Worldwide Photographic Journeys

North America

COSTA RICA – The Forest Jewel of North America

Wednesday 1st May – Monday 13th May 2024

Leader: Inger Vandyke

13 Days Group Size Limit 6

COSTA RICA: WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHY TOURS WITH WILD IMAGES

Imagine a world filled with vast and largely unexplored rainforests, one that is filled with a kaleidoscope of creatures, making it one of the premier destinations for wildlife photography in the world. This is Costa Rica! Join us in going off the beaten track in this stunning country, exploring remote rivers, wetlands, paramo and rainforests, searching for some of the most glorious birds, reptiles, insects, plants, mammals and amphibians of this natural wonderland.

Costa Rica is well known for being one of the finest destinations for wildlife photography tours in the world. Where else can you capture incredible photos of spectacular birds like toucans, tanagers, hummingbirds and quetzals, alongside a vast array of other creatures including coatis, sloths, caiman, lizards, frogs and insects, all at relatively close range in a perfect conservation setting?

This carefully crafted itinerary of two weeks duration takes in the best photography locations that Costa Rica has to offer and then goes off the beaten track to explore some remote wetlands and riverine woodlands near the border of Costa Rica with Nicaragua. Superb photography, good accommodations and generally good roads make photography in this small but incredibly rich country a real pleasure.

A Forest in the Clouds

Shrouded in clouds and mist with pointed volcanic cones piercing the skies, the hauntingly beautiful cloud forests of Costa Rica are home to one of the most spectacular birds in all of the Americas, the Resplendent Quetzal.

After leaving the city behind we first travel into the mystical cloud forests to spend three mornings staked out at a regular roosting site for these magnificent birds, waiting for them to fly in, feed and perch in the forests close to our lodge.

During the afternoons we will spend time at a series of hummingbird feeders that Volcano, Fiery-throated and Magnificent Hummingbirds regularly visit to feast on the sugar syrup that is refreshed for them daily.

If you can tear yourself away from the myriad of photographic opportunities at the feeders a short walk around the lodge grounds may see you capturing images of lovely Golden-browed Chlorophonias, Acorn Woodpeckeers and also Slaty Flowerpeckers.

From our lodge, it sometimes feels like you could touch the clouds from its lofty location.  Sunrises are magical here at times with the orange glow of dawn rising above the cloud layers to the blue peaks in the distance.  It’s a view that would take the breath away from even the most jaded traveller and one that always feels so hard to leave.

A Rainforest Wonderland

Costa Rica’s rainforests are one of the main reasons why photographers flock to the country each year. The breathtaking scenery and outstanding biodiversity of Costa Rican rainforests makes you feel like you’re entering a magical dimension. These forests are some of the most biologically diverse terrestrial ecosystems on earth.

About 51% of Costa Rica’s territory is rainforest and almost 24% of this is primary forest.  So much of it is undisturbed by humans that walking in these forests is like a waking dream. The sights, sounds, and smells are unlike anything else. It’s a feast for the senses. Fantastic birds that you would swear cannot be real, appear in the trees and dare you to believe your own eyes. Leafcutter ants march across the forest floor, carrying umbrellas of vegetation back to their nests. It’s always dark there as if the lights were dimmed before a film you cannot wait to see, and as each scene unfolds, the story gets ever deeper. Tiny poison dart frogs leap around the leaf litter while a chorus of tropical birds serenade your stroll.

A highlight of our tour is the chance to photograph some of the more difficult species of frogs and snakes of Costa Rica both in the wild and at a unique conservation project.  We’ve teamed up with an expert local tracker who can show us around known habitats for Honduran White Bats, Strawberry Poison Dart frogs, Brown-throated Sloths, a variety of insects and butterflies.  He has an avid interest in all of the wildlife of his area and through his intimate first-hand knowledge we may see cute little White-collard Manakins, Crested Oropendolas and Black-mandibled Toucans, alongside a raft of other forest critters that are awesome to photograph.  At his home are some wonderful natural feeders which are visited by lovely birds, including Orange-chinned Parakeet and white-necked Jacobins.

During our time in this stunning environment, we will enjoy photo shoots with some of Costa Rica’s most beautiful reptiles and amphibians in a unique conservation project. Creatures we might photograph here include the remarkable Ornate and Emerald Glass Frogs, Barred Leaf Frog, Eyelash Viper and Green Pit Vipers.

