Tour Reports & Testimonials

Quetzals to Corcovado: March 21 - 31, 2016

I had a full group of six for this tour, and for the first time, everyone signed up for the Corcovado extension!

2016 tour group
2016 Adventurers: Kyle, Brooke, Pat, Amy, Steve, Jim,
driver Paolo, Max and guide William
What a great group, and a great trip for wildlife. We started off in the highlands and had two fantastic quetzal sightings book-ending our stay there, including probably the best close encounter I've ever had with a quetzal, just as we were leaving the valley. From there, we went east and enjoyed a fun night walk and numerous wildlife photo ops at La Selva, highlighted by close howler monkeys, a sloth with a baby and a gorgeous yellow eyelash viper. Bonus sightings in this region included spectacled owls and several macro photo ops.

Next we traveled to the Pacific coast, where my favorite country road paid off with Ferruginous pygmy owl, scarlet macaw and woodpecker sightings (among others). In Carara National Park we photographed the tiny but cute ghost bat and orange-collared manakins. The Rio Tarcoles provided numerous bird photo ops, but we also saw the endangered and rare neotropical river otter.

Hummingbird by Amy Heinen
Magnificent hummingbird by tour client Amy H.
I wasn't sure how the group would handle the challenge of Corcovado, but they passed the test with flying colors. As always, mammals put on a real show. We had several opportunities to photograph monkeys, including a troop of squirrel monkeys on the trail. Tapirs made their usual appearance, and we just missed a puma that fled the trail as we approached. We even had a great chance to photograph the gorgeous tamandua (tree-climbing anteater)!

"Thank you for the fantastic trip through Costa Rica! Every location was stunning and I loved the different diversity each region brought to the itinerary in the way of wildlife to photograph. And though the pumas eluded us, Sirena was a very fun part of the trip, despite all its challenges it threw our way.

Yellow-headed caracara by Pat Nowotny
Yellow-headed caracara by tour client Pat N.
"The trip was amazing as I knew it would be and I'll definitely see you on another trip." – Amy H.

"As usual, Max did an outstanding job. Along with our guide William from Costa Rica Expeditions we were able to find and photograph more species of wildlife than what was expected. Finding quetzals not just once but twice was amazing, along with toucanets that were eye level next to the road in their nest. And the night walk was amazing. I had never shot macro day or night so it made for a great time.

"I highly recommend Max from his professionalism as a photographer to his overall care for his clients. Especially coming from someone who is speaking from first hand experience. Can't wait for the next adventure in the near future." – Pat N.

Squirrel monkeys by Kyle Behrend
Squirrel monkeys by tour client Kyle B.
"The photography trip with Max in Costa Rica is an experience I will treasure forever. The ground team were so friendly and organised allowing everything to run smoothly and efficiently which allowed us to spend the majority of our time out photographing the incredible birds and animals in Costa Rica.

"I cannot thank Max enough, not only for sharing this experience with us but for his guidance and help throughout the tour, always friendly and helping us set up the best shots possible. The team went out of their way to make sure we had the best experience possible. The guides and trackers shared with us their local knowledge and allowed us to have some rare photographic opportunities that I am so grateful for. Thank you Max and the team for an amazing adventure and I look forward to joining Max on other photography tours in the coming years. Next stop Yellowstone!" – Kyle B.

Poison dart frog by Brooke Cafearo
Poison dart frog by tour client Brooke C.
"I went on Max's Costa Rican photography tour this year and it was absolutely fantastic. What an experience! Max has a wealth of knowledge about the local area, historical facts and figures and knows all the places to take magical photographs of wildlife that tourists miss out on. He is extremely patient and a super teacher.

"The best thing about this tour, aside from the fantastic scenery, people and wildlife, is that Max explains very clearly what you are looking for, bit by bit, and makes it very easy to understand when gearing up to take a photo. He gives you some feedback and you have the chance to take it again if needed. This is all done in a supportive and relaxed manner and in a small group, allowing everyone to ask questions and get individual support.

"Max has a wealth of experience as a professional photographer and fascinating stories from the industry including showing us some iconic photographs he has taken. I really cannot recommend this highly enough! I had the most amazing time, I will never forget it!" – Brooke C.

Private Tour: March 5 - 15, 2016

2016 private tour group
2016 Private Tour Adventurers: guide William, Marcee, Martin,
Bev, Max and John
Martin, Bev, John and Marcee booked a private group tour with me, which emulated the popular Quetzals to Corcovado itinerary. We ventured from the Caribbean slope to the central highlands, before descending to the Pacific and finishing up in Corcovado.

