My 4th time at Maquenque Ecolodge, but first time to go on this particular float trip (their web description link) though I’ve canoed their lake and been on the bigger river, San Carlos, in a larger boat. The only reason I’ve missed this one is that they require a minimum of 2 paying customers and I travel solo! 🙂 This was the first time there were other guests interested in this same float trip to make up the minimum with me. They were a lovely couple from Europe, he Italian and she Swiss! We had a great time together and I got a lot of photos which is right now the only part of my Maquenque Trip Gallery that is completed. So you can see more photos at Rio Tres Amigos Safari GALLERY. 🙂
And note that the only wildlife (The cow doesn’t count!) that I show in this post is one bird, but it’s a rare photo of a female Sunbittern sitting on her nest! In earlier blog posts I’ve shown you 3 animals from this safari: Crested Caracara, Green Iguana and Mantled Howler Monkey, yet there are still many more in the above gallery including 12 species of birds! 🙂 And here are 6 shots to give you an idea of what just one morning at Maquenque can be like! 🙂 Still my favorite lodge!
After a 3.5 hour drive up to Boca Tapada near the Nicaragua border on the San Carlos River, I crossed the river and got settled in my little rainforest “bungalow” on a small lake where I’ve already photographed more birds and other wildlife than I can count! But I will stay simple the first night and post only one photo, the back porch of my cabin overlooking the lake. Pura vida! 🙂
Since it is such a short post, you might want more information:
I have kind of quit evaluating lodges and hotels on TripAdvisor like I used to do after every trip and in some ways I’m finding it more difficult to “rank” lodges, like I did earlier by just the number of birds I photograph there.
At more than 82 and 1/2 years old, I’m looking for comfort more than in earlier adventures and simply do not go camping anymore, not to mention backpacking. So a comfortable room and good food are more important to me now, even though photographing nature still comes first. 🙂
First, I Changed How I Get There & Back
Most of the lodges provide a free shuttle bus or van from any hotel in San Jose, including at the SJO Airport (where I have them pick me up at the Hampton Inn). Then van drives you to Guápiles for breakfast and then on to the La Pavona Boat Dock near Cariari, 22 kms (13.7 miles) north of Guápiles. Then you boat to your lodge in one of the lodge’s boats, an hour and a half to 2-hour boat trip which is a fun adventure the first time. I did that the first three times going twice to Laguna Lodgeand then once to Turtle Beach Lodge, though my return from Turtle Beach was much easier as I chose to fly back on Sansa from the tiny airport in Tortuguero. This time I chose to fly both ways at around $200 round-trip. Much faster and more relaxing plus I love the views and photo possibilities from the plane window! Plus small planes are their own kind of adventure! And it just happens that the lodge I chose this time is across the river from the “Airport” or little landing strip by the ocean.
I Chose For Better Room & Food This Time
The first two lodges I have visited in Tortuguero were just basic camp cabins (fine for me) and with average or maybe a little above average buffet-style food. But as I get older I want more comfort and better food.
So I chose the most expensive lodge there, Tortuga Lodge and Gardens, a BOENA Property with 4 upscale “wilderness lodges” in Costa Rica including Lapa Rio which used to be run by National Geographic and my favorite lodge in Monteverde (I’ve tried 3), the Monteverde Lodge and Gardens that I stayed in before it became BOENA. At over $400 a night including all 3 meals, this was my most expensive lodge yet, though I’ve been favoring other lodges more like it recently. 🙂
The room was the best yet in Tortuguero! So Tortuga Lodge won me over with the large, spacious room with private terrace overlooking the river and a back window looking into the rainforest. Very comfortable King Bed and large bathroom with huge rain shower. Strong WiFi capable of rapidly uploading my photos to the blog and even a nice desk for my laptop! So Tortuga Lodge & Gardens wins on room and excellent early maid service! In one or both of the other lodges I had to go to the lobby or restaurant for WiFi.
The food was also by far the best yet in Tortuguero! Though I had one complaint about the dry chicken and fish and tough, rubbery large shrimp at some dinners, everything else was absolutely delicious and well-prepared with a lot of choices for all three meals, including a variety of appetizers, salads, soups and desserts! It was generally the kind of fine, gourmet food you expect at their high prices.