To round off our Costa Rican rainforest odyssey, we will enjoy two nights at the spectacular lodge in Laguna Lagartos, home to some of the most fantastic bird, caiman and wildlife photography opportunities in the country.  Here we will be able to photograph Collared Aracaris, Keel-billed Toucans and a host of other incredible birds like Montezuma Oropendula, honeycreepers, parrots and even curassows against a magnificent verdant forest backdrop.  During our time at Laguna Lagartos we will go off on a night search for pretty Black Caiman in the pools close to the lodge.  We will also spend one morning at a hide created by award-winning photographer Bence Maté to photograph Black and King Vultures at a vulture dinner station.  The array of photographic subjects here is so vast that it will be difficult to tear ourselves away. After all, where on earth can you photograph amazing rainforest birds in such a sublime setting while you even eat breakfast?

Waters that feed Life

From Lagartos we travel north to the stunning reserve of Caño Negro, situated in the wild borderlands of Nicaragua and Costa Rica. A stunning natural refuge, Caño Negro is considered by many to be one of the most important wetland areas of the Americas. It is the only place in Costa Rica where you can see the rare Nicaraguan Grackle and also spot the largest bird of the Americas, the Jabiru.

Covering a region of over 800 hectares, Caño Negro is home to over 200 bird species as well as unique and distinct plants and animals.  Here we will take to the rivers and wetlands searching for caiman, iguanas, Emerald Basilisk lizards, Howler Monkeys and a host of wetland birds including Roseate Spoonbills, Limpkin, Northern Jacana, ibises, Jabirus, Anhingas, Cattle Egrets, swamp hens and rails.  Floating along these rivers, looking for wildlife in the fringing rainforests is almost like being immersed in another world.  These forests are dense and untouched.  It is possible that we may see large howler monkeys swinging above our heads while dinosaur-like iguanas sun themselves on the river banks.  We will search for colonies of tiny Proboscis Bats and stunning Emerald Basilisk Lizards to photograph from our comfortable boats.

Where Volcanoes Sleep

Costa Rica is home to a great number of volcanoes including six active volcanoes and another 61 dormant or extinct ones. For the past 50 years, the spectacular massif of Arenal was the country’s most active volcano, but it entered into a resting phase in 2010, so its eruptions have ceased for the time being.

Normally shrouded in mist, our final stop on the tour is at a lodge that enjoys spectacular views of Arenal’s near-perfect conical summit when she dares to show herself to the world.

From our comfortable abode, we will explore ancient forests, azure streams and hot springs that will introduce us to another realm of photographic subjects.  The lodge grounds are dotted with flowering and fruiting trees that, when they bring forth their bounties, attract a myriad of wonderful birds like beautiful Scarlet-thighed Dacnis’. Other avian jewels we might find in these forests include Blue and Gold Tanager, Green Honeycreeper, Blue Grey Tanager and Shining Honeycreeper.  If you are lucky enough to have a ground-floor room it is sometimes possible to see the lodge’s tame Great Curassows wandering past your door on their way to feast at the lodge’s feeders.

Each day, a breakfast of fresh fruit is served to the forest wildlife.  Here we have a chance to capture incredible photos of Montezuma Oropendola, Crested Guan, Keel-billed Toucan and Collared Aracari. Whatever the birds don’t eat, a group of cheeky White-nosed Coatis might come and clean up from the ground below the feeders.

The feeders sit at the edge of a grove of the largest cecropia trees on our tour and it is worth searching their lush foliage for beautiful birds like the aracaris and oropendolas roosting in the umbrella-like leaf structures of these trees.  Complementing the botanical wonderland of the lodge grounds is numerous varieties of ginger flowers which attract the resident hummingbirds.

One of the unique highlights of our lodge is an active frog pool.  There are never two nights the same at this pool and each evening we will head out and go ‘frogging’ where we will try to spot wild Red-eyed Frogs, Masked Tree Frog, American Bull Frog and even Vine Snakes.

This incredible landscape  is truly the crowning glory of our stunningly diverse wildlife photography tour in this forest wonderland that is Costa Rica.

Why Travel to Costa Rica with Wild Images

Right now a number of photographers and photography touring companies offer tours to Costa Rica.  Our tour is different!

