March 29th, 2003
We went this morning with the first boat to Changuinola and from there with a shared taxi to Sixiola, at the border with Costa Rica. At 8 AM we already sat into the bus to Puerto Limon, a local bus which stopped every few hundred meter to let people in and out. But when we finally entered a paved road, it went faster. In Puerto Limon we took a cab to the nearby harbour Moin, where the boats for Tortuguero were leaving. We just missed the passenger boat from 10 AM. If there would not show up more tourists (it was not high season anymore) and now through the Iraque war there were hardly any American tourists, there were no boats leaving anymore. Unless you paid a lot of money, as it is 3 ½ hour by boat to Tortuguero and the boat has then to return empty. We first waited a while to see if there would arrive some more tourists, but no. Then we tried to negotiate for a more decent price, but there was not much space for negotiation. But what do you have to do all afternoon and night at Moin, so at noon after another negotiation round went to Tortuguero. It is a great boat-trip to Tortuguero. In Tortuguero we stayed at Casa Marbella, a small pension with 4 rooms, run by a Canadian biologist, Daryl Loth and his wife. They have a small terrace at the water with 2 big trees, in one lived a basiliscus plumifrons male with his 2 females. The other tree was inhabited by a semi adult iguana iguana. As it was already late afternoon, we just made a beach walk, where we saw our first basiliscus vittatus. In and around the bushes at the border of the beach we saw several semi adult ones.
March 30th, 2003
We made a morning excursion by boat with Daryl. He used to work at the biological station, a little north of Tortuguero, met his wife in Tortuguero, so he stayed. We saw several birds, tucans, parrots, some heron species. A few semi adult basiliscus plumifrons, an iguana iguana, howler monkeys and some white-faced capuchin monkeys and young caimans. In the afternoon we went with his neighbour Pedro to Cerro Tortuguero, Tortuguero's hill north of the village, you only can get there by boat. When we went ashore we saw a beautiful female viittatus at a tree trunk, at the way back we saw also her male at the tree trunk, we could approach them till a meter to take pictures, probably because of the sun set. We saw many anole, like the norops lemurinus, the limifrons and humilis also many ameiva festiva. We even saw an anole eating a young anole. His victim was a little to large, after 15 minutes he still was not much further in eating the young anole. We also saw many pumilio's, the 'blue socks' variant. Pedro told us they never had such a dry season since they started in the seventies with measuring. Normally Tortuguero is even in the dry periods quite wet, but never so bone-dry as now. It was now at the end of the dry season and they just had 60mm rainfall, to 240-280mm normally. We had heard these stories also at Peninsula de Osa and at Bocas. We did not climb the hill from where you're supposed to have a great view over the lagoons, the sea and Tortuguero. At a certain moment Pedro said, we have to climb the hill now and hurry a little otherwise it would be dark before we would be back at the boat. But at the foot of the hill there was still so much to see and at the top besides the view not that much, so we decided to stay at the foot. Besides all the lizards, pumilio's and toads, we also saw some spider monkeys and howler monkeys.
