Tortuguero - The Turtle Beach
Most of the lodges in Tortuguero offer some kind of 1, 2 or 3 night package, where they pick you up in San Jose, transport you to the lodge and bring you back again.
We opted to extend the suggest 2-night stay in Laguna Lodge with an extra night because it sounded a nice place to stay. They have an excellent web site which again gave a good indication of what to expect, with plenty of pictures.
Our journey started at the ungodly hour of 6:30am with a pickup outside our hotel in San Jose, in a fairly comfortable mini-bus. We picked up a few other passengers from other hotels nearby, so we had a full bus of about 10 people. Our guide, "Enya" (because nobody could pronounce the Spanish "Eugenia") was very knowledgeable and had studied Biology in the San Jose university. She was easy to talk to, was bilingual in Spanish and English, and was obviously passionate about her subject. Her Spanish was the equivalent of the Queen's English as even I could understand about 90% of what she was saying; but everything she said she translated into the other language, as the guests on board were from mainland Spain, Holland and England (A special "Hi!" to Tracey and Sez on their round-the-world trip).
The journey north-east was interesting, we even spotted a sloth which afforded us an unscheduled break and picture opportunity. After a stop for lunch at a restaurant en-route, we eventually had to abandon the bus and lug our bags down a riverside track to the waiting boat to continue the journey. The covered boats picked us up at a spot next to a local Del Monte banana preparation site; a video opportunity to record the local women preparing the bananas ready for export.
The boat ride up the canals of Tortuguero was quite nice, with a stop en-route for refreshments. Various wildlife was pointed out along the way, including a crocodile (caiman) spotted by a fellow traveller.
The accommodation at Laguna Lodge was basic, but set in idyllic lush gardens; keep an eye out for the famous Costa Rican frog around the swimming pool area.
A boat ride is included in your package, as is a trip to the local village. Both are highly recommended. A night-time guided turtle watch (in season) costs $15 and lets you stumble about the dark beach silently searching for elusive turtles coming to lay their eggs. Worth doing, but watch out for all the debris such as logs on the beach. You are not allowed torches or cameras of any kind on this tour as the turtles are easily startled. Wear stout hiking boots or be prepared to stub your toe a lot.
Things to bear in mind
1. Pack less. Lugging two heavy suitcases down the rock and mud pathway to the boat in 30 degree muggy heat was no joke. At least it was downhill. Coming back was harder. Soft holdalls are easier to manage than suitcases.
2. Bring mosquito repellent and apply it before the journey. Ditto for sunscreen. We all got slightly sunburned on the boat ride to Tortuguero.
3. Bring binoculars. A "standard" pair of 7x35 is adequate, but 10x50 is better (but more expensive). Make sure they can focus really close up (10 foot away) otherwise you'll miss out on small items in a tree, for example.
4. More information for the really interested (Pop Up window).
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