- We take a daytime flight to San José and then drive northwest for around an hour and a half to a lovely birding lodge set in the montane forest of the Pacific slope. We arrive by late afternoon, in time for dinner and our first night walk in the reserve.
- Accommodation: Bosque de Paz Lodge, 2-nights on full board basis
- We spend the day exploring on foot and photographing the wealth of colourful hummingbirds to be found here, along with mammal species such as agoutis, pacas and a great variety of frogs.
- Today we drive north to the San Carlos River, near the border with Nicaragua, where primary and secondary rainforest in the Maquenque Wildlife Refuge area offer outstanding bird photography. The refuge was established with the specific objective of protecting the unique almond tree habitat of the great green macaw, as well as other endangered or vulnerable species such as the manatee, jaguar and gaspar fish that inhabit this large area of fragile wetland and tropical rainforest.
- Accommodation: Maquenque Ecolodge, 3-nights on full board basis
- We have two full days to explore the rainforest and partake in various photography workshops that make use of the hides and set-ups for staged photography in the area, with dedicated gardens for wildlife watching.
- We also visit nearby Laguna de Lagarto Lodge to use their two photography hides for birds (including vultures), as well as their hummingbird feeders, and staged photography for snake and bat feeding.
- After breakfast we drive south for around five hours to San Gerardo de Dota in the Savegre Valley, beside Los Quetzales National Park. We stay here for three nights to give us plenty of opportunity to photograph the resplendent quetzal, after which the park was named. In the afternoon, after checking into the lodge, we head out on a walk in the montane forest.
- Accommodation: Trogon Lodge, 3-nights on full board basis
- Our time in the area is spent between early morning and afternoon photography sessions targeting the resplendent quetzal and other bird species, along with walks in the montane forest that offer opportunities for more macro photography to capture the local flora, with its colourful alpine and exotic species.
- This morning we have a final early session to photograph resplendent quetzal. Then, after breakfast, we drive south for around five hours to our lodge at the edge of Corcovado National Park, the jewel in the crown of Costa Rica’s national park system and arguably one of the most biologically intense places on earth.
- With a stop for lunch en route, we should arrive by mid-afternoon. We stay here for two nights and make the most of the proximity to the park to explore and photograph the rainforest.
- Accommodation: Ecoturistico La Tarde, 1-night on full board basis
- We spend the whole day and the evening in the field, with fantastic opportunities for macro photography, as we look at frogs, insects, flowers, exotic plants; there is also great birding here, as well as opportunities to photograph mammals.
- In the late afternoon we head to Bosque de Cabo on the tip of the Osa Peninsula, arriving in time for dinner.
- Accommodation: Bosque del Cabo Lodge, 3-nights on a full board basis
- This morning we explore the rainforest adjacent to the lodge and in the afternoon we head out on a dolphin-watching and snorkelling excursion in Golfo Dulce, home to resident and migratory communities of bottlenose, spotted dolphins, spinner dolphins and – occasionally – false killer whales.
- We stop en route at the botanical garden of Casa Orchideas to see its delightful collection of orchids, bromeliads, heliconias, cycads, ornamental and fruit trees, ginger plants, spices, herbs and medicinal plants. While exploring the gardens we may also see tanagers, hummingbirds, toucans, macaws, various frogs and the other life.
- In the evening we walk in the reserve around the lodge to look for nocturnal species.
- We enjoy a full day exploring the private reserve, with photography workshop sessions. Trails lead us through the forest to deserted beaches on both the Golfo Dulce and Pacific Ocean. The area’s residents include flocks of macaws, toucans and parrots, while monkeys, coatis, kinkajous, agoutis, and sloths are daily visitors. Peccaries are often seen, and from time to time even jungle cats such as puma, jaguarundi, ocelot and jaguar are spotted at the lodge.
- This morning we transfer to Puerto Jimenez and board a short flight back to San José, where we connect with our international flight home.
Day 14 Arrive UK
All prices are per person and include:
- Services of the naturalist leader
- All meals
- Some photographic hides and special permits
- Photography tuition
Comfortable ecolodges. Standard rooms have twin or double beds, all with en suite bathroom. Single rooms available on request. All lodges are ideal for birdwatching, being surrounded by lush gardens or rainforest.
