One of the reasons that I wanted to visit Costa Rica is because it has many kinds of tropical rain forests. Tortugero is a lowland area with an altitude of only 20 meters above sea level and with a few volcanic hills with heights of 100-300 meters. The vegetation is primarily that of palm swamps, but there is also some mixed rainforest, tropical wet forest and pre-mountain forest.
On our rainforest walk in 1997 we saw some unusual tree trunks such as photo 2, and on the boat trip we saw flowering trees (photo 3). Also fascinating were the banana plants that we saw on the plantations (photo 5) on our second trip.
Fondest memory: On the way back to the ship, the bus driver stopped at a roadside stand. While he was shopping I took a photo out of the bus window of a butterfly on some flowers (photo 4)
He bought a cocoa pod and showed us the beans, and lady finger bananas. There was also a pod from a tree growing next to the parking area which had a red dye inside that you could paint your face with.
When we were in Costa Rica in 1997, the reptiles we saw included alligator, iguana (photo 5), river turtles (photo 3) and cayman (photo 4). This time we saw mostly Jesus Christ lizards.
That is the common name for the basilisk lizard which has webbed hind feet and can run upright over the surface of the water for a short distance. Smaller basilisks can run about 10-20 meters on the water surface without sinking, and the young can usually run farther than older basilisks. We saw them do their running across the water trick in 1996 from a canoe when we were in Drakes Bay (on the Pacific coast).
Fondest memory: Basilisk is a corruption of the word for 'little king' which probably comes from the fact that their heads are adorned with both a crest and a coloured dewlap. We saw them in Tortuguero in 2008 - although only sitting on branches - not running around.
The four main vertebrates that one sees in this area are amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals. The main mammals are monkeys and sloths.
When we came in 1997, the mammals we saw were howler monkeys and white faced monkeys (although not close enough to take photos of) . We heard the howler monkeys a lot. We also saw spider monkeys too. We only saw one sloth at a distance.
This time we saw (and heard) the howler monkeys and did much better in regard to sloths as we saw several kinds and quite close. We also saw a squirrel but he moved too fast for a good photo
Poison arrow frogs are tiny jewel like amphibians. It is almost impossible for the regular person to find them because they are so small. The scientific name for them is dendrobatids. All are at least somewhat toxic in the wild. They are sometimes called "dart frogs" due to indigenous Amerindians' use of their toxic secretions to poison the tips of blowdarts. They are small, sometimes less than half an inch in adult length, although a few are as big as 2.4 inches in length
Fondest memory: I saw these tiny frogs on both trips to Costa Rica. In one case, we saw several on the forest walk that we did in the morning, but I only got a picture of one of them (photo 2).
In 2008, the boat operator stopped and walked off into the jungle to get a frog. This one was bright orange red with blue feet. I think this is called the Dendrobates pumilio or Strawberry or Blue Jeans frog. The poison of this frog does not possess seriously harm humans, though the guide said that the person should wash his hands well afterwards. I think he knew where the frog was because he had a stuffed one at the front of the boat (photo 3)
He held it for me to take a photo, which was much more difficult than I expected. I kept getting blurred ones (photo 4).
Favorite thing: Tortuguero is a difficult place to get lost in unless you wander through the neighborhoods off the main streets. No shops were selling this map in Tortuguero although many of them had them tacked onto walls for your reference.
Although April to October is the main season for turtles, when you can see the green turtle (and other species) coming ashore to lay their eggs, some turtles can be found at any time of year.
Our guide picked up this little baby from the water for us to have a closer look.
Not the brilliant aqua blues normally associated with the Caribbean Sea. The beaches and the surf along the northwest Caribbean shore in Costa Rica are wild. The beach at Tortuguero was deserted--not a single soul in sight. The water was much too rough for swimming.
However, these beaches do attract a lot of attention those few nights a year that the green turtles come ashore to lay their eggs. The green turtles live their lives swimming throughout the Caribbean reaching as far north as Florida coastal waters, but the females all come back to the Tortuguero area to lay their eggs. For centuries turtles and their eggs were ravaged by sailing ships and the local people. However, a marine biologist, Archie Carr, began studying the green turtles in the 1950s and was able to prevail upon the Costa Rican government to grant the turtles protected status. In present times the local people and the Costa Rican government understand the conservation issues and the turtles are now zealously guarded from would be poachers.