Walking through the garden on two mornings (March 11 & 12) and I chose these shots to share in a little slide show. Rainy Season usually sorta starts the middle of April and really starts in May, but by March 12 we have already had 3 little but nice rains! So I’m glad as is my garden! 🙂
Each and every bloom is unique and beautiful to me. Enjoy walking through my garden with the slide show below and here is the only one I can’t identify, from across the driveway in neighbor’s yard . . .
7 days ago, Friday, March 10, I left my house at 5:40 am and took the city streets for the 20 minute walk to Calle Nueva alongside Roca Verde but with no entrance from our development. I saw a few birds on the city streets enroute and then a little past Colegio Técnico (our technical high school on 10th Ave.) I always start seeing birds and continue to as I cross the stream and go up the hill alongside Roca Verde. I’ll do a post about the road tomorrow and explain why I think birds have decreased there and will more in the future, but for today here’s the 11 birds I got useable photos of for the blog and darn it! I missed snapping the 2 Motmots I saw! 🙂
First a photo I consider kind of “artsy” – a black bird on black & silver power lines with the morning sunrise turning the clouds in front of him black & orange as he seems to stare at them in unbelief! 🙂 Sort of dramatic, don’t you think? 🙂
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. 🙂
It’s the same photos I’ve reported with on this blog and are in my trip gallery, but it is another creative opportunity for me that I find fun and will enjoy having a copy of the book and sharing a couple of copies with the lodge which they will share with other guests, so a nice creative use of my photography from a trip like this and the first trip book I’ve done in a year or two.
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! 🙂
The main reason I gave to people back in Tennessee when I moved to Costa Rica was that “I could not afford to travel and live in retirement in the United States where everything is too expensive, especially healthcare.”
And travel into nature was then already my favorite retirement activity. I’m the only one I knew then in Tennessee who had visited all 54 of the state parks there! 🙂 Yet my favorite place for nature had already become Central America and especially Costa Rica, though I did carefully check out Panama for retirement also. So after 4 trips to Costa Rica (+3 to Panama & 3 to Guatemala), I made the big decision and moved to Costa Rica! Never for a single moment have I regretted it! 🙂
And of course you do know that I mean Peacock BUTTERFLY! 🙂
There are two species that I see here, the more common is the Banded Peacock that I see all over Costa Rica and shared one from last week’s visit to Xandari, but maybe my preferred is the simpler but elegant White Peacock Butterfly, Anartia jatrophae. Click that link for my gallery photos of them. They are also found all over Costa Rica, though not in the abundance of the Banded Peacock. These are the only 2 “Peacock” butterflies in Costa Rica, while Panama and south into South America there is also a Red Peacock Butterfly which is similar to the Banded but with thicker bands of red where the Banded has thinner white bands.
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!
I just can’t quit talking about all the neat things you can see and photograph at Arenal Observatory Lodge! And another one are trees, all of their trees, but maybe the most unique are their Rainbow Eucalyptus Trees that were a part of their early development reforestation program which you can read about in an article on their website: The Rainbow Trees of Arenal, Costa Rica by Shannon Farley, my friend and fellow Atenas resident! 🙂 You will be amazed as you read the article and probably want to visit this favorite lodge of mine too! Where I could spend months hiking their 7+ miles of well-maintained hiking trails and never be bored! 🙂