Bosque de Paz Lodge has its own hummingbird feeders and Maquenque Ecolodge provides various photographic hides and platforms to optimise wildlife and birdwatching. Ecoturistico La Tarde in Osa Peninsula is more rustic and simple than the other lodges, however its location is outstanding for exploring La Selva Private Reserve with superb photography opportunities.
All meals are included. Most lodges are remotely located and meals are usually taken at the lodge, with some picnic lunches in the field. Food in Costa Rica is varied and of a great standard. Most lodges can cater for all dietary needs.
Among the biggest draws are the country’s 50 or so species of hummingbird, many of which are relatively easy to see because they come to feeders put out at some of the lodges. Depending on the prevailing conditions, we aim to find resplendent quetzals as they feed in fruiting avocado trees in the early morning, and scarlet macaws as they move between their roost and feeding grounds on the Osa Peninsula. In Maquenque we have the opportunity for a good close up with the charismatic and colourful king vulture using a dedicated hide.
- Resplendent quetzal
- Great green macaw
- Scarlet macaw
- King vulture
More than 200 species of mammals can be found in Costa Rica, including a great variety of monkeys, sloths, tapirs, bats, and the elusive jaguar.
- White-faced capuchin monkey
- Northern tamandua
- White-nosed coati
- Common tent-making bat
In Costa Rica, the smallest things - or critter species - are sometimes as appealing as the larger ones, especially for photography. The country is home to at least 1,239 species of butterflies, including the most famous and delightful; the blue morpho, known for his wings of a splendid blue colour.
- Lantern bug
- Central American montane tiger beetle
- Blue morpho butterfly
- Hercule beetle
Reptiles and amphibians
Costa Rica is home to approximately 160 species of amphibians and more than 200 species of reptiles (half of them snakes), with also a great variety of iguanas, lizards and turtles, as they come ashore on beaches to nest. Amphibians are primarily represented by the dozens of species of frogs and toads, including some exotic and colourful ones such as the poison-arrow frogs and green and black poison dart frog.
- Red-eyed tree frog
- Eyelash viper
- Glass frog
- Green and black poison dart frog
Blooming with vivid displays of colours, contrasting with the lush green surrounding them from the cloud and rainforest, Costa Rica is home to a vast array of plants and trees, every species highly adapted to the ecosystems within which they reside. The most common class of flowering plants are the heliconia, a large flower of red, orange or yellow; the most thought after is the orchid, particularly diverse on the Osa Peninsula.
- Angel orchid
- Red ginger
Costa Rica is home to at least seven different habitats, from the Pacific and the Caribbean coast to the slopes of the central mountains, which run like a spine along the length of the country. Rainforests predominate but vary in character depending on altitude and topography: moving from one valley to another often results in a whole new selection of species.
Weather permitting, we take a boat trip in Golfo Dulce to reach the botanical garden, and enjoy a dolphin watching excursion.
Costa Rica is an established wildlife destination with a wealth of wildlife, and we have selected locations and lodges that offer high quality, both in the standard of the accommodation as well as the overall experience and photographic opportunities. The forest floor offers incredible richness for the macro enthusiast, with many smaller species that are wonderfully camouflaged and may look like broken twigs, nibbled leaves or even bird droppings.
We will be accompanied by renowned professional photographer Chris Mattison who will assist at every step of the tour to capture the remarkably rich biodiversity of Costa Rica.
Walks are mostly in the rainforest or cloud forest. Rainforests are located at lower altitude and trails are generally flat, although heavy rain could make some of the path slightly slippery. We will also go on night walks, using flashlights to spot nocturnal species.
Walks in the cloud forest at higher altitude can be a little more steep but since our main focus is photography, we take it very slow in order not to miss out on any interesting sightings.
Price includes return scheduled flights London – San José – London, plus domestic flight from Puerto Jimenez to San José.
Ground transportation is by minibus or 4 wheel drive vehicle, with driver.
While travelling to the Maquenque area in the north of the country and the Savegre Valley in the south-west, we reach an altitude of 2,200 metres. Osa Peninsula, however, is at a lower altitude - varying from sea level to 780 metres.
Much of the country is covered by rainforest and so rain is expected at all times of year. However, the drier months tend to be December through to May. As a general rule, the Highlands tend be cloud forest areas which are misty and cool, the coastal areas are hot and humid all year round, and the Central Valley gets an ‘eternal spring’ which is cooler and less humid than the coast, but warmer than the Highlands.
December is one of the coolest month in Costa Rica with temperatures ranging from 21 to 27C.