Costa Rica 2019
Costa Rica 2019
Duration: 14 Days
Date: 6th November 2019
Costa Rica is one of the most biologically diverse countries on earth. The amount, and variety of wildlife in this tiny country, which is just the size of Wales, is phenomenal. Costa Rica’s landmass takes up just 0.3% of the Earth’s surface, but is home to a staggering 5% of the world’s diversity. Costa Rica has over 850 bird species, which range from the tiny Volcano Hummingbirds, to the dramatic Bare-necked Umbrellabird. There are 174 species of amphibian, such as Gladiator Tree Frogs, and over 200 mammal species, including 6 cat species, such as Jaguars, and the extremely rare Tigrillo. With sloths, howler monkeys, and armadillos, the list goes on, and on, and on.
The reason for such diversity is its location within the tropics and a wide range of different habitats, from tropical rainforest, to swamps, mangroves, mountains, and rivers, combined with the fact that Costa Rica is the place where the wildlife from North and South America converge, meaning that North American species are at their southernmost limit and the South American species are at their northernmost limit. Added to this is a huge mountainous spine that runs down the centre of the country, almost separating the Pacific side with the Caribbean, creating even more speciation and diversity in wildlife. On top of all this, Costa Rica has a higher percentage of its land mass dedicated to national parks than any other country in the world, and a government that is very seriously dedicated to the conservation of nature and tourism. Every attempt is being made to connect all these national parks with biological corridors which allow wildlife to spread naturally around the country.
Our first port of call will be the luscious green forests of Arenal Volcano National park, for 3 nights. We will be staying in a beautiful lodge that was set up a long time ago for scientists to observe the lava that flowed out Arenal volcano, a stunning backdrop to the whole area. The lava stopped around 10 years ago so we won't see any geological drama, but the observatory has since been turned into an amazing wildlife lodge. It is actually one of my favourite lodges in Costa Rica, mainly due to the setting and the sheer amount of wildlife to be seen within the grounds of the lodge alone. There are trails to the top of the volcano, waterfalls, suspension bridges, lakes, rivers and we have also got Class ll & lll white water rafting available in the best jungle setting.
Target species: Margay, coyote, coati, three-toed sloth, keel-billed toucan, lovely cotinga, black-crested coquette, yellow-eared toucanet, bare-necked umbrellabird, emerald tanager, great curassow, thicket antpitta, ornate hawk-eagle and the fasciated tiger-heron.
After Arenal we will head to the coast, to the stunning beaches and forests around Uvita and Dominical. The ocean adjacent to this area is fully protected by a Marine national park called Marino Ballena. Using this area as a base, we will have a full day boat trip where we head out to Caño Island to do the best snorkelling around. We will see dolphins, white-tipped reef sharks, green turtles, all sorts of fish and if we are lucky, whales. A variety of whales migrate up this coast, and sightings of humpback breaching next to the boat are not uncommon. After snorkelling we will head to Corcovado National park which is Costa Rica's biggest and best, the crown jewel of their national parks. Fortunately for wildlife, no vehicles are allowed into this park, so we get dropped off by boat on the beaches of San Pedrillo Ranger station, have a picnic then walk the trails and look for exciting animals like Tapir, Puma and Scarlet Macaw.
Also from Uvita, we will visit La Gamba Tropical research station in the south. La Gamba is something else! It is the home and brainchild of Dr Werner Huber. This is where he and countless other academics from the University Of Vienna, Austria, have been studying tropical ecology for decades, furthering global scientific knowledge of these complex ecosystems. Werner and his colleagues made the remarkable discovery that this particular area had the most plant species per square kilometre in Central America. This makes it one of the most biodiverse areas in the world in terms of plants. Obviously this has positive cascading effects throughout other food chains, particularly birds, so the bird list is immense, with a lot of Costa Rican and Panama endemics to be found, just within walking distance of our quarters. This is where Jay did his research on tropical birds for his wildlife conservation degree, so he knows the trails and birds very well. This part of the trip is the real deal jungle, right in the thick of it. The humidity is constantly at 100%, and the insects are loud, giving you a real taste of these amazing habitats, which are under so much threat globally. This is one of the best places in the world to watch red-capped manakins doing their famous bird of paradise-like 'moonwalk' dance along branch.
Manuel Antonio National Park is another park we will visit from Uvita, and is a truly bizarre natural area. It is probably the most popular, and therefore the busiest national park in Costa Rica, which when we first heard this, completely put us off going. We were wrong! This surreal little park is the easiest wildlife watching experience there is, with all sorts of creatures everywhere you look, and the animals are undeterred by the presence of humans. Expect to see lots of capuchin and squirrel monkeys, endless sloths, raccoons, and a deluge of birds. Add to this the fact that it is a stunningly beautiful location, right by the sea, and you have a really enjoyable Costa Rican national park experience! You can even have lunch on the beach, accompanied by a swim in the Pacific Ocean; this park is an absolute must see on any trip to Costa Rica!
After Uvita, we will be going to a higher altitude, to the jaw dropping highlands of San Gerardo de Dota for 2 nights. We will ascend into the cloud forest and an all together different habitat, with a different cast of animals. The main draw here is to see the Resplendant Quetzal, one of Costa Rica’s star attractions. It really is something special but the area itself is absolutely stunning, with moss clad branches leaning over steep misty cliffs. A set of trails leading to a fast flowing waterfall are alive to the sounds of black-billed Nightingale-thrush, Emerald Toucanet and Black-faced Solitaire. A very different assemblage of birds exist here due to the change in altitude and climate.
The last port of call will be one of Costa Rica’s premier wildlife locations, Tortuguero National Park. Tortuguero is a very unique park that is up there with our absolute favourites. Getting there is an adventure in its own right as there are no roads, so all transport into the central village is by boat taxi along the vast network of canals and rivers. The journey into the village is very fruitful as howler, spider and capuchin monkeys forage in the canopy, alongside great green macaws, collared aracari, keel billed toucans and mealy parrots. Tortuguero is renowned for its reptiles and amphibians, with a seemingly endless amount of species to see. The stars of the show are the turtles, which come onto the beach to lay their eggs in huge numbers. Green, leatherback, loggerhead, and hawksbill turtles, all use these beaches to nest. This spectacle attracts predators too, and sparks a very different migration. New research has shown that jaguars from every corner of Costa Rica migrate to these beaches crossing mountains and rivers to get to these easy hunting grounds. However, as with all wild cats they are very elusive and difficult to spot but we will make sure we are in the right place, at the right time, to maximise our chances of seeing these enigmatic animals.
On the last day, we will visit The Toucan Rescue Ranch which is an amazing little charity that rehabilitates injured wildlife such as sloths, toucans, monkeys and cats. And yes, you get to touch a sloth 🤣. Its a great project ran by passionate people that is a must see when in Costa Rica..
The tour will include all transport, fuel, access to national parks, accommodation, guides and food, apart from a few meals here and there to enable you to sample local cuisines. We will be getting around by coach, with a few boat trips involved.
The price of this tour is £2500. If you are travelling alone and require a double room to yourself, then there will be a single person supplement of £250.
To confirm your place you can pay a 20% deposit now, and the rest in instalments. Or, you can simply pay the full amount now.
Flights not included. Please email to discuss flights and further arrangements, or simply to register your interest in the tour without making a formal booking.