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Witness and capture the incredible diversity of wildlife that Costa Rica has to offer with leading wildlife photographer Nick Garbutt as we explore both the Pacific and Caribbean sides of this exceptional country.

The fabulously diverse range of wildlife in Costa Rica means that there is something for everyone. We should have excellent sightings of primates, other mammals, a variety of birds, reptiles, frogs, invertebrates and much more. Travelling with Nick as part of a small group, the extensive itinerary allows plenty of opportunity to use a number of different photographic techniques to capture the huge diversity of flora and fauna. These techniques will include night photography, macro photography and the use of photographic hides.

We have selected the finest locations and accommodations to showcase the very best that Costa Rica has to offer: high quality, not just in terms of their standard, but also the wildlife sightings and photographic opportunities they can provide. 

Typical itinerary

  1. Day 1: Depart the UK

    We take a daytime international flight to San José,. On arrival, we transfer to Bosque de Paz situated in the Pacific slope montane forest. After dark there will be a short night walk in the grounds of the lodge.

    Accommodation: Bosque de Paz Lodge, 2-nights

  2. Day 2: Bosque de Paz Private Reserve

    We spend the day watching and photographing the wildlife around Bosque de Paz. The lodge is an excellent place to photograph hummingbirds and, for those who wish, there are opportunities to use single or multi-flash techniques. There are also several options to walk in the adjacent forest to look for birds and frogs, including glass frogs in the Orchid Garden. A night walk provides further chances to photograph frogs.

  3. Days 3-4 : Boca Tapada de San Carlos

    After a final early morning hummingbird session, we leave for Boca Tapada, arriving in time for lunch. We spend two nights at a rustic lodge beside a lagoon that offers hide photography for king vultures, and other excellent photographic situations for toucans, parrots, tanagers, honeycreepers, great curassow, and woodpeckers. At night we continue to look for frogs, reptiles and invertebrates.

    Accommodation: Laguna del Lagarto Lodge, 2-nights

  4. Day 5: Transfer to Maquenque

    After a final morning to take advantage of the photographic hides, we transfer to another more comfortable lodge nearby, close to the San Carlos River – here the reception, dining areas and individual chalets are arranged around a lake beside the forest.

    The immediate vicinity of the lodge has a wealth of birds and other wildlife, and after lunch we can start to explore our surroundings. There are numerous forest trails where a variety of primates, birds and other creatures can be seen. Species to look out for include the great green macaw, and this is also an excellent place to look for poison-dart frogs. After dark we look for frogs, including red-eyed tree frogs and other suitable subjects.

    Accommodation: Maquenque Eco Lodge, 3-nights

  5. Days 6-7 : Maquenque Wildlife Refuge

    We have two full days to explore this wonderfully rich and diverse area around Maquenque. In addition to forest trails, the grounds of the lodge have some photography ‘stage’ areas, where fruit is used to attract birds, and fresh perches are arranged daily to create varied photographic options. These ‘stages’ can attract various small parrot species as well as toucans, aracaris and oropendolas. There are also opportunities to explore the river by boat. 

  6. Days 8-10 : Tortuguero National Park

    After breakfast we continue to Tortuguero National Park – a drive of upward of two hours to La Pavona, followed by a further hour or so by boat – stopping if we see anything of interest. Our lodge is situated on a spit of land close to the entrance to the national park, with the Caribbean on one side and a freshwater channel on the other.

    We have two full days here to look for turtles and explore the waterways, which are sure to provide many and varied photography opportunities. Tortuguero is one of the most renowned turtle nesting areas in the region. Four species are present, green, hawksbill, loggerhead and leatherback, and our visit coincides with the later stages of the leatherback nesting period. At night we can also photograph various frogs, snakes and invertebrates from the trails close to the lodge.

    Accommodation: Evergreen Lodge, 3-nights

  7. Day 11: Transfer to Savegre Valley

    After breakfast we retrace our route by boat and road back into the central highlands and cross the divide to the Pacific slope. This full day’s drive takes us to the steep-sided Savegre Valley where the cloud forest is dominated by tropical oaks. This habitat is excellent for numerous species of birds including the resplendent quetzal, emerald toucanet and collared trogon.

    Accommodation: Trogon Lodge, 3-nights

  8. Days 12-13 : Savegre Valley

    Without doubt, Savegre Valley’s major attraction is the resplendent quetzal, so we head out just before dawn to one of the known viewing areas. Quetzals normally stop feeding and move to shaded areas as soon as the sun rises high enough for direct sunlight to strike the trees in which they feed. We can look for, and hopefully photograph, them on three consecutive mornings here. At other times of day there are plenty of opportunities to further explore the montane forest and search for other species. These are sure to offer further interesting chances for images.

  9. Day 14: Transfer to Osa Peninsula

    After one last chance to search for quetzals, we set off after breakfast for the long drive south to Puerto Jiménez, where we transfer to four-wheel-drive vehicles to our lodge. Bosque del Cabo is located at the south-eastern tip of the Osa Peninsula. From high on the cliffs it is possible to see humpback whales in the sea, while the rainforest is home to a wealth of intriguing species.

    Capuchin and howler monkeys are often seen in the trees around the lodge, and troops of coatis often forage across the lawns and in the undergrowth. There are several ponds where frogs, including red-eyed tree frogs, congregate. Later in the afternoon we begin exploring and, of course, enjoy a night walk after dark.

