Costa Rica: Day 3 Tortuguero

There was no need for an alarm clock that morning, the howler monkeys woke me up. That sounds cool, and then you realize it’s dawn and if not for the bloody monkeys you could still be asleep. But there was coffee to be had, which was all that mattered. My Spanish consists of please, thank you, beer, and coffee with milk. The important things.

Breakfast done we got on another boat (yes, I was still thrilled about the boats!) to go on a nature safari in Tortuguero National Park. I have very few pictures of this trip because my camera in no way could capture all the birds and monkey we saw in the canopy as our boat slowly drifted through the maze of channels between the trees. After a point, you just put the camera away and enjoy the view.


Early morning nature safari.

Back on land we were issued a set of wellies and went hiking through the jungle. Now, I’m a huge Indiana Jones fan, and so trekking through the jungle was my own adventure movie moment.


Sarah and Joelle in their wellies, getting kitted up to go on our jungle hike

A bit more pool time–all free time was pool time for us!–and then we boarded a larger boat to go explore the main channel. This one came with a sound system and an open bar! We went right up to where the river meets the ocean. Cool white wine and a gorgeous sunset over the trees.

boat cruise

The group on the boat cruise enjoying a drink and the sunset. Photo credit: Gustavo Mora

After dinner it was back across the channel for what I thought was the coolest excursion of the whole trip. Tortuguero is famous as a sea turtle nesting location on the Atlantic. The national park works to save these turtles, who’s nesting sites have been effected by human encroachment–specifically, light pollution that scares away the turtles from the beaches. We met up with our local guide who taught us about sea turtles and their nesting cycles before taking us out to the beach. There are no flashlights, as the yellow lights disturb the turtles, so all you have to see by is the moon light and the occasional a red light the guide is carrying. Which groups go where and stay for how long is strictly regulated by the park services, and no photography at all is permitted. As we stood on the beach a storm started rolling in off the ocean. The wind picked up and in flashes of lightning still far out to sea you could see the hulking mass of these turtles in the surf line, making their slow progress up the beach. It felt like something out of Jurassic Park. The pressure from the storm continued to build, the wind picking up strength as it moved closer to shore. I’d have stayed out all night if they had let me. But eventually we made the trip back to town, just reaching the outskirts as the storm hit.

With the storm pouring down on our heads, you’d think we’d head back to the resort, and to be honest, many people did. But some of us opted to stay on the town side of the channel for a bit longer as the bars there were open longer than the one in the resort. Some would say that the bar we held up in was a dive, but I prefer to say it had character. Large land crabs scuttled around in the shadows–one making it’s way out into the center of the dance floor at one point. Tough looking locals, the occasional stray dog, and one of the strangest karaoke set ups I have ever seen. Essentially, if you wanted to sing a karaoke song, you would go request it of the bar tender, she would grudgingly stop the current play list, hand you a mic, and your request would play on the screen. Once you finished, it was back to business as usual. They also have some very *ahem* adult videos running as background to the lyrics. Hey Jude will never be thought of the same way again.

We capped of the night with what still is the absolutely most awesome taxi ride ever back to the resort. The water taxi pulled up to the dock at the back of the bar and we piled in despite the torrential rain and the fact that the boat had no roof. We take off at full tilt up the channel, the rain whipping around us, the waves tossing us about, and the lighting crashing what felt like directly above us. We laughed. We laughed in the face of the storm and lightning, hurtling through the darkness to a tiny point of light that was home for the night.