Morning Kayaking into Tortuguero National Park with Juan
Boat trips along the canals of Tortuguero National Park are great and I highly recommend them. Kayaking is another mode of transportation I would recommend. They afford you the opportunity to navigate a different set of canals that are closed to motorized boats. In addition, being closer to the water level changes your vantage point a bit not to mention that you're now subject to the gentle current of the canals.
On this trip Juan from Tortuga Lodge was my guide. I had the presence of mind to ask about the park and learned that the water depth is about 30 to 36 feet (10-13 meters) near the entrance, but 9 to 12 feed (3 to 4 meters) where we kayaked. Also, park access is entirely by water craft as the land is too swampy for walking. Boat access is also restricted with a maximum number of boats per canal and each boat can't have more than 20 people including the crew. In the morning, guides check-in at the ranger station to find out where they are allowed to go based on the numbers of tours that preceded them.
In addition to being on the look out for animals, Juan providing some interesting tidbits on the ecology of the area. For example, there are large palms that “hold on” to their leaves as the leaves die. This results in the leaves bending over into the water where they accumulate sediment. This sediment and the leaves themselves nourish the palm. I need to bring a voice recorder on these trips as I forget half of what I learn by the time I get back to my room!
The most interesting bird we saw on this trip was the Agame Heron. I even get to take credit for spotting it. Every now and again a guide gets really excited and you know when this happens that what you're seeing rare enough that even someone living in the rainforest doesn't see it often. Such was the case with the Agame Heron; it was the first thing Juan mentioned to the boat captain that picked us up at the end of our kayaking.
I also enjoyed seeing the Bare-Throated Tiger Heron chick partly because I knew it wouldn't fly away like most birds do. And not very far from the nest we saw an adult Bare-Throated Tiger Heron which we assumed was one of the chick's parents.
Along the canal we also saw Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, Little Blue Herons (curiously they look more green than blue), Green Kingfishers, trogons (I can't remember the particular type), Keel-Billed Toucans (at long last), and a male Aningha.
Howler and Spider Monkeys rounded mammal sightings. Down at the water level we managed to approach a juvenile Spectacled Caiman. Emerald Basilisks (both male and female), Iguanas, and Jesus Christ Lizards rounded out the list of reptile sightings.
I also had some excitement of the non-animal variety. At one point I managed to get my kayak stuck on a log that was submerged just below the surface. I could hear the scraping as the front first made contact and as the rest of the kayak, pushed a bit by the current, rose out of the water. This completely messed up my ability to balance and I came close to tipping. Luckily I managed to get my kayak back into the water without going for a swim. Phew!
To give you an idea how crazy Costa Rican weather can be, at one point we were able to see rain ahead of us and behind us, but it wasn't raining on us. We had somehow found a spot maybe 200 feet long that had no rain. Crazy, huh?
If you do this trip, and I highly recommend you do, be sure to put your camera in a dry bag. Aside from the danger of an unexpected dip, there was enough rain on my trip to damage my camera had I not had a dry bag.