Parque Nacional Tortuguero is a protected wilderness area on Costa Rica’s northern Caribbean coast. Its beaches are famous nesting grounds for sea turtles, including endangered green turtles. The park’s freshwater creeks and lagoons, which can be navigated by boat or canoe, shelter spectacled caimans and river turtles. The surrounding dense rainforest is also rich with wildlife, from monkeys to many bird species. This is the real jungle just like the movies.
Most of the park is low alluvial floodplain (sea level to 20m) which extends far inland, and is occasionally interrupted by isolated volcanic hills of 100-300 m. An intricate network of black water canals and creeks dissect palm swamps and mixed rainforest throughout the region. The natural vegetation of the area progresses from the poorly-drained swamp forests in the lowlands near the coast to tropical wet and pre-montane forests further inland at higher elevations.
Forest species composition gradually shifts from coastal scrub to huge expanses of Raphia palm swamp and mixed species along waterway margins, to tall multi-layered evergreen forests. Canopy trees may exceed 60 m in height with girths of 1-2 m, some with massive buttressing. Species diversity of both plants and animals is very high here — among the highest in Costa Rica.
Abundant wildlife inhabits Tortuguero, including 57 species of amphibians, 111 species of reptiles, and 60 species of mammals. More than 300 species of birds live in Tortuguero for all or part of the year. Birdwatchers commonly see keel-billed toucans, slaty tailed trogons, Montezuma oropendulas and a variety of parrots. Birds common along the canals include green and great blue herons, egrets, belted kingfishers, anhingas, jacanas, sun grebes and several species of hawks and kites
Other animals commonly seen are fishing bats, three-toed sloths, iguanas, basilisk lizards, poison dart frogs, and howler, white-faced and spider monkeys. The tracks of river otters, collared peccaries, and Baird’s tapirs are often seen on the banks of rivers and canals. Caiman are commonly observed in the waterways, which also are home to gar-fish, manatees, crocodiles, crustaceans, and an occasional bullshark. Jaguars, ocelots, and kinkajous inhabit the park, but are rarely seen.
A spider monkey flying through the tree tops. This is just one of the four species of monkeys found in Costa Rica.
Adventure Tours That Bill Beard’s Operates Throughout Costa Rica: LEARN MORE
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