March 31th, 2003
Today we went to the Canadian biological station, 9 km north of Tortuguero. This morning 5 herpetologists who had done field research for a week, counted all the different species, flew back. They had discovered 58 different reptiles and amphibians in the area, of which 4 unidentified ones. All the species were captured, photographed and measured and released the following day. Daryl had phoned last night with the station, and the manager would pick us up after he had brought the herpetologists to the airport. The 'catch' of last night still had to be released. The manager, Gabriel David was an ornithologist, but had enthusiastically accompanied the herpetologists and could probably shown us some spots where they found special species. Gabriel had just finished his studies and was very enthusiastic about everything. Unfortunately the 'catch' of last night was not that much and that special, as they only had taken new animals, but they had caught a very beautiful smokey jungle frog (leptodactylus pendtadactylus), a young male. Together we walked a short trail, but we did not see that much, several anole, toads and some pumilio's. It was so bone-dry, even through the lagunes at both sides of the station. Then we went by canoe to search for the basiliscus plumifrons along the borders, but none. This morning, just before we arrived at the station, we saw a large crocodile (crocodilus acutus). This was very exceptional at Tortuguero, according Gabriel. But we did not see him again. After that Gabriel went to bed, he was very tired, as he hardly had slept last night. So we went for the longer trail. We saw a toad which we hadn't seen before, but then it turned out it was one of the toads we had seen as well at Cerro Tortuguero, this one was green, there they were brown, but they had exactly the same cross behind his head. We were just back at the station, having lunch as it started to rain, not just a heavy shower but a real downpour. It also started to blow, and not just a little. Gabriel saw a parrot fall out of a tree branch, he ran outside, to pick up the parrot. He was so soaked, that he could not fly. In the cabin he climbed along the lamp up to a beam where he started to clean his feathers. After an hour it was dry again, we hoped to see now more animal life, we only found some almost drown birds, which we tried to help. We also found a purple tanager (piranga olivacea), although this one was more red. We returned to Gabriel to show him this one. Gabriel was very happy with this bird and ringed him, he showed how he did this and how all was registered. The bird had a little swelling at one leg, but that was not really a problem, but the bird had hardly any fat and soon he had to leave for North-America. Gabriel would let him dry and give him sugar water to get him a little stronger. At the end of the afternoon we went back, we were just 5 minutes in the boat or again a real downpour, we even had to scoop the water out of the boat. Completely soaked we arrived at home. In the evening we eat in a restaurant where we were the only guests. There was a poster at the wall with the most beautiful frogs of Costa Rica, as we were looking at the poster, the owner of the restaurant arrived and we started to talk about frogs. He was amazed that tourists were interested in frogs. He asked us if we had to do something that evening, if not we could go out for a walk to search tree frogs. He could not promise that we could find some, the weather was a little off strike, a storm was coming, there were already heavy blows, but maybe we would be lucky. The first frog we saw was a death gaudy leaf frog, agalychnis callidryas, which was going to be eaten by a big spider. Not nice, but spectacular for a picture. We also found an emerald glass frog, centrolene proseblepon and a living gaudy leaf frog.
All night we had stormy weather and heavy rains. The first few hours we sat at the covered part of the terrace. In whole the village was no electricity anymore. We had heard that at Mawamba Lodge, 1 km north of the village, they had a lot of gaudy leaf frogs in the garden. They laid the eggs in the swimming pool, which were caught out of the water and placed in a special pond, around this pool the had to be hundreds of small gaudy leaf frogs. So when it stopped raining, we walked to Mawamba Lodge. As soon as we wanted to enter the lodge a guard came and said you cannot enter, this is private property. We said we know this, but that we had heard about their gaudy leaf frogs, that we were frog lovers and that we really would love to see these frogs, if we please could get permission to see those frogs. He called to the owner, but no we were not allowed to enter the area. We told him we were members of an amphibian association and that we were working at an lecture of the frogs of Costa Rica, that we only wanted to take some pictures. 15 Minutes would be great, than he could stay with us, and then we would leave. No, he was not allowed to let strangers at the property. We asked let us please talk to the owner, he called again, but the owner refused to talk to us. We were wearing long pants, hiking shoes and a small backpack, as we had worn shorts and sandals, like the people who entered just in front of us the lodge area, probably we had not attract attention. As we were fed up with Mawambas inhospitable treatment, we told him we would give negative publicity in our lectures and article about Mawamba Lodge, but this made no impression. A little later, again a downpour, meanwhile whole the village was flooded. We decided to walk the trail behind the rangerstation. A beautiful trail, but except for some toads, anole and a basciliscus plumifrons, we hardly saw anything. Not strange if you walk in the rain, although every now and then it was dry for some moments. At night we eat at a restaurant with candlelight, they had to cook with candlelight, but around 10 PM we had electricity again.