We enjoyed quite a variety of species across the country, including close views of the elusive bat falcon, nesting resplendent quetzals and emerald toucanets, great views of scarlet macaws and much more.

In Corcovado, we had opportunities to photograph tapirs at close range, along with several other species. But Martin had booked the trip specifically in hopes of finding pumas. Despite the fact that he thought it was a long shot, we actually did get a chance to photograph a pair of pumas in Corcovado!

Kinkajous by Martin Cooper
Kinkajous by tour client Martin C.
"Max Waugh's photography tour to Costa Rica exposes the participants to a variety of wildlife ecosystems. There is a great variety of birds to photograph, and if you go on the post tour to Sirena Station, you will see a number of mammal species too. Don't count on photographing a puma, though we were lucky enough to get some shots.

The local guides are outstanding. William, who travels with the group everywhere except the Osa Peninsula, finds everything you want to see. Additionally, your wish on any topic is his command. Felipe, the guide at Serena Station, is uncanny. He knows the forest like he is part of it, and you will be amazed at the sights he shows you. Finally, Max is an excellent teacher, and, almost to a fault, puts you getting your shots before his desires." – Martin & Bev C.

Quetzals to Corcovado: February 20 - March 3, 2014

2014 Quetzals Tour Group
Robert, Michelle, Max, Mark, Chris, guide William, driver Arnoldo
Charlotte and Dan
We had a full group of adventurers for the 2014 version of the Quetzals to Corcovado tour. The main part of the tour spanned a week, leading us from the central highlands down to the hot and humid Pacific coast.

We started at Savegre, where it didn't take long to find our first resplendent quetzal. In fact, we had a couple of five-quetzal days, highlighted by a long-tailed male and a wild chase as a few of the birds fought over food, territory and mating rights. We also had fun photographing several other birds, including toucanets, woodpeckers, tanagers and hummingbirds.

From there we headed down to the Pacific side of the country. The highlight of the trip may have been the river cruise along the Rio Tarcoles. We shot non-stop, with several aquatic bird species and large crocodiles providing ample photo ops. Other highlights in this region included mating ferruginous pygmy owls, sloths, turqoise-browed motmots and more.

Some of the group opted for the Corcovado extension, where we completed the "monkey cycle" (seeing all four of the country's species), found seven tapirs (including a baby!) and photographed a variety of other critters.

Mouse opossum by Robert Warrington
Mouse opossum by client Robert W.
"Traveling to Costa Rica with Max Waugh is a wildlife photographers dream adventure. From the moment you arrive to the day you leave Max and his in country travel partners work to ensure you have an excellent experience. The guides are very knowledgeable and excel at finding the most elusive of birds and animals. Max is very generous with his time and knowledge always making sure everyone in the group has access to great photo opportunities.

I highly recommend traveling to Costa Rica with Max Waugh Photography and look forward to traveling with him again on a future adventure." – Michelle L.

"This is the second photo tour I've taken with Max and it won't be the last. The Costa Rica tour exceeded my expectations and then some. While the tour is all about bird/wildlife photography, it's impossible not to get caught up in the beauty of the country and the warmth of the people.

The locations we went to were wonderful, the guides and drivers fantastic and the accommodations were first rate, along with the food! Max is great at sharing his technique and thoughts, answers any question thrown at him and is quick offer to suggestions to help you get the shots you were hoping for. To say I highly recommend this tour would be an understatement." – Robert W.

Scarlet macaws at sunset by Chris Shepperd
Scarlet macaws at sunset by tour client Chris Shepperd
"It's a marvel that Max can put as much fun activity into a week as he does with the Costa Rica Photo Tour. The tour offers an incredible range of nature experiences that highlight the beauty and diversity of the country. Max's knowledge of the local flora and fauna is impressive, augmented by the tireless work of amazing local tour guides. The tour is ideal for photographers of all skill levels, and Max's willingness to share his expertise of nature photography is another huge plus. The places we stayed all offered beautiful views, excellent food, and nice accommodations. The Costa Rica photo tour is truly an unforgettable experience." – Chris S.

"Even for a novice birder and casual point-and-shooter like me, Max's Costa Rica photo tour played out as an immensely rewarding adventure. While the serious big lens photographers in the group were capturing their magnificent close-ups of Resplendent Quetzals and Scarlet Macaws in distant tree tops, my binoculars and eyes and ears reveled in the richness of the forest life within more immediate range. Our knowledgeable naturalist-guide was a real treasure for spotting movement, guiding my binoculars (and the others' massive lenses) to track it, and sharing ready identification and habitat information. What amazing bird life! As a novice birder, I recorded more than 130 species; just imagine what the experts experienced! And then, of course, the sloths and tapirs and peccaries... Wow!" – Charlotte G.

