Costa Rica With Friends!
In June of 2009, we set off with six friends to explore more of the country we have learned to love. Once again we traveled with Greg Basco, this time booking with his Foto Verde travel agency (www.fotoverde.com). Our group ranged from bird-watchers to avid photographers, and we all looked forward to learning more about photographers and about the country. Our itinerary added a new destination and a couple of new experiences. Sadly, one of the places we visited in 2008 is gone--taken by the earthquake that devastated part of the country in February. Vera's Place and the waterfall that we photographed were both destroyed.
Once again we began our trip at the Hotel Bougainvillea. Jo and Dave arrived early and had an opportunity to explore the grounds. The rest of us came in the evening and had no time to look around. We met our guides for the trip, Greg Basco and Jose Lopez, had dinner, and went to bed, looking forward to the rest of our trip. We left early the next morning to head for Evergreen Lodge in Tortuguero.
Evergreen Lodge/Tortuguero National Park
We broke new ground with our visit to Evergreen Lodge. This is a lovely facility with beautifully landscaped grounds, two pools, tree houses to stay in, an outdoor bar, and all kinds of amazing flora and fauna to photograph. We enjoyed splashing in the warm waters of the sea turtle-shaped "warm" pool and cooling off in the "cold" pool. At the cold pool, we encountered cane toads and masked smilisca frogs--and photographed same! We toured the canals of Tortuguero National Park with our boat driver, Walther, in search of bare-throated tiger herons, crocodiles, boa constrictors, kingfishers, boat-billed herons, bats, black river turtles, and all kinds of other subjects for our cameras. We also visited the town of Tortuguero and saw the Caribbean Sea (which was gray and stormy!).
Arenal Observatory Lodge
Our third time at Arenal Observatory Lodge brought us better luck with night photos of the Volcano, along with visits to The Springs Resort and the Arenal Sky Tram for a chance to zip through the rainforest canopy.
The Springs Resort and Spa
This is a simply beautiful place! Newly built, the grounds are pristine and landscaped with gorgeous tropical plants and flowers. The springs themselves feature water temperatures from over 100 degrees Fahrenheit to about 80 degrees. Some have waterfalls to dally under, and one features a bar built right into the spring, so you can enjoy beverages as you relax in the mineral waters. You can also watch sloths in the trees--and even in the parking lot--as you lunch.
Arenal Sky Tram and Zip Line
We returned to the Arenal Sky Tram--but this time, we also did the zip line. One of the longest zip lines anywhere, this facility provided us with a total of 8 zips above and through the rainforest canopy. It was a phenomenal experience--exciting and incredibly beautiful. Once we got used to the speed of the zipline, we were able to look around and to enjoy the amazing scenery and the experience of flying above the treetops. To say that we loved it is a big understatement! Thanks to Jo Brenneman, we have photos of each of us on the ziplines to remember this experience by.
Next we headed to the rainforests of Sarapiqui and to Selva Verde Lodge. This facility will always mean the poison frogs to me. These tiny creatures are symbols of the rainforests that are becoming rarer as the trees are being cut down. It is a special opportunity to see these frogs up close, and to get good photographs of them. Thanks to Greg Basco's technique of using flashlights to shoot the red-eyed tree frogs, we have many good pictures to remember them by. We also got some good photos of emerald basilisks and saw pileated woodpeckers and chestnut-mandibled toucans near the pool. The facility at Selva Verde did not disappoint with its comfortable tree-house rooms and delicious foods.
Catarata del Toro
The first time we visited Selva Verde, we took a side trip to a spot called "Vera's Place" to experience the beauty of the cloud forests and to photograph hummingbirds. Unfortunately, Vera's Place was destroyed by the earthquake a year ago, so we travelled to Catarata del Toro instead. This is a lovely place, named for the waterfall visible across the valley. We had the chance to photograph some beautiful hummingbirds at flowers that Greg carefully set up and baited with nectar that the hummers really loved. We got some spectacular shots, and some really close-up looks at these beautiful birds. We also got the chance to walk some of the trails and get pictures of the waterfall and of some of the flowers of the cloudforest.
Savegre Mountain Hotel
Once again we visited Savegre, a remote and beautiful vallley high in the mountains. It is there that we saw the resplendent quetzals for the first time, and where we photographed hummingbirds from day to night. This time around, it was quetzals we were photographing from day to night! Our room was right next to the wild avocado tree that these birds frequented to feed. I even got to see the female quetzal, but didn't get a photo. We photographed hummers, too, but much of that time was in the pouring rain. We worked from the patio underneath the umbrellas meant to give shade, but instead gave us protection from the downpours. The food was, as always, delicious and plentiful, the scenery beautiful, and the photography amazing.
Final Stop: Back to Bougainvillea
We finished our tour where we began it--at Hotel Bougainvillea in San Jose. This time we managed a short time in the gardens on the morning of our departure. Below is a photo of our group, taken by a member of the Hotel's staff.
We still love to visit Costa Rica for our photo adventures, and find Foto Verde (www.fotoverdetours.com) is an excellent organization to travel with. It is specifically designed for photographers, and is owned and run by professional photographers. The staff is very flexible, and you can join one of their already-scheduled tours or put together one of your own. Greg Basco (www.deepgreenphotography.com) is an outstanding nature photographer and--rare among the breed--also an excellent instructor. While we haven't travelled with any other of the guides, we are assured that they are equally competent.