Quetzals to Corcovado

March 13 - 21, 2019 (through March 24 w/extension)

The 2019 tour is now FULL. The 2019 itinerary is below, but can be used to get a general sense of what the 2021 trip will look like.

Join professional photographer Max Waugh on an exciting Costa Rica wildlife adventure! This popular tour takes us to some of the best places for wildlife photography in the entire country. We'll seek out the resplendent quetzal in the central highlands, colorful frogs and birds on the central Caribbean slope and aquatic birds and large crocodiles on the Pacific coast. For the truly adventurous, the optional extension may take us to Corcovado National Park, putting us in the heart of Costa Rica's biodiversity: cats, tapirs and loads of other animals await! If you are interested in joining this tour, please contact us.

If you'd like to learn more about the general structure of the tour, photography instruction and our thinking behind it all, click here. To get an idea of some of the wildlife we might see during the trip, check out the photo gallery. If you would like to inquire about a customized tour or extension, read more here.

Reserve Your Spot!

Main Tour Dates and Activities

Wednesday, March 13: Arrival in Costa Rica
Today you'll fly into Costa Rica, arriving in the capital of San José. After passing through immigration you will be met by a Costa Rica Expeditions representative who will take you to your hotel.

Trapp Family Country Inn, 1 Night

resplendent quetzal
The resplendent quetzal at Savegre.
Thursday, March 14: San José to Cerro de la Muerte (Savegre)
This morning you'll be picked up by Max, our naturalist guide and our driver. We'll depart for the three hour drive from San José to the Savegre Lodge in the Cerro de la Muerte National Park area. Following our arrival we'll set out on our first photo excursion at Savegre.

Savegre is located at 7220 feet (2200 meters) in the Talamanca Mountains. This cloud forest environment makes it a birder's paradise, with over 170 avian species found in the area. The biggest attraction here is the resplendent quetzal, a spectacular species of trogon known for its brilliant green plumage and long tail. We will be visiting during the height of the quetzals' nesting season, so hopefully there will be some good opportunities to photograph them! In addition to birds, we'll look for amphibians, reptiles and mammals. The species residing at these higher elevations are often different from what we'll find closer to sea level later in the trip.

Friday, March 15: Cerro de la Muerte (Savegre)
We'll spend a full day photographing quetzals and other wildlife at Savegre.

Savegre Hotel Natural Reserve & Spa, 2 Nights, Meals Included

Saturday, March 16: Savegre to La Selva Biological Station or La Quinta Lodge
After a final morning shoot at Savegre, we'll drive to the central Caribbean slope, staying at La Selva Biological Station or La Quinta Lodge. This region is a great area for a variety of wildlife, including several mammals, herps (including red-eyed tree frogs and two different poison dart frog species), and birds. The bird species we may encounter include trogons, manakins, jacamars, tangers, woodpeckers and more.

Sunday, March 17: La Selva
A full day of exploration at La Selva, including an opportunity to take night walks and look for frogs, snakes and other nocturnal critters.

La Selva Biological Station or La Quinta, 2 Nights, Meals Included

Green and Black Poison Dart Frog
Poison dart frog at La Selva.
Monday, March 18: La Selva to Pacific Coast
Today, our driver will take us to the Pacific lowlands. During afternoon and evening walks, we'll look for owls and other birds. We will stay at the Cerro Lodge, which also hosts good birds on its feeders and occasionally gets owls on the grounds.

Tuesday, March 19: Carara National Park, Rio Tarcoles
We will visit Carara National Park and the Rio Tarcoles. Carara provides good opportunities to see sloths, monkeys and a variety of birds, including the possibility of seeing orange-collared manakins performing their dynamic courtship rituals. We'll also participate in a photo cruise on the Rio Tarcoles, famous for its large crocodiles and exceptional birdlife.

Cerro Lodge, 2 Nights, Meals Included

Wednesday, March 20: Pacific Coast to San José
Those guests not continuing with the Corcovado extension will return to San José with our naturalist guide and driver.

Trapp Family Country Inn, 1 Night, Breakfast & Lunch Included

Thursday, March 21: Depart Costa Rica
This morning you'll be transferred to the airport three hours prior to your flight home.

