Our 2016 trip was a great success and we have now opened bookings for 2017.

Costa Rica is one of the most biologically diverse countries on earth. The amount, and variety of wildlife in this tiny country, which is just the size of Wales, is phenomenal. Costa Rica’s landmass takes up just 0.3% of the Earth’s surface, but is home to a staggering 5% of the world’s diversity. Costa Rica has over 850 bird species, which range from the spellbinding hummingbirds, to the awesome, monkey-eating Harpy eagle. There are 174 species of amphibians, such as poison arrow frogs, and over 200 mammal species, including 6 cat species, such as jaguars, and the extremely rare tigrillo. With sloths, howler monkeys, and armadillos, the list goes on, and on, and on.

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Stripe tailed hummingbird, Jay Knight

The reason for such diversity is its location within the tropics, and a wide range of different habitats, from tropical rainforest to swamps, mangroves, mountains, and rivers, combined with the fact that Costa Rica s the place where the wildlife from North and South America converge, meaning that North American species are at their southernmost limit and the South American species are at their northernmost limit. Added to this is a huge mountain ridge that runs down the spine of the country almost separating the Pacific side with the Caribbean, creating even more speciation and diversity in wildlife. On top of all this, Costa Rica has a higher percentage of its land mass dedicated to national parks than any other country in the world, and a government that is very seriously dedicated to the conservation of nature and tourism. Every attempt is being made to connect all these national parks with biological corridors which allow nature to spread naturally around the country.

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Spiny headed tree frog, Jay Knight

This tour will be expertly led by Dr Werner Huber and / or Jay Knight. Werner is a tropical biologist and is one of the directors of La Gamba tropical research station in Costa Rica and has spent the majority of his career there researching tropical ecosystems for the University of Vienna, Austria. He has an intimate knowledge of the plants and animals in the jungle and can name virtually anything you point at by its Latin name, a quite remarkable skill considering the sheer volume of plants in these environments. He is a very charismatic man who will be showing us all the wonders of the jungle as well as things we can eat and the way we can use plants for survival and the way they have been traditionally used by indigenous people. He will also be showing us fruit like you have never seen it before, papaya, coconut, passion fruit, crazy bananas and a whole host of things that never reach our shores. Jay will be bringing his usual expert knowledge of all things winged, his boundless enthusiasm, laser sharp eyesight, his good natured sense of humour, and of course, his ever present camera! 

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Dr Werner Huber with the nicest tasting bananas

The tour will include all transport, fuel, access to national parks, accommodation, guides and food, apart from a few meals here and there to enable you to sample local cuisines. We will be getting around by minibus, and occasionally by boat where road access is limited.

Here is a list of all the places we will be visiting and why we are going there:

Drake Bay

Wow! It's very hard to put into words how beautiful and paradise-like this part of the world is. This is where jungle meets endless tropical beaches, and is akin to the landscapes in Jurassic Park. Hopefully the photos below will do the location justice, and paint a picture in your mind. Drake Bay is our base, and gateway to Corcovado national park, the jewel in the crown of Costa Rica's national park system. This is as remote and as wild as you are going to get in Central America. This means we will not be sharing our stay with many people at all. Getting here is an adventure in itself. We will ditch the minibus and take boats from Sierpe, via an extensive marine national park, which gives us a chance to explore one of the biggest networks of mangroves in Costa Rica. Mangroves are unique habitats that hold a distinctive set of animals capable of dealing with these saline environments. Expect plenty of crocodiles, herons, kingfisher, osprey and a whole host of other species. Once at our home in Drake Bay, we will use this as our base to do the various excursions that the area has to offer. A day trip to the restricted area of Corcovado National park should offer us great chances of seeing Baird’s tapir, the northern tamandua (anteater), peccary's (wild pigs), coati, white hawk, yellow headed caracara. The boat journey into the park always reveals some form of sea creature such and humpback whale or various dolphin species.

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The stunning beaches of Drake bay

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Hummingbird Silhouette at Poas Volcano

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A very close encounter with Baird's Tapir on the beaches of Corcovado National Park, Jay Knight

Another excursion that we will be doing from Drake Bay is snorkelling or scuba diving (if you have a license) on Isla del Caño, an unrivalled diving spot. Last time we were swimming with white tipped sharks, barracuda, hawksbill turtle, and a plethora of vibrant coloured marine life! Another highlight of the area is The Bug Lady! She is an American Biologist that focuses on creepy crawlies and she is amazing, even for arachnophobes. She has an eye for a bug and can spot creatures that you had no idea were lurking around you, scorpions, trapdoor spiders, tarantulas, whip scorpions, Brazilian wandering spiders, Hercules beetles and much more. It sounds scary but her knowledge and understanding of what is around is fascinating and very intriguing.

