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In the ecological jewel that is Costa Rica, Tortuguero National Park (map) stands out as one of the country’s main eco-attractions. The park is located on a strip along the Caribbean coast that encompasses a network of canals, estuaries, lagoons and dense tropical rainforest.

You can venture on hiking tours or boat through the numerous naturally-formed canals to observe the awesome flora and fauna in this area. The boat trips are especially unforgettable. Cruise through the canals which are sometimes completely covered by the canopy of the rainforest and spot a wide variety of animals (monkeys, sloths, tapirs, jaguars, crocodiles, caimans, etc..) and birds (herons, toucans, brightly-coloured parrots, kingfishers, etc..). I’ll never forget one particular hair-raising moment during the boat trip when a large caiman tried to jump into the boat as we got a tad too close.

Throughout the year, different species of turtles (green turtles, giant leatherbacks and hawksbills) come to lay their eggs on Tortuguero’s beaches (Tortuguero literally means ‘region of turtles’). A guided tour at night to see the nesting turtles is definitely a must. It was a rather surreal experience, being on that beach in the middle of the night. The moon was hidden behind some clouds so we had to rely on our torch-lights. After more than a half hour of trudging through the sand, we found a large green turtle. It had already dug a hole and was almost finished laying its eggs. We kept our distance and watched as it slowly, rather clumsily covered the hole and headed back to sea. A magnificent sight!

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