For my third trip to Costa Rica, the first stop was Tortuguero National Park. From my research it seemed you could either come to the village and set up your own itinerary or you could do an all inclusive with one of the several eco-lodges. I chose the latter and set up a trip with Mawamba Lodge. It was a wise choice as the experience was unforgettable.
Mawamba Lodge adventures
The first adventure was getting there. Tortuguero is not far from San José as the toucan flies, but since it is a network of canals, the logistics of getting there are little more complex. I was picked up by the bus from my Bed & Breakfast in Cariari near the capital. From there other guests were picked up and soon we were headed northeast. After driving through the beautiful mountains in Braulio Carrillo National Park, we stopped for a buffet lunch.
We then lost the paved road and traveled on a dirt road for an hour before reaching the canals. We then boarded a boat and traveled over an hour through lush tropical landscapes to our home for the next two days. After disembarking, we received our room number and settled in.
The first adventure was a walking tour of the village of Tortuguero. The village is quite small and one can cover the extent in 15 minutes. The village is only about a five minute walk from the Mawamba Lodge. We were given some information on the village including how the community has embraced tourism. The sea turtles are a huge draw for the area. Our guide Giselle explained how the villagers used to kill the turtles for food, but now they protect them. Just at that moment, one of the staff at Mawamba Lodge walked by with her daughter. You could see the benefit of tourism immediately as the lodge provides work for those that live in the village.
The tour lasted about an hour. Afterward, we were let loose to explore the village on our own. I set up shop on a canal side bar and had a beer and watched the sunset. It was a good introduction to the area. It was nice to start off with a relaxed tour after the long trip.
Morning and afternoon boat tour
Most of the adventures are included in the price of the room as are the meals. There were two optional tours for an extra price. The first was a morning boat tour starting at 5 a.m. There was an afternoon boat tour included, but I joined the optional one too because the morning is the best time to spot birds in the jungle before it gets too hot.
The highlight of the tour for me was spotting two herons I had never seen before. We spotted the shy agami heron in an inlet off the canal. It sauntered into a corner and hid, so I was unable to get a clear shot. On the later boat tour, we spotted the unusual looking boat billed night heron. I have seen many herons, having been to Florida, Costa Rica, and Guyana, but never these two before. It is a good day when you add two new species in one day. We also spotted white-faced capuchin monkeys, a high climbing sloth, a couple of caiman, howler monkeys, common black hawks, and much more.
I was thinking of skipping this one because it did not seem that exciting, but the gardens around Mawamba Lodge are amazing. One can spot just as many birds and mammals here as in the jungle. We saw a sloth and an adolescent not too far away from its mother. Giselle explained that the adolescent is now on its own, but it still had not ventured too far from its mother.
The first stop was a little area tucked in some shaded trees just next to the pool. In this area they actually raised tadpoles of the red-eyed tree frog. They then released them into the wild. There is also a frog and butterfly garden where you can see endemic species close up.
The gardens are phenomenal place to see birds as well. We saw kiel-billed toucans, orioles, banana quits, scarlet macaws, and many others. I was really impressed with our guide’s knowledge of birds. I took a few pictures of birds and showed her them in hopes she could identity. She rattled off the names without even thinking.
The night tour was another optional tour. I passed on this one as I have done other night walks in other jungle environments. I head they saw some interesting things including a couple of snakes, so I wish I would have gone.
Pool and grounds
Since Mawamba Lodge is right on the edge of Tortuguero National Park, you can see so many things right from the deck of your room or walking along the gardens. The last day we were there, we kept getting interrupted from our packing by animal sightings. First a group of toucans roosted in the trees right next to the pool. Then the adolescent slot made himself available to the sloth paparazzi by appearing ten feet off the ground in an easy to view tree. Finally, a spider monkey came traipsing through the trees in the garden.
The Lodge is also right on the ocean. They have a beautiful beach with chairs set up for relaxing and watching the surf. You cannot swim in the ocean due to riptides and dangerous sharks, but the pool is nearby. The beach closes at 6 p.m. due to sea turtle activity, but it is open during sunrise in the morning which is the best time since the beach has an eastern exposure.
Although a swimming pool is not an adventure, it sure is a great amenity to have in between adventures. The bar and sitting area around the pool was a great place to relax and cool off under the shade or in the pool itself. It was great having a beer while sitting in the pool and hearing and seeing scarlet macaws fly by.
As I mentioned earlier, sea turtles are a huge draw to Tortuguero. In fact, Tortuguero is the most important sea turtle nesting area in the Western hemisphere. Sea turtle tours take place between July and October. One can also set up a kayaking tour through the lodge. I am sure if there was something else you wanted to do that is not included, the lodge would be more than willing to help you set up.
My tour was complimentary thanks to Mawamba Lodge. This fact did not impact this article as I am just chronicling my experience on these adventures. My thoughts, opinions, photos, and videos are my own.
For more information, check out the Mawamba Lodge website.
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