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The Bug Lady doing her thing

Hacienda Baru

This part of the tour is where we will enjoy the hot and sunny pacific coast. Our lodgings will be the magnificent Hacienda Baru, which has a remarkable story behind it. American, Jack Ewing, moved here in the 70's to set up a cattle ranch. Whilst out walking his dog, he saw a group of capuchin monkeys, precariously crossing the open fields. Jack's dog attacked the monkeys and caused them a lot of damage, but also got badly hurt as the monkeys fought back out of fear. The dog never attacked monkeys ever again. It was at that point that Jack thought something is not right here; these monkeys were forced out of their normal environment due to habitat loss and the lack of trees. Jack had a bright idea to re-plant the forest and connect the nearby intact forests. Forty years later and Hacienda Baru is an absolute wildlife haven, bursting at the seams with monkeys, birds, reptiles and plants. It is an excellent example of how humans are capable of rectifying our wrongs within a relatively short space of time. As well as an abundance of wildlife, the lodge is in a stunning location, right next to the Pacific Ocean, with a swimming pool, turtle hatchery and canopy tour zip line all on site. We will not feel like leaving this stunning site, however we will have to in order to visit one of Costa Rica's best national parks, Manuel Antonio. Typical species found at Baru are lots of turtles, Iguanas. Scarlet macaws, kiskadee, armadillo, capuchin monkey, spider monkey, and more sloths than you can imagine.

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A camera shy blonde sloth above our lodge at Hacienda Baru

Manuel Antonio National Park is the next destination and is a truly bizarre natural area. It is probably the most popular, and therefore the busiest, national park in Costa Rica, which when we first heard this, completely put us off going. We were wrong! This surreal little park is the easiest wildlife watching experience there is, with all sorts of wildlife everywhere you look, and the animals are undeterred by the human presence. Expect to see lots of capuchin and squirrel monkeys, endless sloths, raccoons, and a deluge of birds. Add to this the fact that it is a stunningly beautiful location, right by the sea, and you have a really enjoyable Costa Rican national park experience! You can even have lunch on the beach, accompanied by a swim in the Pacific Ocean; this park is an absolute must see on any trip to Costa Rica!

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The wildlife infested beaches of Manuel Antonio National Park

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Local capuchin monkeys just chilling by the beach in Manuel Antonio

 Irazu and Cartago

Irazu is one of two volcanos that we will be visiting and is Costa Rica's highest active volcano. It is part of the infamous Pacific ‘Ring of Fire’, and is a stratovolcano, which last erupted in 1963. On a clear day it is possible to see both the Pacific, and Atlantic oceans from one viewpoint. We can walk across an old caldera which feels like you have landed on the moon. Due to its altitude it has its own unique set of species, such as flowerpiercers, and coatis which have no fear of humans whatsoever, allowing for excellent photographic opportunities. On the way back from Irazu we will head to Cartago and its bustling markets. There we will get a real flavour of the produce available on a Costa Rican market. There are fruits and vegetables available that most of us will have never even heard of or seen before, it really is a vibrant place. We will also use this part of the journey to visit Mirador de Quetzales, the best place in Costa Rica to find the Resplendent Quetzal, voted by National Geographic as the most beautiful bird on earth.

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Jay and James in the caldera of Irazu volcano

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The vibrant and bustling markets of Cartago

La Gamba

La Gamba tropical research station is something else! It is the home and brainchild of our tour leader Dr Werner Huber. This is where he and countless other academics from the University Of Vienna, Austria, have been studying tropical ecology for decades, furthering global scientific knowledge of these complex ecosystems. Werner and his colleagues made the remarkable discovery that this particular area had the most plant species per square kilometre in Central America. This makes it one of the most biodiverse areas in the world in terms of plants. Obviously this has positive cascading effects throughout other food chains, particularly birds, so the bird list is immense, with a lot of Costa Rican and Panama endemics to be found, just within walking distance of our quarters. This is where Jay did his research on tropical birds for his wildlife conservation degree, so he knows the trails and birds very well. This part of the trip is the real deal jungle, right in the thick of it. The humidity is constantly at 100%, and the insects are loud, giving you a real taste of these amazing habitats, which are under so much threat globally. This is one of the best places in the world to watch red-capped manakins doing their famous bird of paradise-like 'moonwalk' dance along branch. See this video to see which bird we are talking about: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eI_quJRRGxk.

