Monday, 2 October 2017

A Trip to Costa Rica: Tortuguero

 Tortuguero was the first ACTUAL destination on our Costa Rica trip.

Sure, we were going to San Jose, but that was in at least part due to the fact that there was no real choice - that's where the airport was, so that's where we were going. But Tortuguero was the first place we went to with high expectations, and Chris's first experience in a jungle.

 You may have guessed it from the name, but the reason that most people go to Tortuguero? The turtles. Every year, thousands of turtles come to the beaches to lay their eggs - and if you time it right, you can be there to watch the babies make their journey down to the ocean as well.

  We were a little early for that, but we did get to see a female turtle lay her eggs. You can only go to the beach at night if you're with a guide and so we did just that. It's a bit of an odd experience doing something like this, as the guides are very restricted - this is a good thing, it's for the benefit of the turtles, but it does make the whole experience a little peculiar. There are people called turtle spotters, who go out and look for where the turtles have arrived. They then go and keep an eye on the situation, and then come and get the groups when it's a suitable time to watch the turtle. The multiple groups then sort of take it in turns to swap around, letting each group watch the various different stages of the egg laying process.

  It was certainly interesting - we got to see the turtle laying her eggs, covering them up, disguising them, and then slowly sliding her way back into the ocean. It's all a bit of a slow process, but I do recommend doing some kind of turtle tour if you're in the area, as it's unlikely you'll see anything like it elsewhere!

 Of course, Tortuguero is also a jungle. And more than anything, that means it's hot. SO hot. It was by far the hottest place we went to and made it really horrible for hikes. If you're going to do a hike here - go early! You will also be attacked by flies throughout the day, and this turns to bites from mosquitoes the second the sun starts to even think about going down. Just be prepared, and don't let it ruin your experience!

 The beaches were a good place to go to to cool down. I would have to say the Caribbean Sea is my favourite - it's warm! It's a perfect way to cool off by taking a quick break and walking along the sand with your feet in the sea. The island heavily discourages actually swimming in the ocean as the riptides are strong. We didn't do this, as even just walking in up to my shorts I could feel myself getting yanked with surprising strength, but we did see other people - though mostly locals - swimming. So of course, it's up to you just how far in you go, but I'd always recommend walking alongside it when you need a bit of a break!

 The little village of Tortuguero itself is also lovely. It's vibrant and friendly, and I love how pretty and colourful everything is. Please note you'll need some smaller bills if you go here. I'm also going to tell you some conflicting advice to everything I read before coming here. The internet as a whole told me to make sure I took lots of the Costa Rican currency, colones, as they wouldn't accept dollars. I found it to be the opposite for the most part, to the extent that at the end of the trip I was still left with a lot of colones I couldn't do anything with purely from my expectations of visiting here. A few places specifically only took dollars and it was quite hard to get rid of the colones in some places. But consistently, whatever you use, you will need small notes. They were very easy going about it, but at one point it was almost like Chris owed half the island as they weren't able to accept his higher notes as they didn't have any change, but were still relaxed about letting him buy whatever he wanted under the understanding he'd come back later or the next day to pay for it with a smaller note.

 Most of my time in Tortuguero was just spent in a hammock. I bloody love hammocks. I'm a bit odd, because I really hate beach or pool holidays. I hate just sitting around, no matter what I do I find it so boring. Hammocks are the exception. I could spend a really, really long time in a hammock - especially here if you can find somewhere near an ocean where you get a bit of a breeze from it too!

 So, how do you get to Tortuguero? It's actually not as difficult as the internet may make it seem. If you're going by public transport, there is a bus that pretty perfectly lines up with the boat timetable. If you drive like us, there's a big car park right next to where the boat leaves that seemed pretty secure. As you've probably guessed from the last two statements, you then need to catch a boat, or alternatively have flown in.

The public boat leaves four times a day and isn't expensive at all. However. It sucks. It really sucks. Make sure you have sufficiently low expectations. We pictured ourselves sailing through the jungle seeing all sorts of animals and other interesting things, and couldn't understand why the faces of the the people coming in the opposite direction looked so glum. It's just really, really boring. It takes about 90 minutes to 2 hours and feels like a lot longer. It's a necessity and it really doesn't cost much money (plus the restaurant just before you board the boat does really nice food if you'd like to try a traditional Costa Rican dish!) but it's so incredibly dull. As long as you go in knowing that you probably won't mind too much, but a jungle safari by water it certainly isn't. If you're driving, you don't need a 4x4 to get to Tortuguero. The roads nearby are full of little stones and you'll be bumping all over the place, but our little car did just fine!

 We spent two nights in Tortuguero, and overall I feel that was the right amount of time for us. I would have perhaps liked to have spent a bit longer hiking in the national park and explored some of the less accessible trails, but honestly I don't know if we'd have actually enjoyed it all that much due to the heat! I'd recommend that you stay in the main village unless you really like boat journeys, and go prepared with a good amount of cash in both currencies in low amounts.


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