    Accommodation: Bosque del Cabo Lodge, 4-nights

  10. Days 15-17 : Osa Peninsula

    With three full days on the Osa Peninsula, we have plenty of opportunity to explore the many trails that run through the private reserve. As well as primates, we may be lucky and encounter a three-toed sloth or perhaps a northern tamandua on our forest walks. Some of the best photography may be with the large numbers of scarlet macaws that inhabit the area. Night walks are a feature at Bosque del Cabo: frogs always provide interest, but it is also possible to find a number of different snakes including – with luck – some nocturnal ones; mammals too, with species like kinkajou and crab-eating raccoon, are sometimes seen.

  11. Day 18: Transfer to Puerto Jiméne, fly to San José & depart

    After an early breakfast we  transfer to Puerto Jiménez for a flight by light aircraft back to San José, and connect with our flight back to the UK.

  12. Day 19: Arrive UK

Key info

  • Duration and price including flights from/to UK: 19 days from £6,995 pp
  • Duration and price excluding international flights: 18 days from £6,410 pp
  • Single supplement: From £1,095
  • Group size: 10
  • Departures:
  • Included in the price/package:
    • Domestic flight Puerto Jimenez to San Jose
    • 18 nights accommodation in lodges
    • All meals
    • Transfers
    • Guided activities
    • Some photographic hides & special permits
    • Park and conservation fees
    • Photography tuition
  • Activities available:
    • Photography

Expert leader

Nick Garbutt

Photo of Nick Garbutt

An award-winning photographer and author, with a background in zoology, Nick has forged a career by combining these skills with leading tours and lecturing.

Nick has written and photographed several critically acclaimed books, including: ‘100 Animals to See Before They Die’, ‘Mammals of Madagascar: A Complete Guide’, ‘Wild Borneo’, and ‘Chameleons’. He is a regular contributor to international magazines such as National Geographic, BBC Wildlife, Africa Geographic and Geographical.

Nick has twice been a winner in the BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year Competition. In 2000, he won the prestigious Gerald Durrell Award for Endangered Wildlife. His photographs appear widely in books, calendars and other publications worldwide. He is a Special Lecturer on the MSc course in the Wildlife Photography and Imaging at Nottingham University, where he studied.

Featured locations:

Maquenque Wildlife Refuge

The wetland of Maquenque Wildlife Refuge is located in the northern lowlands, close to the mouth of the Rio San Carlos. Rich in indigenous plants and animals, it is one of the few remaining nesting sites of the endangered great green macaw, as well as other vulnerable species such as manatee and jaguar.

  • Ideal for viewing: great green macaw, agami heron, roseate spoonbill, green ibis, sunbittern
  • Excellent for: Wildlife photography, Birdwatching

Tortuguero National Park

A vast area of untouched rainforest on a remote stretch of Caribbean coast, where beaches, canals and wetlands create an astonishing biodiversity. Activities centre on boat trips through the freshwater creeks and lagoons. Green, hawksbill and leatherback turtles come ashore here to lay their eggs.

  • Where: Limon Province
  • Ideal for viewing: Baird’s tapir, green turtle, spectacled caiman, spider monkey, three-toed sloth
  • Excellent for: River safaris

Los Quetzales National Park

The most recent addition to Costa Rica's national parks, Los Quetzales extends across three types of rainforest, and 14 different ecosystems. Mostly cloud forest, it protects a crucial habitat for a number of plant and animal species, notably the resplendent quetzal, after which the park was named.

  • Where: Central Pacific
  • Ideal for viewing: resplendent quetzal, collared trogon, fiery-throated hummingbird, sooty robin, black guan
  • Excellent for: Wildlife photography, Wildlife for families, Birdwatching

Osa Peninsula

On the Pacific coast, just north of Panama, the wild and remote Osa Peninsula juts into the ocean, combining with Corcovado and Peñas Blancas National Parks to create the country’s foremost natural highlight. It is home to an astonishing range of wildlife, including giant anteater, tapir, squirrel monkey and jaguar.

  • Where: Southern Pacific coast
  • Ideal for viewing: harpy eagle, scarlet macaw, giant anteater, Baird’s tapir, white-faced capuchin monkey
Featured accommodation:

Bosque de Paz Lodge

Set in a private reserve just over an hour’s drive northwest of San José, between Juan Castro Blanco and Poás Volcano national parks, this small lodge is in a jungle paradise, surrounded by magnificent cloud forest and rainforest. Consisting of just 12 rooms, it is the perfect stop en route to Sarapiqui.

Bosque del Cabo Lodge

Exquisitely located at the tip of the Osa Peninsula, this delightful lodge is surrounded by well laid-out gardens on its own 350-hectare reserve. Lying between the Pacific Ocean, Golfo Dulce and pristine rainforest on the edge of Corcovado National Park, there is plenty of wildlife to discover here.

Evergreen Lodge

Situated in the northeastern corner of Tortuguero, this pleasant lodge lies just a five minute boat trip from the main entrance to Tortuguero National Park. Surrounded by towering trees and exuberant tropical vegetation, it offers an ideal location from which to explore this unique area.

Maquenque Ecolodge

This characterful, relatively new property (a working cattle ranch) lies in a remote spot across the Rio San Carlos, quite close to the border with Nicaragua. Adjacent to the private Maquenque Wildlife Reserve, its 14 well-appointed rooms offer comfortable accommodation in an extremely peaceful setting and relaxed atmosphere.

Trogon Lodge

This pleasant birding lodge stands on a private reserve of some 40 hectares of farmland, close to Los Quetzales National Park. It sits at an altitude of around 2,300 metres, beside a rushing stream and surrounded by lush gardens with dazzling flowers and hundred-year-old oak trees.