Savegre to the Osa: February 22 - March 4, 2013

Tour with Jim
Max, superstar guide Felipe, Jim and our porter, Chino
My second February tour followed a slightly different itinerary from the first. My client Jim and I started in Savegre before moving to the Osa Peninsula and Bosque del Cabo Lodge. We finished up with the Corcovado extension.

The tour was filled with major highlights. Our timing at Savegre proved fruitful, as we saw several quetzals, including a couple of excellent looks at the long-feathered males as they stuck close to their nests. Savegre also treated us to views of several other nesting species, among them the colorful emerald toucanet. A drive up the mountainside also gave us a glimpse of the elusive Costa Rican pygmy owl.

Following Savegre, we flew to the Osa Peninsula in search of more wildlife. The Osa is traditionally one of the best areas for animal activity, but the hot temperatures during our stay at Bosque del Cabo seemed to send the animals into hiding. We had our best success on the lodge grounds. Several birds (hawks, toucans, macaws, parakeets, tanagers and honeycreepers) call the lodge home. We also spied agoutis, monkeys and a sloth during our stay. Forest exploration at Bosque was not nearly as successful, but we we able to see the rare red-collared manakin and had some good photo ops with poison dart frogs by the trail.

Luckily, Jim had opted for the Corcovado extension, and if there's one thing I learned, it's that Sirena nearly always delivers. This visit was no exception. Within a few minutes of our arrival at the station, a Baird's tapir came out of the forest and proceeded to graze a few meters from the deck! It was the first of many tapir sightings, including a mother with a growing baby, and a tapir swimming in the Rio Claro.

Other Sirena highlights included crested owls, blue-crowned manakins, scarlet macaws, a tamandua with a baby. Last but not least, we had an ocelot hunt and kill an agouti next to the station one evening, and on our final hike we came face to face with a puma by the trail!

The photo tour was a big success, but Jim wasn't finished. He extended his trip. Costa Rica Expeditions helped him make arrangements for his family to fly down and enjoy a couple more weeks of non-photo-centric adventures in Costa Rica.

"Once again I would like to thank you for your guiding and photograhy expertise during our 2013 Costa Rica Photo tour. Your ad was very correct — we had fun. Like all photo excursions, we did have our ups and downs, though the ups certainly exceeded the downs (even including the wiping out of some camera gear Note: Jim's camera and lens toppled over on the second-to-last day of the tour!). The Resplendent Quetzels provided great photo ops. Got to love having the opportunity to shoot photos of a puma from 10 meters. You were correct: Sirena is out of this world for nature photography." – Jim M.

Quetzals to Corcovado: February 7 - 17, 2013

Resplendent quetzal by Steve Bailey
Resplendent quetzal, by client Steve Bailey
In February I led the first of two photo tours. Steve and Pam booked a private tour, complete with the Sirena extension, to maximize their opportunities for a real photo adventure in Costa Rica.

We began the tour at Savegre, looking for resplendent quetzals and other birds. We were lucky to see six different quetzals, including two mature males. The quetzals did their best to elude us, flying high up in the trees during much of the visit, but we managed to track them down a couple times as they perched lower to the ground.

From Savegre, we journeyed to the Pacific, where we had our first chance to photograph mammals, including white-faced and howler monkeys and sloths in Manuel Antonio National Park, bats at Hacienda Baru and squirrel monkeys on the grounds of our home base, the La Foresta Resort.

Steve and Pam were up for just about anything, so it was exciting to cap the trip at Sirena Station in Corcovado. On the boat ride out, we saw humpback whales and dolphins, and within the first two hours on the trails, we'd seen crested owls, the endangered neotropical river otter and three tapirs. The wildlife experience at Sirena was the highlight of the trip, as always... a great way to finish our rainforest adventures.

February 2013 Group
Steve, Pam, our guide William, our driver Max, and Max Waugh
"Just wanted to let you know what a great time Pam and I had with you in Costa Rica. Costa Rica Expeditions did a fantastic job organizing our trip and the guides were awesome. Your expertise was very helpful and I learned a tremendous amount about photography in the jungle. Lighting, lens choices, camera adjustments, etc. is very difficult in the rainforest and your were a superb teacher. My pictures improved throughout the week. Even camera basics that I thought I understood completely, became more clear as my understanding grew.

Thanks also for recommending the side trip to Sirena. That was one of the best vacation experiences of my life. It is certainly not for the faint of heart but for those that are willing to brave the environment, it is absolutely worth it. We will certainly look forward to accompanying you on other trips in the future and can recommend you without reservation." – Dr. and Mrs. Steve (Pam) Bailey