, the view from the top is pretty good.

The village you can see is San Francisco de Tortuguero, and you can also see that the land is generally very flat.  If you look towards the hill from above the Lodge, you can see that the hill is the only significant high spot in the area.  It was originally created by volcanic activity.

A short boat ride back to the Lodge completed our activities for the day, a day made all the more enjoyable, absorbing and educational by the passion and knowledge of “Monkey”.  Here’s to you Miguel!

Having returned to the Lodge, we could head for lunch and the rest of the day at leisure – or, in my case, writing up things for these pages.

Whilst I was doing that, Jane took some video of Montezuma’s Oropendolas flying in and out of their extraordinary nests, which were dangling from a palm tree in the Lodge grounds.

Thus ended our short stay at Tortuga Lodge – good food, excellent service, great guiding, and overall a very well-executed operation. The morrow sees us moving on to our next port of call on the Caribbean coast in the south east of the country.  The vibe here is reportedly very different from the rest of Costa Rica, so come along with us and find out, eh?


Day 11 – La Finca (Arenal) to Tortuguero. Tortuga Lodge, but no turtles

Wednesday 1 March 2023 – The third early morning on the trot.  We needed to be at an embarcadero, Caño Blanco, at 10am in order to be transferred to Tortuga Lodge, on the east coast of the country.

As you can see from the satellite map above, Tortuga Lodge is inaccessible by road (the only options are boat or air) so our hire car, nice as it was, wouldn’t get us there.  We had to be at the right place at the right time in order not to miss the boat. Hence leaving at 6am for a journey that officially would take three and a quarter hours.

The journey was fundamentally fine.  The roads threw no curve balls to upset the timings, going through pleasant countryside on decent surfaces

until we hit Route 32 .This is the subject of massive, massive roadworks, and it’ll be lovely when it’s finished, but it was a torturous mix of nice surfaces, pothole slaloms and carriageway changes.  By and large the surface is good, but the traffic can be heavy, in two ways: lots of it; and some huge trucks.  It’s obviously an important commercial highway, which is presumably why it’s being upgraded.  The roadworks threw up some oddities,

like the enterprising chap, who had set up his stall in the middle of the roadworks.  But we ground our way on, eventually leaving Route 32 for more pleasant roads, which then turned into dirt roads, albeit with a largely drivable surface.

The driving wasn’t all straightforward. In shady sections such as shown above, one could never be quite sure if a dark patch was a shadow or a crater. My success rate in guessing was over 75%, but our teeth were a little looser by the time we arrived at the embarcadero.

There were some interesting sights on the journey – some lovely orange-flowered trees

and a Crested Caracara having a late breakfast, presumably on roadkill.

The embarcadero is billed on Google Maps as a “tourist attraction”, which is, frankly, actionably false.

What it is is a hub for tourist transfers to and from the various lodges in and around Tortuguero.  We arrived well early, so it was fairly quiet, with only a couple of boats in

but as 10am approached, things began to happen, with incoming boats disgorging tourists and luggage. Eventually, a couple of boats labelled “Tortuga Lodge” turned up

and we gathered hopefully around them, along with a bunch of other people who were also bound thither.

The Lodge experience was described, slightly disparagingly, in our Pura Aventura material as “packaged”, as if that would offend the sensibilities of posh travellers like what we are.  What it is is very well-organised. Juan (chap with sunglasses in the photo above) checked us on his list and gave us labels to put on our bags so that they could be transferred directly to our rooms.  Then he got us to sign the waivers that said we wouldn’t sue if we were killed in some freak accident.

Our bags left before us

and then we were off as well.

It’s worth noting at this point that we weren’t at the usual embarkation point for our destination Lodge, which would have been at La Pavona, some 10 miles away from the Lodge as the crow flies.  However, the river there was apparently too low, hence the change of embarkation point (not just for today, but for the whole season – and I think the other lodges had made that change as well, judging from the comings and goings that morning).  Instead, we had a 22-mile boat journey of over 90 minutes in order to get to the Lodge.