Optional Tour Extension Dates and Activities

Sunday - Thursday, March 20 - 23: Corcovado National Park & Sirena Station OR Tortuguero National Park Extension
Due to new rules established by the national park service, we cannot secure reservations in Corcovado prior to 30 days before our arrival. This means we cannot guarantee a stay there, though chances of securing reservations are quite good. As a "fallback option," we have a stay at the Tortuga Lodge in Tortuguero National Park (on the Caribbean side of the country) lined up. In order to increase our chances of securing reservations in Corcovado, we are limiting the extension to 4 guests.

Sirena is my favorite place in Costa Rica for wildlife photography. The possibilities to photograph numerous species, including larger mammals and predators, are plentiful.

squirrel monkey
Corcovado is home to four monkey species.
We'll spend our time in the heart of Corcovado under the guidance of Felipe Arias, one of Costa Rica's top wildlife trackers. There will be plenty of photo opportunities, divided into morning and afternoon sessions with a break for lunch and rest back at the station. The area around Sirena contains several trails and houses a vast quantity of wildlife. We'll be visiting during the dry season at a time that coincides with some of the peak fruit production in the trees near the station. Fruit is a major food source for the park's animals, so this should make for increased wildlife activity.

This area is a bastion for the Baird's tapir, which can often be seen grazing along the beach, swimming across rivers or napping in the dense brush not far from the station. We've photographed tapirs at close range the last two years here. We'll also keep an eye out for signs of pumas or other cats (puma and ocelot photographed during our 2013 tours, puma seen and photographed during 2016 tours), which are frequently seen in the area. With Felipe's expert tracking ability and instincts, we'll have a better chance than most folks would seeing a wild cat in the jungle!

Other natural attractions include the Sirena River, notable as a crossroads for crocodiles that swim out into the ocean and bull sharks that swim into the river when the tide is right. Plenty of other intriguing animals frequent the area, including the rare tayra and the endangered neotropical river otter. There will be a good opportunity to spot all four of Costa Rica's monkey species, the tamandua anteater, sloths and peccaries. Birds are abundant here. Corcovado is one of the last strongholds of the scarlet macaw. Other colorful birds to watch for include the black-mandibled toucan, pale-billed and pileated woodpeckers, several species of trogon, and the tiny blue-crowned manakin. If you're into herps, keep your eyes peeled for tree frogs, glass frogs, boa constrictors and the venomous fer-de-lance. To see more of the wildlife we may encounter at Sirena, view the photo gallery.

Please Note: The conditions in Corcovado are usually hot and humid. Daily excursions involve walks up to a few kilometers in these conditions. Most trails are flat, but there are occasional hills and we often face other obstacles such as exposed roots, low-hanging branches and vines, mud and the occasional river that requires fording. Corcovado is not for everyone (which is why it's offered as an extension). Participants must be in reasonable shape and be prepared to carry their gear during these extended walks. Despite all this, it is the best place for wildlife, particularly mammals, in the entire country, so the reward is usually worth the effort. Read more about staying at Sirena Station.

Sirena Station, 3 Nights, Meals Included. Extension participants will stay at Trapp Family Country Inn on March 23 and fly home from San Jose on March 24.

Activities may change depending on time, transfer schedules and weather.

Tour Prices

The 2019 tour is now FULL. Our next tour will run in 2021. Prices TBD.

This tour is limited to six guests.

Payment and Cancellation Terms:
A 50% deposit is due at the time of booking, with the remaining 50% due sixty days prior to the start of the trip. Regarding cancellations, if a cancellation is made 60 days or more prior to the scheduled trip, a full refund (less deposit guarantees at hotels, guide deposit, and a U.S. $300.00 handling fee) is made. The entire 50% deposit is forfeited if cancellation is received in our offices 59-30 days prior to the trip. If cancellation is received 29 days or less prior to the trip, the full value is forfeited. We strongly recommend cancellation insurance.

Tour Prices Include:

  • Lodging
  • Domestic Transportation within Costa Rica
  • Meals, as specified in the itinerary
  • Guides and Drivers, as specified in the itinerary
  • Park Entrance Fees
  • Taxes on all services
  • Airport Departure Tax

Tour Prices DO NOT Include:

  • Airfare to/from Costa Rica
  • Gratuity for Guides and Staff
  • Single supplement fee listed above
  • Alcohol, soft drinks and other beverages not provided at meals
  • Snacks and other food not provided at meals

Gear Rentals:
I shoot with Canon equipment. If you are interested in renting a lens for the tour (e.g., 300mm 2.8 IS, 100-400mm IS), please let me know.

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