– We visit five different lodges offering the broadest variety of habitats for photography including wetlands, rainforests, riverine woodlands and mist forests

– We spend three mornings with the Resplendent Quetzal.  Getting the perfect image of these amazing birds is not as easy as one might think and it is best to have a couple of opportunities to photograph them

– We will be visiting a frog and reptile conservation program for an entire day, rather than a fleeting visit, allowing us enough time to photograph a broad variety of creatures in different settings

– Wild Images has teamed up with one of the leading natural history guides in the country who is extremely well versed in rainforest habitats, the creatures that call them home and how to photograph them well

– Journey with us to the remote wilderness close to the border of Nicaragua where the riverine woodlands are like a lost world.  They are home to some extremely sought after species of birds like Nicaraguan Grackle, Nicaraguan Seedeater, Pinnated Bittern and Yellow-breasted crake.  It is here we will also search for Proboscis Bats, Emerald Basilisk Lizard, Iguana and primate species including Howlers, Capuchins and Spider monkeys

Accommodation & Road Transport

The hotels/lodges used during our Costa Rica wildlife photography tour are almost all of good standard. Road transport is by small coach or minibus mostly good quality bitumen and dirt roads.

Walking

The walking effort during our Costa Rica photography tour is mostly easy.

Climate

At lower altitudes in Costa Rica it will be hot, humid and sunny. At higher altitudes the weather is similar but temperatures are cool to warm.  As Costa Rica is largely tropical we may experience a few rain showers in the afternoons.

Photographic Equipment

For wildlife photography of birds we recommend a telephoto (with or without converter) with a focal length of 500–600mm on a full-frame DSLR . (If you cannot run to large primes, a 400mm f.5.6 or a 100-400mm zoom lens on a crop-sensor body makes for a perfectly reasonable substitute.) There will also be some very approachable wildlife in range of anything from 100-200mm upwards. Opportunities for macro photography of herptiles for instance are particularly good, but with limited light in the forests, fill-in flash may be desirable.

You can also get great results with many subjects with a high quality digital bridge camera with an optical zoom of 18-20x or more and a wide-angle equivalent to around 24mm.

The tour will be moving through mostly forested environments that are unsuitable for drone photography.

If you have questions about what equipment you ought to bring, please contact us.

 

Photographic Highlights

  • One of the largest arrays of photography subjects offered on tour in Costa Rica including insects, birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles
  • Photograph magnificent Resplendent Quetzals in the wild during a time when they are nesting and actively bringing food to their young
  • Journey to remote Caño Negro, one of Costa Rica's least accessible reserves, to photograph riverine and wetland wildlife
  • Chances to photograph some of Costa Rica's stunning frogs and snakes in the wild and on a conservation program
  • Enjoy a rainbow of hummingbird species including the near-endemic Fiery-throated Hummingbird, surely one of the country's most beautiful hummers!
  • Enjoy a morning of King and Black vulture photography in a hide designed by award-winning photographer Bence Maté
  • Photograph Keel-billed Toucans while you eat breakfast at the wonderful Laguna Lagartos lodge
  • Join one of Costa Rica's most experienced naturalists to search for Honduran White Bat, Strawberry Poison Dart Frog, insects, butterflies and birds in the vicinity of his home
  • Numerous hide and feeder photography opportunities of jewel like birds including hummingbirds, dacnis, honeycreepers, tanagers, toucans, aracaris and oropendolas
  • Meet tame White-nosed Coatis and Great Curassow at one of our lodges
  • Night spotting for Black Caiman, Red Eyed Frogs, Barred Tree Frog and Central American Bullfrog
  • Photograph incredible Glass Frogs on a carefully considered conservation project
  • Photograph Eyelash Vipers, arguably one of Costa Rica's most beautiful snakes