That time wasn’t wasted, though.  Juan used it to give us a thorough briefing and to make some detailed preparations.

We were offered various excursions and could make bookings on those that interested us; and we were offered the lunch menu so that the restaurant at the Lodge would be ready for us on our arrival.  Very smoothly done.

We also saw some wildlife en route, and the boat occasionally slowed and stopped for us to see

a North American Crocodile and

some spider monkeys.  There were also herons and egrets (we had a few, but then again….) and other things that I quite failed to get photos of. The boat spent most of its time at full throttle and I frankly dozed for much of the journey.  Jane took a couple of shots of the scenery as it went by

and also recorded some video as we passed Tortuguero, the main town of the region.

We arrived to a cordial greeting and a fresh fruit juice cocktail from several members of the staff there, and then immediately went through to lunch in the very pleasant dining area,

which I was pleased to note also had what looked like a fully-stocked bar.

The Lodge and Gardens is a pleasant area

and we had a nice (cool!) room, with a colourful veranda, conveniently close to the bar reception and restaurant.

Even though we had no formal wildlife spotting activities planned until later, it was difficult to get away from the creatures that were all around.  There were, of course, the ubiquitous Montezuma’s Oropendolas (more of them in a later post), but there’s at least one large Green Iguana which uses parts of the Lodge as its domain

and we saw a Great Kissadee and a Grackle from our seats on our veranda

and also a young – and definitely green – Green Iguana.

I mentioned that there were organised activities on offer, and the Lodge offers a decent programme of possibilities, all accompanied by a professional guide, which is excellent, as they’re mainly wildlife-focussed. (“Tortuga” means “turtle” in Spanish, and there is often the possibility of turtle action among these activities. But it’s the wrong season right now, so there weren’t any for us.)

The programme details were a bit different from what we’d expected based on Pura Aventura’s materials, but no matter.  We both decided to take a morning boat ride to see local wildlife, and also to do a walk up to the top of a local, nay, the only local, hill.  Those were set for the next day, and you’ll just have to wait to read all about them.

Jane also elected to go on a night walk, while I decided that I was too tired and too much in need of a gin. So while I toiled away in my creative fervour and the bar, Jane went on a humid, bug-ridden but interesting walk with Miguel, “Monkey”, as the guide.

Miguel proved to be every bit as skillful as, probably more so than, Danny, our guide in Arenal.  He spotted tiny poison dart frogs

so called because of the toxins on the skin – natives would wipe their arrows on the frog to make the tips poisonous.  Miguel also spotted a tiny anole lizard,

intricate spiders’ webs,

a Black and White Owl

and also up a tree – believe it or not – a porcupine! He/she/it was directly above, foraging for fruit, so we present you with a most unusual view of the underside of a porcupine!

Miguel’s ability to spot things was uncanny, and born of decades of long practice, building up huge knowledge.  He was actually born in the forest, beside a mahogany tree, and his passion for watching wildlife shines through all the time.  Jane enjoyed the walk, despite the heat, humidity and bugs and despite the pushiness of a German lady in the group who clearly thought that having the biggest camera with the chunkiest lens entitled her to elbow others aside to line up the shot she wanted. (I can understand this, and I do try not to be that type, but I bet I’ve failed a few times over the years.)

After Jane came back from her walk, we went to the restaurant for dinner.  The food and service were excellent, and there was also a bit of cabaret for us, in the shape of a performance from the children of Tortuguero who were learning music as part of the Tortuguero Cultural Collective.

After the kids did their thing, a more conventional cabaret followed and I include a snatch of it which might bring a smile to the face of anyone who knows the name Stan Freberg.


A combination of the calypso singing and tiredness drove us back to our room to prepare ourselves for the following day. Which you can read about when you come back tomorrow, OK?  See you then.