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Night tour in Tortuguero to watch turtles nest

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Tennessee
posts: 35
reviews: 8
Night tour in Tortuguero to watch turtles nest

We're thinking of staying at the Turtle Lodge and Gardens-- but the only turtle tour they offer is a very fancy pants one that is way too expensive. They state that you can to to the National Park and put your name in for the "lottery" to go on a tour at either 8 or 10 pm. I guess I would like more of a 'sure thing." Is there a way to book at another hotel to go on their night tour? Or do most folks hire a private guide? Or do most folks go through the lottery system? Don't the guides who lead the turtle nesting tours need to be certified guides by the National Park? I'm very very confused.

Thanks in advance,

Tresha in Memphis

Houston, Texas
Destination Expert
for Arenal Volcano National Park, La Fortuna de San Carlos
posts: 4,076
reviews: 94
1. Re: Night tour in Tortuguero to watch turtles nest

When we went, we had to put our names in the lottery. There are only so many people who can go on the tours, so I think it would probably be the same with any lodge where you stayed. The goal is to protect the turtles. We were able to go on the tour and so was everyone else that we met so you have a good chance. If you go, they recommend that you wear dark clothing so you don't distract the turtles so pack a dark t-shirt, etc. if you can. We stayed at Tortuga Lodge, not sure if that's the same as the place that you mentioned. Even if you get picked to go on the tour, there's still no guarantee that you'll see turtles; they have the whole beach split into zones, and you go to your specific assigned zone which may or may not get turtles. Not really any sure thing, but good luck. We saw one turtle during the night tour and two more when we went to the beach in the morning.

Tennessee
posts: 35
reviews: 8
2. Re: Night tour in Tortuguero to watch turtles nest

Yes, it was a typo, I was referring to Tortuga Lodge and Gardens--- we are debating whether to stay there or Mawamba or Pachira.... what made you lean towards Tortuga Lodge? Thanks for the heads up on signing up for the night tour. We will be there in July-- my guess is that numbers of visitors might be lower due to heat and rain? We are also there two nights, so we'll have two chances as well. I appreciate your speedy reply!!

Houston, Texas
Destination Expert
for Arenal Volcano National Park, La Fortuna de San Carlos
posts: 4,076
reviews: 94
3. Re: Night tour in Tortuguero to watch turtles nest

We picked it based on its wonderful reviews and the fact that we got to do things on our own vs. being put into a large group to eat and tour with. Tortuga Lodge has a lot more individualized service and great food than some other lodges. When we got picked up, we were the only two people on our boat, and they pulled over on the side of the river and gave us a beautiful picnic. Not sure if they always do that, but they pulled out wine and fruit and fresh fruit juices, ice, nice food, etc. It was a wow moment that told us we would be in for some great service. When we did our canal tour, we were the only people on it vs. other lodges that had crowded boats. We loved staying there and would definitely do it again. It's pricier than some other lodges but worth it for us. We were also there in July and stayed two nights. We got a lot of rain but were still able to do the canal tour and turtle tour - really loved both. It's a neat area with lots of wildlife. Remember to pack bug spray - there were a lot of mosquitoes when we were there. When we left, they asked us to fill out an extensive survey listing everything we liked and didn't like, if any of their employees went beyond the call of duty for us, and things like that. They really care a lot about their guests which we loved. I even commented on how good something was, and they gave me the recipe - really nice. The two turtles we saw in the morning were while we were waiting for our plane, and our guide went out to see if he could spot anything. We wouldn't have seen them if it weren't for him.

Tortuguero, Costa...
posts: 78
4. Re: Night tour in Tortuguero to watch turtles nest

It sounds like the information you were given was a bit incomplete with regards to the tours.

From my understanding, Tortuga Lodge is the only lodge that offers tours on the South end of the National Park. The expensive tour includes transportation (about a 1-hour boat ride one-way) and an al fresco meal at the national park office at Jalova. Then you are taken onto the beach, where you will be the only tourists around. There is a small biological station that works with turtles there, so if you do see other people they would most likely be volunteers.