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Raw cocoa and banana custard flavour bananas

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Eyelash Pit Viper, Jay Knight

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Golden-naped woodpecker on our feeders at La Gamba

Vulcan Poas and coffee plantations

Vulcan Poas is one of the largest active volcanoes in the world and is not far from the capital city of San Jose. It last erupted in the 1950's, but rumbled as recent as 2009, so as you can see it is very much still alive. It is within its own national park, which has a great infrastructure, as it receives good numbers of guests wanting to view its sulphuric pools, and exploding geysers that can reach 250m into the air. The surrounding vegetation holds a wide range of specialist bird species that have adapted to this challenging environment. There is even a squirrel found here that is virtually unknown to science called the Poas squirrel that only occurs in Costa Rica and Panama between 1900 and 2600m.  Birds likely to be encountered are black guan, buff-fronted quail-dove, fiery throated hummingbird, magnificent hummingbird, purple throated mountain gem, volcano hummingbird, large footed finch and slaty flowerpiercer. The route to this national park passes through hundreds of acres of coffee plantations, which grow some of the finest coffee in the world. We will be paying one of the plantations a visit, to learn about the whole process, and to take away some souvenirs to enjoy back home.

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Kermit the glass frog 

Tortuguero National Park

Tortuguero is a very unique national park that is up there with our absolute favourites. Getting there is an adventure in its own right as there are no roads, so all transport into the central village is by boat taxi along the vast network of canals and rivers. The journey into the village is very fruitful as howler, spider and capuchin monkeys, forage in the canopy, alongside great green macaws, collared aracari, and keel billed toucans and mealy parrots. Tortuguero is renowned for its reptiles and amphibians, with a seemingly endless amount of species to see. The stars of the show are the turtles, which we will be able to view when they come onto the beach to lay their eggs in huge numbers. Green, leatherback, loggerhead, and hawksbill turtles, all use these beaches to nest. This spectacle attracts predators too, and sparks a very different migration. New research has shown that jaguars from every corner of Costa Rica migrate to these beaches crossing mountains and rivers to get to these easy hunting grounds. However, as with all wild cats they are very elusive and difficult to spot but we will make sure we are in the right place, at the right time, to maximise our chances of seeing these enigmatic animals.

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Collared aracari, Tortuguero

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Three-toed sloth seen from our canoe in Tortuguero

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A young spider monkey lurking in the undergrowth, Tortuguero

 

For more images please have a look at our Gallery section. If you would like to book the tour then please regiuster your interest ASAP as we need to get an idea of exact numbers early on. Many thanks for reading.

 

 

 

 

Target Species Mammals: Jaguar, Ocelot, Puma, Baird's Tapir, sloth, Mantled howler, Central American spider monkey, Squirrel monkey, armadillo, coati, raccoon, Northern Tamandua, humpback whales, dolphins. Birds: Resplendant quetzal, Baird's trogon, Fiery billed aracari, keel billed toucan, black cheeked ant tanager, black guan, slaty flowerpiercer, riverside wren, cherrie's tanger and endless other species. Reptiles and Amphibians: Leatherback turtle, crocodile, caimen, basilisk, green iguana, ctenosaura, red eyed tree frog, strawberry poison-dart frog, gladiator frog, fer de lance, vine snake.
Accommodation Jungle lodges
Meals Mainly full board
Difficulty Easy to moderate,
Tour no. COS001
14 nights
August 2017
from
£2100 + flights
Payment options
  • Pricing

    This amazing trip costs a £2100 plus flights. The pricing of our trips is very competitive when compared to other wildlife companies, and our itineraries tend to be much more involved.

    We do not arrange flights for you but most flights to Costa Rica are either via Madrid or with a stop off in the USA. The quickest way of getting there is via Iberia at Madrid airport. There are rumours of a direct flight from Manchester to Costa Rica starting next year with Thomson or Thomas Cook but we do not have details at this stage.

    Personal Payment Plans: For your convenience you can spread the cost of your trip by paying in installments with a personal payment plan. A non refundable deposit of 10% is required on booking; this can be taken as your first payment.

    Included in the price: Accommodation, meals, all transport and fuel, local drivers allowances, entrance to national parks, guides and excursions.
     
    Not Included in the price: Flights. Add On Activities. With groups trips we treat everybody as individuals and leave the decision to get involved in extra activities up to you. Activities not included in the price are: Scuba diving and some EXTRA bird watching trips. Prices can be obtained on request.
     
    Your spending money budget does not need to be too high on this trip: The cost of living is very low in Costa Rica and we will also be staying in full board accommodations.

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