Guides and Tours About Equal
Their Guides & Tours were as good as the other two lodges. Every guide I’ve had at all three lodges have been excellent as were their tours! So this reason for going would not make either of the three lodges a big winner exactly, though both Laguna and Turtle Beach are literally on the beach which is a big plus for me and would be more so in turtle season. Plus both are more back in the jungle than Tortuga AND Turtle Beach has its own private canals and a bigger property which is another advantage they have and I saw more wildlife there. In fact one of my tours this time was in Laguna 4 which is next to Turtle Beach Lodge and was this guide’s favorite place to go. Hmmm. If Turtle Beach had the higher quality rooms and food, I would probably prefer them.
I think Tortuga Lodge and Gardens is overpriced, but I enjoyed my 4 nights there and would consider it again for the comfort as I would consider the other two for the wildlife tours and I might even try a different place next time, like Mawamba Lodge which I’ve heard good things about, if I even get to go back to Tortuguero. 🙂
I’m up to photos of about 40 bird species plus at least 20 other animals and I don’t leave until noon tomorrow, so it will be a while before I report on all of those, thus here’s a few representative shots from the different boats I floated on through the Tortuguero rivers and canals . . .
Here’s 10 more shots, some of which could be considered art (I think) . . .
I look out over the main river in Tortuguero when in my colorful Caribbean Cottage. I’m in the downstairs one on the left in photo below. It rained off and on much of my arrival afternoon but I got a few photos with an Oropendola my only bird. Took the night walk and might have some photos from that later. And in the morning I do my favorite boat tour of the national park with lots of birds and other animal possibilities, then tomorrow afternoon visit a small community in the middle of the rainforest. So lots of photo-ops! 🙂
I got 8 more butterflies today and at least one a “lifer” or new one for me, but identifying and processing hundreds of photos is just too much to share those today and the birds were just a very few! It is quite windy here this time of year.
So for today’s post, the easy way out, a handful of vistas from the hotel, many from my room and most of these are untouched straight out of the camera to facilitate my limited time for this post today! 🙂 One shot of last night’s sunset from my room just for the email announcement, and then all in a slide show that follows . . .
As much as I love traveling around Costa Rica with my camera, I am slowing down a little this year for multiple reasons, mainly health and money! 🙂 I’ve lived a long and exciting life already, mostly as a high-energy person, ready at all times for the next adventure! But with much less energy after cancer radiation treatments and having three pretty serious falls last year on trips, I must “start acting my age” in some respects. 🙂
Plus, my savings have been cut back a good bit with all the cancer treatments and I’m beginning to feel the tightness of money more, so fewer trips and shorter trips is part of my plan for this year with enough “wiggle room” to add a day trip at the last minute when I feel the need. 🙂 Like the 2-night trip this week just added to nearby Xandari Resort . . .
Here’s My 2023 Travel Plans
2 nights – Xandari Costa Rica Resort, Alajuela, my #1 best location for butterflies and one of the best for flowers! It’s this week! And you can see photos from 5 previous visits by browsing through my Costa Rica Trips Galleries, 2022, 2020 (twice), 2019 & 2018. 🙂 I will be giving the resort gifts of two copies of one of my newest photo books, Butterflies! The Hidden Art of Xandari for them to add to the only complete library of all Charlie Doggett photo books!