The lottery system isn't to see IF you get to go on a tour, but WHEN. Your guide will arrive at the park office in Tortuguero around 5pm to find out whether you have a tour a 8pm or 10pm, and which of the 5 sections of the beach you will be visiting. Then they report back to you and make the rest of the arrangements for transportation, etc.

As far as your other options for lodging, here's a bit more information to help you decide:

Pachira and Mawamba have similar rooms, though I personally prefer the grounds at Mawamba, which include butterfly and frog gardens. Pachira is located on the inland side of the river, Mawamba on the beach side with hotel-front beach access (though don't expect white sandy beaches with calm seas) and one can feasibly walk to the village from Mawamba -- with a flashlight at night. I personally prefer the meals at Mawamba, which are buffet style, same as Pachira, but at Mawamba they have the added touch of a few flat tops on the buffet line rather than all chafing dishes. This way, at least a few items are constantly being replenished with freshly cooked.

Tortuga is simply on another level, based upon everything I have heard after living here for 6 years. I have never eaten there or seen the rooms in anything but photos, but I have visited the grounds and they are beautiful. What really seems to set them apart is the attention to customer service.

Tortuguero, Costa...
posts: 78
5. Re: Night tour in Tortuguero to watch turtles nest

Also, you mentioned that they don't offer the regular turtle tour, but I'm confident that they can recommend a guide for you. Individual tourists must hire a guide for a turtle tour (park regulations so that the turtles are disturbed as little as possible), and it is the guide that places his/her name in the lottery.

San Jose, Costa Rica
posts: 95
reviews: 6
6. Re: Night tour in Tortuguero to watch turtles nest

I think you already got a very complete answer regarding the tours. We did the turtle tour with a very nice guide from Hotel Miss Junies where we were staying. But you can also book the tour with them if you're not staying in the hotel. Also there are other very professional guides that offer these tours, for example Barbara Hartung who is a german biologist and offers tours in different languages. I have been to Tortuguero twice last year and the first time stayed one night in Pachira Lodge. i have to say that I didn't like it so much. The food was ok and the grounds are nice, you can go for hiking on their trails and we saw so many howler monkeys there, directly around the rooms in the morning. But the rooms didnt look nice, no attention to detail and we were not very happy with the customer service. I have the feeling that the place is too big, more for big groups and so they do not put so much love and attention to details.

We wnt to see Tortuga Lodge and had a nice dinner there. Tortuga Lodge is definetly high class, beautiful and very quiet place with a nice pool at the channel and very beautiful rooms. The dinner was excellent and the customer service too.

I haven't been to Mawamba Lodge yet.

I absolutely loved the stay in Hotel Miss Junies though. It has a more quiet very typical atmosphere, it is a family run business and this family was among the founders of Tortuguero. They have a restaurant with delicious caribbean food, the guides have an incredible amount of knowledge about the history, nature, medicinal plants etc. They offer really interesting tours and the accommodation is nice and directly at the channel in a tropical garden. From there it is just a few meters to the beach and to "downtown" Tortuguero so ther is no need to always take a boat to get to the hotel and back. Anyway Tortuguero is a great place and you will have an unforgettable time, especially seeing the turtles laying the eggs

Costa Rica
posts: 19,956
reviews: 23
7. Re: Night tour in Tortuguero to watch turtles nest

Totally agree about Miss Junie's! I didn't stay there the last time I was in Tortuguero but I will the next time!

As for the lottery thing: YOU don't do anything; your GUIDE goes to the National Park to get the night's permit which will say what time you can go. In fact, you cannot go without a guide.

The whole "turtle experience" is highly regulated - and rightly so. The main job is to protect the turtles and having a certain number of people at a certain time helps. Each guide is trained and will tell you how the whole thing works before going onto the beach.

8. Re: Night tour in Tortuguero to watch turtles nest

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