Costa RicaCosta Rica

From Concrete to Jungle

Destination: Tortuguero

It always feels more like an adventure when you have to get up early. A comfortable shuttle bus picks me up at my hotel in San Jose to begin the journey east to Tortuguero with other members of my tour group (and our tour guide).

Within the hour we pass through the majestic Braulio Carrillo National Park. This pristine rainforest serves as an example of what Costa Rica looked like in the 1940's; 75% of Costa Rica was virgin rainforest. Vegetation dangles along the road side attempting to soften the steep ravenous depressions that fall, not too far from the side of the road, down so far you can't see the bottom, anywhere!

Road markings are vaguely visible and people drive on all sides of the road, passing other vehicles traveling too slow for their liking. It can be a little unnerving. Just don't pay attention to the road and everything will be fine. If you look closely through gaps in the vegetation to your left, you'll have a peak at two magnificent waterfalls careening off the side of the facing mountain.

A little further up the road we stop for a traditional Costa Rican style breakfast (rice n' beans, eggs, toast and fresh fruit and juice, and coffee) -- yummy! Only two more hours to go until we reach the port, where we will board a flat bottomed river boat and travel through a series of rivers and canals to reach Mawamba Lodge. Mawamba lodge is located near the town of Tortuguero, on the Caribbean side of the Tortuguero River. It is one of two lodges in Tortuguero located on the sea side of the River.

The name Tortuguero can technically encompass the northern half of the Caribbean Coast of Costa Rica, but for this journey, we are referring to Tortuguero as the Village of Tortuguero, the Tortuguero River and its tributaries that exist in and around the Tortuguero National Park.

When we arrive at Mawamba's private dock, Port Matina there is live music, clean restrooms and fresh fruit and coffee for all who pass through this port. Once on board the boat, we stop to observe some Roseate Spoonbills, a fairly unusual bird to see in this part of the country. As we get closer to the Tortuguero area, the endless green of the tropical forests that borders the Tortuguero River and its canals is mesmerizing. It's sooooo beautiful here.

Upon arrival at Mawamba Lodge, a fresh fruit drink is served and we go get settled in our rooms. Many of the comfortable, recently renovated rooms are riverfront.

There are a few noteworthy plants to seek out. You'll find the Star Fruit tree, Ylang Ylang tree (essential oil is the basis of Chanel 5 perfume) and the Bay Rum tree (great natural insect repellent if you crush the leaves and rub them on your skin), all located near the pool area. The pool area near the bar offers the perfect environment for afternoon sunbathing and swimming. Here, they have a Red Eyed Tree Frog exhibit where you can see frogs in their various stages from egg mass, to tadpole to adults.

There is plenty of leisure time to enjoy a tropical beverage at the bar before (and after) dinner. As evening approaches the house geckos and tree frogs begin their nocturnal conversations (songs?). Night falls early in Costa Rica. It is dark by 6pm or earlier throughout the whole year. Guests seem to disappear into their rooms after dinner in anticipation of tomorrow's early tour.

From Concrete to Jungle in Pictures