OUTLINE ITINERARY

  • Day 1: Arrive in San Jose and overnight
  • Day 2: Travel to the cloud forests of the Cerro De La Muerte and enjoy our first afternoon of photography at our lodge's hummingbird feeders
  • Days 3 & 4: Morning photography sessions with the magnificent Resplendent Quetzals. Afternoons photographing the hummingbirds and variety of cloud forest birds in the vicinity of the lodge
  • Day 5: Drive to the lowland rainforests for an afternoon of photographing, frogs, mammals, birds and other wildlife
  • Day 6: Full day of photography with one of Costa Rica's most experienced naturalist guides
  • Day 7: Morning and afternoon photography of frogs and snakes on a conservation program
  • Day 8: Drive to our lodge at Laguna Lagartos arriving in time for some sunset bird and wildlife photography
  • Day 9: Full day of wildlife photography in the region of Laguna Lagartos
  • Day 10: After a final morning of bird photography we will drive to Caño Negro, arriving in time for sunset photography in the wetlands
  • Day 11: Morning photography on a remote riverine woodland, drive to Arenal Volcano
  • Day 12: Full day of wildlife photography around Arenal region
  • Day 13: After a final morning of photography at our lodge, return to San Jose airport where our tour will end after lunch

To see a larger map, click on the square-like ‘enlarge’ icon in the upper right of the map box.

To see (or hide) the ‘map legend’, click on the icon with an arrow in the upper left of the map box.

To change to a satellite view, which is great for seeing the physical terrain (and for seeing really fine details by repetitive use of the + button), click on the square ‘map view’ icon in the lower left corner of the ‘map legend’.

PRICE INFORMATION

Wild Images Inclusions: Our tour prices include surface transportation, accommodations, meals and entrance fees.

Our tour prices also include all tips for our driver/naturalist guide and accommodation/restaurant staff.

Deposit: 20% of the total tour price. Our office will let you know what deposit amount is due, in order to confirm your booking, following receipt of your online booking form.

TO BOOK THIS TOUR: Click here (you will need the tour dates)


2024: provisional £5400, $6590, €6460, AUD9430. San Jose/San Jose

Single Supplement: 2024: £520, $640, €630, AUD920.

If you are travelling alone, the single supplement will not apply if you are willing to share a room and there is a room-mate of the same sex available.

This tour is priced in US Dollars. Amounts shown in other currencies are indicative.

Air Travel To & From The Tour: Our in-house IATA ticket agency will be pleased to arrange your air travel on request, or you may arrange this yourself if you prefer.

COSTA RICA: THE FOREST JEWEL OF NORTH AMERICA WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHY TOUR: DETAILED ITINERARY

Costa Rica: Wildlife Photography Tour Day 1

Our Costa Rica wildlife photography adventure starts this evening at the comfortable Bougainvillea Lodge, located in the quiet outskirts of Costa Rica’s capital, San Jose.

Costa Rica: Wildlife Photography Tour Day 2

This morning we will drive out of the city and ascend to the cloud forests of Cerro de la Muerte. Our lodge is perched on a hillside with a series of wonderful hummingbird feeders. Opportunities abound to capture wonderful images of some stunning hummingbirds including Magnificent, Fiery-throated and Volcano hummingbirds, amongst others.  If we tire of the myriad of hummingbird photographic opportunities, short walks in the lodge grounds might introduce us to avian jewels including Golden-browed Chlorophonia, Slaty Flowerpiercer, Acorn Woodpecker and others.  If we are lucky with the weather we may see our first sunset above the clouds on our first evening.

Costa Rica: Wildlife Photography Tour Days 3-4

Over the next three days we will spend our mornings at a stakeout for roosting and feeding Resplendent Quetzals, surely one of the most spectacular birds of the Americas.  While we quietly sit and wait, we will also be keeping an eye out for other birds to photograph nearby.  During the afternoons we will return to the lodge for more bird photography.

Costa Rica: Wildlife Photography Tour Day 5

Today we willenjoy a final morning with the Quetzals before we descend into the tropical rainforests of Costa Rica’s lowlands.  We have teamed up with one of Costa Rica’s leading natural history guides and on our first afternoon with him we will walk slowly through the forest searching for wonderful creatures like Honduran White Bats, Brown-throated Sloth, leaf beetles, poison dart frogs, glasswing butterflies, White-collared Manakins, hummingbirds and even caterpillars.

Costa Rica: Wildlife Photography Tour Day 6

We will spend a full day with our guide visiting the hide and feeders he has at his home and walking the forest trails in search of wildlife.  His extensive experience as a spotter is almost unrivalled in the country and the region around his home is home to some absolutely wonderful wildlife.  From his feeders alone we might see Orange-chinned Parakeet, Crested Oropendola, White-necked Jacobin and a variety of tanager species to add to our growing portfolio from the tour.

