Morning Natural History Boat Excursion to Tortuguero National Park with Fernando
The area around Tortuguero National Park is a mix of rainforest sliced and diced by miles and miles of canals. Use of these canals is regulated with some that allow for boat access. Navigating the canals by boat is a great way to view wildlife in part because you can cover great distances in a relatively small amount of time. Combined with a an good guide that can spot animals at a distance and you're in for a treat!
My morning boat excursion started in the morning at 7:30 from Tortuga Lodge. Although the destination was Tortuguero National Park, the wildlife viewing started almost immediately with Snowy Egrets, Little Blue Herons, and possibly the best Three-Toed Sloth sighting of my entire 2 week trip to Costa Rica (the sloth even had a baby to make kick things up a notch). At the park entrance a ranger pointed out an Eye-Lash Palm Viper — a 3 foot long vibrantly yellow snake coiled between the trunk and a main branch of a tree.
Within the park the rate of sightings increased. The number of tour boats also increased so I guess I'm not the only one that thinks a boat is a good way to go animal watching.
I soon discovered that monkeys are plentiful in the park and quite active during the day foraging for food and crossing from tree to tree high above our heads sometimes even over the river. Among what we saw were Mantled Howler Monkeys, White-Throated (or Faced) Capuchin Monkeys, and Spider Monkeys. This is actually 3 of the 4 monkey species in Costa Rica with only the Squirrel Monkeys missing from the mix. Among the White Throated Capuchin Monkeys we saw Kites flying – apparently they are in a semi-symbiotic relationship with the Capuchins, feeding on the insects that flee from the monkeys.
We also came across 2 female Anhingas perched atop dead trees with their wings spread wide — this is apparently how they dry their feathers after diving for fish because their feathers are not suited for this sort of activity.
One of the cooler bird sightings included 2 baby Bare-Throated Tiger Herons in a nest. Nearby was an adult hunting for fish — presumably one of the parents, but of course no real way to know for certain. Rounding out the birds known for fishing were many Green Herons, a Great Egret, Kingfishers (blue in color, but I don't remember the name),
In and on the water I saw 3 Black River Turtles (they were quite large compared to what I'm used to seeing); 3 Spectacled Caimans; both a male and female Emerald Basilisk (the male was impressively large); and a few Jesus Christ Lizards one of which walked on the water right in front of us.
Of the more colorful birds we saw a Gray-Necked Wood-Rail, Montezuma Oropendola, and Keel-Billed Toucans. Turkey Vultures and a Common Black Hawk rounded out the “large” birds. On the smaller end we saw Hummingbirds (not sure which ones, but Costa Rica has many varieties).
Although far less common among the canals than in drier areas, we also saw Blue Morpho and Julia Butterflies.