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NORTH & CENTRAL PHOTO TOUR

Tour Description

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COSTA RICA
PHOTO TOUR
ANY TIME*

Duration:12 days, 11 nights
Group Size:2-8
Anytime Price:$3975
Group Price:$3650
Single Suppl:$450
Pace:Easy
Difficulty:Easy
* This tour is available for any dates of your choosing provided guide services and accommodations are available.

DAY 1 - ALAJUELA

International flights arrive in the afternoon or evening. Everyone gathers at the Hotel Aeropuerto, a 5-minute taxi ride from the international airport, where they are met by the tour leader. Night in Alajuela.

DAY 2 - TARCOLES

Depart early and drive down the Pacific slope to the lowlands, arriving at the lodge mid-morning. Stop en route to look for Black-and-white Owl that often roosts in Orotina town square. Other stops to look for Turquoise-browed Motmot and White-throated Magpie-Jay. After arrival morning photography of birds on lodge grounds.

Afternoon boat trip on the Rio Tarcoles, with many opportunities to photograph birds along the river. In addition to crocodiles, we could find Fasciated Tiger-Heron, Common Black-Hawk, Amazon Kingfisher, Double-striped Thick-knee, and Mangrove Swallow. Also possible are Two-toed Sloth and Black Spider Monkey. Later in the afternoon photograph birds in the Tarcoles area. Possibilities include Scarlet Macaw, Barred Antshrike, Common Tody-Flycatcher, Buff-throated Saltator as well as various tanagers and finches. Night at Cerro Lodge.

DAY 3 - CARARA NATIONAL PARK

All day photograph birds in Carara National Park, which protects dry lowland forest near the Pacific coast. The park is in a zone of overlap between northerly and southerly species so has high species diversity. Trails are wide, level, and easy walking. Much of the Headquarters Trail is paved asphalt while the Laguna Meandrica Travel is dirt. Morning walk the Headquarters Trail through primary forest where we hope to photograph antbirds of forest understory and secretive birds such as Black-faced Antthrush, Streak-chested Antpitta, and Riverside Wren. Afternoon walk the Laguna Meandrica Trail through secondary forest where many photo opportunities arise. Possibilities include Black-headed Trogon, Baird's Trogon, Gartered Trogon, Black-throated Trogon, Slaty-tailed Trogon, Lineated Woodpecker, Barred Antshrike, Black-hooded Antshrike, Dot-winged Antwren, Chestnut-backed Antbird, Orange-collared Manakin, Lance-tailed Manakin, Gray-headed Tanager, White-lined Tanager, and Cherrie's Tanager. The trail ends at a lagoon where aquatic birds such as Boat-billed Heron are found. Night at Cerro Lodge.

DAY 4 - TARCOLES TO ARENAL

Morning photograph birds around the lodge. We may have opportunities to photograph Black-mandibled Toucan and Scarlet Macaw as well as many other birds of open habitat. After breakfast depart for Arenal Volcano National Park, stopping en route for lunch. Arrive mid afternoon. We should have some time to photograph birds in the lodge gardens before dark. Night at Arenal Observatory Lodge.

DAY 5 - ARENAL VOLCANO NATIONAL PARK

Morning walk trails through primary forest in the park or on lodge property. The best trail is near the entrance to lodge property. We hope to photograph a variety of antbirds and other forest species. Possibiliites include Dusky Antbird, Dull-mantled Antbird, Spotted Antbird, the spectacular Ocellated Antbird, which typically follows army ant swarms, Black-striped Woodcreeper, Nightingale Wren, and Black-headed Nightingale-Thrush. The gravel road leading to the lodge offers photo opportunities in more open areas and thickets. Here it's possible to find Lineated Woodpecker, Great Antshrike, Slaty Spinetail, Long-tailed Tyrant, White-throated Magpie-Jay, Bay Wren, Thick-billed Seed-Finch, and more.

After lunch photograph birds in the gardens where vervain flowers attract hummingbirds such as Stripe-throated Hermit, Brown Violetear, Violet-headed Hummingbird, and Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer. Also photograph birds coming in to fruit feeders. Likely species include Crimson-collared Tanager, Passerini's Tanager, Shining Honeycreeper, and several species of euphonias. Even the lovely Golden-browed Chlorophonia is possible. An afternoon walk around the gardens and forest edge offers possibilities such as Great Curassow, Black-crested Coquette, Orange-bellied Trogon, and Smoky-brown Woodpecker. The Arenal area is the best place in Costa Rica for the latter species. We may even see some plumes from Arenal Volcano if it's active during our visit. Night at upscale Arenal Observatory Lodge.

