Visiting Tortuguero, Costa Rica: National Park, Turtles & Canals

Tortuguero National Park offers one of the most exuberant landscapes in Costa Rica. Its biological diversity is amazing. In 11 habitats, you can find more than 400 species of trees and about 2.200 species of other plants, plus 309 species of birds, 60 species of amphibians, 30 species of freshwater fish. Tortuguero National Park represents the most important site for the nesting of the green marine turtle in the Western Caribbean. In Tortuguero National Park, you will be able to see several turtles nesting species; you can also fish in the mangroves and lagoons, go bird watching, kayaking, hiking or touring in boats through the mangroves.

After passing by the Braulio Carrillo National Park and the extensive banana plantations, the bus stops at the edge of what seems to be a river. A boat is waiting for you at the dock. The captain gives order and this is how a marvelous trip through one of the most beautiful national parks in Costa Rica begins. You will immediately realize that you are not in a river. You are sailing through the vast system of marine canals in Tortuguero National Park.

Sailing the soft calm waters of the canals, the trip becomes a whole experience when discovering a world that has hardly ever been imagined. Huge vegetation extensions grow on the watershed soil, forming a perfect ecosystem for wildlife: 7 species of river turtles, the vaca marina (Trichechus manatus), the crocodile (Cocodylus acutus), the Gaspar (Atractosteus tropicus), a freshwater fish considered by many a living fossil, are some of the most notable residents. Finally, amidst the dense vegetation, you begin spotting some roofs, which is a definite signal that we have reached the town of Tortuguero. Its beauty lies in the simplicity, tranquillity, and warmth of its people. A tour through the city should be done on foot. There are no roads or cars. therefore; you could say that the canals are “marine highways”, and the boats are “aquatic cars”.

During that whole afternoon, you will be longing as never before, for the arrival of the night. Sun has set, and you feel your entire body “tickling”.we are close. Towards midnight, we all leave our rooms, dressed in dark clothes, especially black, and go to the designated area. The turtle tour is about to begin. After carefully listening to the recommendations given by the specialized guides, we begin our tour towards the beach in small groups. all this under the darkness of the tropical night. While walking on and soft humid sand, it is amazing how you can feel the strength of the wind and listen to the breaking of the waves. Suddenly, the guide stops the group. Nobody breaks the silence. We have found the so longed tracks in the sand.

Full of excitement, we follow the track left at the ocean shore, and there it is, right in front of us, one of the most moving and amazing views that mother nature can give us. A beautiful green marine turtle (Chelonia mydas) begins the hard work of digging in the sand. The effort is so huge that you can listen to how she breathes; and suddenly, the first egg comes out, and then many more are delicately laid on the soft sand. Finally, she fills the nest and goes back to the sea. She is exhausted but happy for having left her breed in a safe place. This beautiful view takes place between July and October each year.

You could not be happiest that night. In the beaches at Tortuguero National Park, you can also see the nesting of marine turtles like the Leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea), the largest of the world, and the Carey (Eretmochelys imbricata), which come and lay their eggs every year.

On the next day, you can take a kayaking tour through the mangroves, going deeper into the canal system to have a close encounter with nature. where you will see birds the Green Macaw (Ara ambigua), and the Rainbow Peak Toucan (Ramphastos sulfuratus). There is also a great variety of mammals, including the fascinating Fishing Bat (Noctilio Leporinus). Cheer up and decide to take a fishing tour at the Tortuguero National Park. and go look for the Snook and the Tarpon, the fish that have attracted fishermen from all the areas of the earth, and register your name in the world records that have been reached in this magnificent land.

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