4 nights – Tortuga Lodge & Gardens, Tortuguero National Park.This will be my 4th trip to Tortuguero NP but my first time to this Lodge which is a sister lodge to the Monteverde Lodge and Gardens I visited in 2019 and considered a little nicer than the more rustic lodges I’ve visited here before, Turtle Beach Lodge in 2019 and Laguna Lodge in 2016 and with Caravan Tours in 2010. Tortuguero is often called “The Amazon of Costa Rica” with most nature hikes by boat and an amazing amount of wildlife from an occasional Jaguar to almost every tropical bird! 🙂
5 nights – Maquenque EcoLodge & Reserve, Boca Tapada. I sometimes call this my favorite lodge because of the large number of birds and other wildlife I’ve photographed there in the past and because they have treehouse rooms from which I’ve photographed both birds and monkeys in the nearby trees. But for the first time there I’m staying in a ground level cabin, one on the lake which may give me different wildlife photos from my room and I will be in less danger of falling down the 50 metal steps going up to the treehouse room. 🙂 You can see the photos of my 3 previous visits there by browsing through my Costa Rica Trips Galleries, or directly to 2022, 2020, & 2019. 🙂
5 Nights – Esquinas Rainforest Lodgewhich I’ve visited only one other time, also in the rainy season with one of my largest collections of bird photos in a 2018 visit when I was the only guest most of my days there. It is a small, quiet jungle retreat in the rainforests of Piedras Blancas National Park on the opposite side of that park from the more touristy Playa Cativo Lodge I visited last July, also for my birthday! This year is will be my 83rd birthday! 🙂 This is run by Austrians in conjunction with their university-related rainforest research station there. Being the rainy season, it will definitely not be crowded and I could be the only guest again! That would be okay with me! 🙂
6 nights – Hotel Banana Azul, Puerto Viejo, Limón, South Caribe. This is my annual Caribbean Beach vacation, staying always in “The Howler Suite” room overlooking the rainforest property and beach where I get great sunrise photos each morning plus lots of butterflies and birds and other wildlife including Sloths. It is my most relaxing place to visit and I have no pressure to do anything, plus the food is good and I can walk to most places, though they have their own tour company to take me further if I want explore afar and of course to and from the Limón Aeropuerto. I always fly there as I will also to Esquinas in July, near Golfito. My only 2 flying trips this year. Walter will drive me everywhere else I go this year. You can see my photos of 5 previous visits to Banana Azul by browsing through my Costa Rica Trips Galleries, or go directly to 2022, 2021, 2019, 2018, & 2017.
6 Nights – Hotel Savegre Lodge & Reserve, San Gerardo de Dota. And this year I will spend Christmas in another favorite lodge, in the most beautiful mountains with the 5th purest/cleanest river in the entire world – Rio Savegre! And the best place in Costa Rica to photograph the Resplendent Quetzal birds along with many others! Plus terrific food, rooms and hiking trails! See my photos from there on my 2021 Visit, plus I was in the same hotel in 2009 (smaller then) and I have visited two other lodges in San Gerardo de Dota. Mariam’s Quetzales Cabins in 2015 and Trogon Lodge in 2014, all good experiences!
So fewer trips this year, but each one comes at a time I will emotionally need it and all in places I’ve been before and really love! I’m the luckiest guy in the world to get to spend my final years living like this in the most beautiful nature places in the world! Nothing could be better for my 83rd year of life!
If I look more to the right from my terrace at a North to a little Northeast I see more distant mountains toward Arenal and the closer Poas Volcano which I think may be under those clouds on the mid-right. I haven’t been to Poas in a long time, which now requires a reservation, and you must go early morning to avoid the cloud cover. When clear, it is the best volcano in Costa Rica to visit because only there can you look down into the bubbling cauldron and of course smell the sulphur. They recommend no more than 15 minutes at the rim for health reasons in breathing sulphur.
Lake Arenal was the first first man-made lake built in Costa Rica to create electricity with a dam, famous for having covered the town of Arenal and its cemetery with water. The town’s residents moved to a “Nuevo Arenal” which is now called Castillo, where the Butterfly Conservancy is located. It is also a popular local fishing lake and is surrounded by tourist attractions, Arenal Volcano National Park (La Fortuna) on the east, Monteverde on the west and Tenorio National Park nearby along with Caño Negro and many lodges/hotels & hot springs. And yes, some expat retirees have built homes on the lake! 🙂
My earlier May trip to the Observatory Lodge was better for lake shots because the sun sets over the lake that time of year! No really good shots this time, but sort of what a lake looks like in cloudy and rainy weather. 🙂
Here’s 5 shots from this trip, two of which are multi-shot panoramas . . .