DAY 6 - ARENAL & TRANSFER

Morning visit the hanging bridges of Arenal. A total of 14 bridges, including 6 suspension bridges, are present along this 3¼km trail. The trail is usually very busy but offers chances to photograph wildlife such as Mantled Howler Monkey, Geoffrey's Spider Monkey, and White-headed Capuchin Monkey as well as middle canopy forest birds. Species that may appear in a mixed species flock include White-fronted Nunbird, Streak-crowned Antvireo, Slaty Antwren, and Northern Barred-Woodcreeper. After lunch transfer to our next destination, La Quinta Country Inn near Sarapiqui on the Caribbean slope. We should have some time after our arrival to photograph birds in the gardens on lodge property. Night at La Quinta Country Inn.

DAY 7 - LA SELVA & SARAPIQUI ECO-OBSERVATORY

Morning photograph birds at La Selva Biological Station, which welcomes visitors. It's best to walk trails through primary rainforest in early morning when bird activity is highest. There we'll look for and photograph birds such as Crested Guan, Chestnut-colored Woodpecker, Lineated Woodpecker, Fasciated Antshrike, Great Antshrike, Black-crowned Antshrike, White-collared Manakin, Crimson-collared Tanager, and Golden-hooded Tanager. Later in the morning we'll check more open areas. The clearing around the office is a good place to find Collared Aracari and Black-mandibled Toucan. Sometimes a Great Curassow comes into the open as well. Near the resident researcher buildings, flowers attract Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer. The entrance road is also worth some time. The secondary forest along the road has grown considerably in recent years and is less open than it once was. Even so bird activity can be quite good. Possibilities include Cinnamon Woodpecker, Barred Antshrike, Common Tody-Flycatcher, White-shouldered Tanager, Crimson-collared Tanager, Passerini's Tanager, Golden-hooded Tanager, and Black-cowled Oriole.

Afternoon visit nearby Sarapiqui Eco-Observatory, one of the best places in Costa Rica for photographing birds. There we'll have a chance to photograph Sunbittern along the Sarapiqui River. Hummingbird feeders attract 9 different species including Purple-crowned Fairy, Green-breasted Mango, Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer, and Violet-crowned Woodnymph. An observation platform overlooking forest canopy provides an excellent vantage point for photographing tanagers and other birds in the trees. A network of trails provides access to the forest where we can look to photograph antbirds and other forest species as time permits. Night at La Quinta Country Inn.

DAY 8 - SELVA VERDE, EL TAPIR, SAN GERARDO DE DOTA

Morning visit nearby Selva Verde, where we have another chance to photograph the strange Sunbittern and possibly also Fasciated Tiger-Heron along the river. Also walk a trail through secondary forest along the river where it's often possible to photograph some antbirds and tanagers. Lunch at the pizza place in the downstairs of Selva Verde Lodge. After lunch transfer back to San Jose, stopping en route at El Tapir Nature Reserve, an excellent place to photograph hummingbirds. Two prime attractions are the prized Snowcap and Black-crested Coquette. Other possible hummingbirds include Green Thorntail, Violet-headed Hummingbird, and Violet-crowned Woodnymph.

Lunch at an area restaurant. Stop at Miriam's Cafe en route to San Gerardo de Dota in the Talamanca Mountains to photograph birds coming to feeders. Among the possibilities are Ruddy-capped Nightingale-Thrush, Sooty Thrush, Large-footed Finch, and Elegant Euphonia. Arrive at our lodge by mid afternoon. Photograph higher elevation hummingbirds such as Green-crowned Brilliant, Magnificent Hummingbird, Volcano Hummingbird, and Scintillant Hummingbird as well as Slaty Flowerpiercer around lodge feeders as time permits. Night at Savegre Mountain Hotel.

DAY 9 - SAN GERARDO DE DOTA

Early morning excursion to photograph Resplendent Quetzal. The quetzals are found in different places every year, so we'll rely on the resident guide to give us directions on where they are. In recent years they've been along the road where access is easy. After breakfast photograph birds around the lodge entrance and road. Possibilities include Black Guan, Silver-throated Tanager, Flame-colored Tanager, and other species of more open areas. Afternoon walk the river trail through the lodge's private forested reserve. Many highland specialties are present including Golden-bellied Flycatcher, Black-faced Solitaire, Black-billed Nightingale-Thrush, Long-tailed Silky-flycatcher, Flame-throated Warbler, Collared Redstart, Spangle-cheeked Tanager, and Yellow-thighed Finch. Night at Savegre Mountain Hotel.

DAY 10 - THE TALAMANCA HIGHLANDS

This morning is reserved for another try at photographing quetzals if photo ops were inadequate the day before. If we already had success with the quetzals, drive up to the main highway to visit a cafe where feeders draw in a variety of highland birds. Among the possibilities are Ruddy-capped Nightingale-Thrush, Sooty Thrush, Large-footed Finch, and Elegant Euphonia. If time permits, visit Georgina's Restaurant to view especially Fiery-throated Hummingbird. After lunch, drive back to San Jose, arriving before dinner. Night at Hotel Aeropuerto in Alajuela.

DAY 11 - END OF TOUR

Tour ends with breakfast at the hotel. International flights home.