Tortuguero is one of the country’s most diverse national parks and home to over half the bird and reptile species found in the country. It also just so happens to be the most important nesting site of the green turtle in the western Caribbean. The looping flight of the keel-billed toucan crossing the open waterways is a common site as are northern jacanas, oropendolas and herons. Less commonly spotted is the endangered green macaw which also resides in the park. Needless to say, wildlife viewing in the area is spectacular and best seen from a boat moving silently through the myriad channels. Mammals are also numerous, you’ll find that howler monkeys and sloths a common sight, while hidden within the undergrowth the tracks of jaguar, ocelot and tapir go unseen by most, as does the endangered manatee that explores and grazes to beds of the watery channels. If you’re particularly lucky you may see the fishing bulldog bat, a large bat with a 60-cm wingspan that hunts on the waters of the canals. Reptiles and amphibians are also on the scene, and in large numbers – you will very probably see caimans, and, if you are lucky, glass and poison-dart frogs and the bug-eyed gaudy leaf frog.
One of the main reasons for travelling to Tortuguero is to see nesting turtles. The green turtle uses the beaches in significant numbers, and there are also visits from leatherback, hawksbill and occasionally loggerhead turtles as well. As with much of Costa Rica, getting the timing right to see this natural phenomenon is essential. The green turtles lay their eggs at night between June and October, with the hatchlings emerging from the depths of their sandy nests until November at the latest. Leatherbacks can be seen between March and June.