Nature, water and no cars

Tortuguero (Land of the Turtles) National Park is a remote nature reserve on Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast. There are no roads here, access is by boat or plane only.

The airstrip is across the river from where DonQui is staying

DonQui arrives by plane, a small Cessna that lands on a jungle airstrip opposite the Tortuga Lodge and Gardens where he will be staying for a few days.

The verandah is a perfect place to relax

DonQui’s intention is to relax and enjoy the nature surrounding him. The verandah of his ‘cabin’ is the perfect place to do this. There is no glass on the windows — only mosquito netting. This way the sounds of the rainforest are always present.

DonQui enjoys he hammock

The hammock is a particularly good way to relax and to take in the sights, sounds and smells of the surrounding forest.

Water and rainforest are the heart of Tortuguero

The Tortuguero river flowing by the lodge invites further investigation.

Tortuguero Village

A short boat ride along the river brings DonQui to Tortuguero Village. Founded in the 1930s to mill the timber from the surrounding forest the village now makes its income from tourism. Back-packers, ecologists and adventures come here to experience the vast natural beauty of the region.

DonQui enjoyed a beer at this bar overlooking the river

The village has a Caribbean vibe as many of the modern inhabitants have come from Jamaica and other Caribbean islands.

Sunrise over the Tortuguero river

The true beauty of the area can only be explored by boat. So it is that DonQui sets off at crack of dawn to experience the sights and sounds of the rainforest.

A boat trip into the rainforest

It is hard for DonQui to express in a few words the great beauty, rich vegetation and abundant wildlife he experienced in the couple of hours he spent exploring the area under the guidance of a highly knowledgeable local guide.

Into the rainforest

The vegetation alone was worth it but the sights and sounds of the birds, reptiles and animals made it even more special.

The birds are abundant and varied
A cayman pokes his eye above the water

DonQui sees a huge variety of wildlife including howler and spider monkeys, turtles, a three toed sloth, caymans, herons snd many other birds

One of the many intriguing waterways to explore

Water is the best way to explore but behind the Tortuga Lodge there are a number of trails that invite exploration.

A trail through the forest

A walk along the forest trail is muddy. There is a clue in the name of ‘rainforest’. It rains a lot and the ground is always soggy even after several days without rain. DonQui does not see as much wildlife on his walk as he does on his boat tour but the atmosphere is hard to beat. He can hear howler monkeys in the distance and sees a number of colourful frogs.

The trees are filled with birdlife

The grounds around the lodge are incredibly beautiful. Toucans, parrots and monkeys are often seen.

An Iguana sunning himself by the river.

The grounds are beutiful

The grounds of the Tortuga Lodge and Gardens

DonQui always feels that he is part of the forest even when he is enjoying the civilised surroundings of the Lodge.

The dining area

Meals are served on an atmospheric dining area overlooking the river. Menu choices are relatively limited as food has to be flown in.

Seafood rice

After a few days the simple menu begins to grow a bit thin but the seafood rice is DonQui’s favourite staple.

Tortuguero river

So is Tortuguero worth a visit?

Absolutely yes, according to DonQui.

If you like nature, enjoy tranquility then there are probably few places than can beat it. In late summer/early autumn one can also witness the turtle nesting which gives the place its name.

Flying around Costa Rica

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Tortuguero National Park from the air

DonQui’s destination after San José is the nature reserve of Tortuguero on Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast. There are no roads there. This leaves DonQui with two transportation choices: Four hours in a mini-bus followed by 1 ½ hours by boat; or a 20 minute flight from San José to an airstrip opposite the Tortuga Lodge where he will be staying.

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Sansa is Costa Rica’s domestic airline

Unsurprisingly DonQui thinks the flying option will be the least uncomfortable so he books a flight with Sansa, Costa Rica’s domestic airline. He is very glad he did.

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The domestic terminal of San José airport

Sansa’s 12-seater Cessnas fly to most places of interest throughout Costa Rica from San José Airport’s spanking new domestic terminal. The domestic terminal is just a couple of hundred metres from the international terminal.

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Check-in is fast and efficient

Check in is fast and efficient with careful attention being paid to weight due to the small aircraft. Each passenger is limited to 30 lbs (13.6 kg) including hand baggage. DonQui likes to travel light so this is no problem for him. Those who like to take lots of things on their travels will need to use other forms of transportation.

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Don’t check in too early as there is not much to do inside the terminal

The waiting area is comfortable but facilities are limited. DonQui checked in far to early and ended up sitting around for ages. One hour before take off is more than enough time to arrive at the terminal.

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Descending towards Tortuguero airstrip

The flight itself was quite a bit of fun with the small plane flying low enough for DonQui to get a good view of the country.  After 20 minutes he is descending towards the jungle airstrip.

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The Tortuguero airport taxi

There a small boat is waiting to take him to his accommodation across the river.

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The Tortuguero terminal

The check-in facilities at Tortuguero airstrip for the return journey are slightly less luxurious than at San José.

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The beach right beside the Tortuguero airstrip

But the view is much better.

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Tortuguero airstrip

And the flight just as much fun.