Costa Rica: Wildlife Photography Tour Day 7

Today we will spend a full day doing photography in a carefully considered conservation program for Costa Rica’s frogs and snakes.  It is here we will meet incredible frog species including Ghost Glass Frog, Barred Tree Frog, Strawberry Poison Dart Frog and the famous Red-eyed Frog of Costa Rica.  The reptilian highlights of our day may include the stunning Eyelash Viper, Side-striped Palm Pit Viper, Fer-de-lance, False Coral snake and Boa Constrictors.  This family owned project sits on a large property that also has Brown-throated Sloths, many tropical flowers, insects, anolus lizards and a large variety of birds.

Costa Rica: Wildlife Photography Tour Day 8

Our rainforest exploration continues as we drive to the wonderful Laguna del Lagarto Eco Lodge where we will arrive to enjoy some afternoon photography in a private garden of this rainforest paradise.

Costa Rica: Wildlife Photography Tour Day 9

Situated in a valley  amidst 500 hectares of protected rainforest, over 350 species of birds have been recorded here and one of the absolute highlights is the ability to photograph incredibly beautiful birds like Collared Aracaris, Keel-billed Toucans, Montezuma Oropendola, Green Honeycreeper, Shining and Red-legged Honeycreepers, all while you sit and eat breakfast.  The lodge has two small lagoons that are home to a number of Caiman which we will visit for night photography.  It also has a spectacular and well set up hide to photograph Black and King Vultures at a vulture dinner daily.  If these locations alone are not enough, the lodge grounds might produce Giant Curassows, White-nosed Coatis, Chestnut-coloured Woodpecker, Central American Pygmy Owl and Brown-hooded Parrot.

Costa Rica: Wildlife Photography Tour Day 10

After a final morning of photography at our wonderful lodge, we will drive north to the remote Caño Negro reserve, close to the border between Costa Rica and Nicaragua.  This area is one of the only accessible places to see the rare Nicaraguan Grackle. Arriving in time for a sunset cruise at a diverse wetlands we will be looking out for birds including Limpkin, Northern Jacana, Wood Stork, crakes, rails, herons, egrets, anhingas and kingfishers to photograph until sunset.

Costa Rica: Wildlife Photography Tour Day 11

The following morning we will take to the water again in quiet boats exploring some incredibly untouched riverine systems that are home to Proboscis Bat, Green Iguana, Emerald Basilisk Lizard, Howler Monkeys and many species of birds.  Simply floating quietly on these rivers is a like immersing yourself in a forest wonderland with vines falling over the river, gigantic trees and many beautiful rainforest creatures.  The sights and sounds are mesmerising.  This afternoon we will sadly leave our rainforest wildlife behind as we ascend towards the mid-altitude forested flanks of Mount Arenal, Costa Rica’s most active volcano.  If we are lucky here the clouds will give way so we can see the lofty cone-like mountain from our comfortable lodge and we will arrive in time to do some photography in the lodge grounds.  This evening, after dinner, we will have a chance to visit the lodge’s wonderful frog pond and enjoy our first photography with wild Red-eyed Frogs, Masked Tree Frog, Central American Bullfrog and even the occasional snake.

Costa Rica: Wildlife Photography Tour Day 12

Today we will enjoy a full day of photography in the spectacular Arenal region.  Our lodge alone is home to some very tame coatis and curassows and if you are lucky enough to have a ground floor room, you might even wake up to a curious curassow wandering past your door.  The curassows and coatis join up to feed on the dropped fruit underneath the lodges feeders, effectively enjoying a complimentary breakfast each day alongside the lodge guests.  The grounds have been carefully planted with huge stands of ginger flowers, flowering and fruiting trees which all attract a myriad of birds.  Perhaps one of the most spectacular backdrops here is the giant cecropia trees.  It is really worth keeping an eye out in them for perching aracaris, toucans and oropendolas.  Tonight we will enjoy a wonderful meal at our lodge to celebrate some of the amazing wildlife experiences of the tour and, just in case you haven’t had enough of Costa Rica’s incredible frogs, we will revisit the frog pool to see if we can photograph even more species before our trip ends.

Costa Rica: Wildlife Photography Tour Day 13

After a final morning of photography around Arenal we will return to San Jose where our tour will end at the airport.