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An Early Morning Costa Rica Wake Up Call

Costa Rica Travel News – Hace you even woken up in Costa Rica to the mysterious sounds of Costa Rica nature? In Tortuguero National Park, there are no alarm clocks, no roads and no stereos to stir you from your slumber. But there are howler monkeys, and lots of them. Tourists spending their first night in the 47,000-acre Costa Rican park learn that the hard way.

turtle-beach-lodge costa ricaThe monkey’s guttural growling will shake you from your sleep, announcing the dawn with a sound a bit like a dinosaur’s roar crossed with a dog barking underwater.

That eerie, early-morning serenade is just another reminder that Tortuguero is an eco-tourist’s dream and one that’s a world removed from other Caribbean destinations. If you come here looking for crowded beaches, thumping discos and busloads of partying foreigners, you’ll likely be disappointed.

This spring we spent three nights at the rustic Turtle Beach Lodge, in the heart of the national park on the Caribbean Sea. Our airy cabina was simple and unadorned — free off glass windows (screens keep the bugs out), free of air conditioning, free of television.

Buffet meals are announced with the ringing of a dinner bell and served in the open-air dining area. The food is simple and plentiful, with the Costa Rican staple of rice and beans on offer at every meal.

What Turtle Beach may lack in creature comforts, it more than makes up for in unadulterated tropical serenity. At the lodge, it’s often so quiet by 10 p.m. the only sound you’ll hear is the crickets singing and the relentless surf, pounding away on a black sand beach just a few metres away.

The lodge’s shoreline offers a glimpse of what many Caribbean coasts might have looked like before the tourists started showing up. Standing on a beach where the driftwood pieces outnumber the people, you can look for miles in both directions without seeing a single man-made dwelling.

Because of powerful ocean currents, many people avoid swimming here. But those brave enough get the thrill of battling what feels like the world’s largest wave pool. Just don’t venture out too far.

Like a handful of lodges in the park, Turtle Beach Lodge is accessible only by boat, which winds through the brown water turtle_beach lodge costa ricacanals, past sunning turtles, rare birds and caimans, the small, fresh water crocodiles that are everywhere in Tortuguero.

You can explore the park’s lush lowland rainforest on your own by kayak or relax in a guided boat tour. Either way, it’s like stumbling into your very own exotic zoo, without any cages. The lodge’s guides are eagle-eyed scouts, pointing out slow-moving sloths and boa constrictors you might otherwise miss.

At every turn, Tortuguero’s canals are packed with wildlife. Toucans call from the tree tops, spider monkeys play among the vines, and great white egrets hunt in the shadows. King fishers dip and swoosh by, tiger-striped herons float gracefully overhead and Jesus lizards put on a show for their mates.

You can also hike into the jungle just a few short steps from the lodge, and come face to face with poisonous dart frogs, sleeping bats and lizards looking for lunch. Borrowed rubber boots (it’s a rainforest, after all) and mosquito repellent are a must.

In the wet season (May through October), visitors can be treated to a rare spectacle that gives Tortuguero — Land of the Turtles — its name. That’s when four species of turtles, the leatherback, green, loggerhead and hawksbill, return from the sea to their traditional nesting ground.

Thanks to the work of American biologist Archie Carr, the turtles are now a protected tourist draw rather than food for local villagers. When they’re nesting, Turtle Lodge offers special tours to watch this incredible natural spectacle up close.

Whatever adventure you get up to during the day, you can plan to be back by late afternoon for the daily barefoot soccer match between the lodge staff and guests. If that’s not your game, the front desk loans out a semi-inflated ball for casual games of volleyball on the beach.

You can cool off at the lodge’s tidy pool by sipping on a fresh piña colada or a chilled bottle of Pilsen beer while you wait for the dinner bell.

After a long day of tropical exploration, Tortuguero’s nighttime jungle symphony is guaranteed to lull you to sleep. Just be ready for the howler monkeys come dawn.

Greg Mercer, TheRecord.com

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