Costa Rica Add-on 2019
I have just completed my third (fourth including my recce) trip to Costa Rica. I think that I get the strongest positive reaction from my clients to this trip than I do from any other safari/tour that I run. The pure quality of the set-ups absolutely astounds those who come on this trip. I think that this tour definitely provides more photographs of outstanding quality than any other. The question I regularly get asked is, “Can you find anything else in Costa Rica that is similar or better?” Until now I have always laughed and offered no comment.
Secret Locations for Professional Photographers
I spend weeks and weeks researching the Internet for places to visit. Although the Internet is amazing it doesn’t have all the answers. I got wind that one professional photographer in Costa Rica was using a couple of places that very few people were aware of. It has taken me a long time asking all manner of people the same question before I finally discovered these locations. I have been sworn to secrecy but will take my clients to these two places. I will not publish the names of these places but trust me – they are both truly special.
Scarlet Macaws & Great Green Macaws
This place has become what it is purely by accident. A few years ago a farmer in a remote location was given an injured Macaw. He nursed it back to health and made it known that he would care for more injured Macaws if they ever became available. After a while, one by one, he was given four more. All the birds made a full recovery and they have since bred and there are now around twenty Macaws at the farm. They all fly freely and rarely move far from the farmhouse. There are both the Scarlet Macaws and the Great Green Macaws here and their colours are stunningly beautiful. The birds have really bonded with this guy and will follow him from tree to tree for a few peanuts. This means that we have a pre-determined flight-path, so we know exactly where to stand to capture the birds in flight. We have two sessions here, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. As well as photographing the Macaws in flight, we will have many opportunities to get amazing perched shots of these birds from very close distances. You will photograph them both at eye level and higher up in the trees. Green Parrots, White Faced Monkeys and Water Rail should all put in an appearance during our late afternoon feeding session.
Lodge near the Nicaraguan Border
Our second location is even more remote. We drive for nearly two hours on unmade roads to get there. We will have some really exceptional sessions with various species here. The bird photography is quite amazing. You should have some really intimate sessions with a number of birds that will/may have been a little elusive on the main tour. The rooms at the lodge are little more basic than those that we have used on the main tour. That is to be expected at an out of the way location like this. The wonderful staff, the photo opportunities and the excellent food on offer more than make up for any shortfalls regarding the rooms.
Jesus Christ Basilisk Lizards
These creatures get their name from their ability to walk on water. We will attempt to do an amazing set-up with these guys. There is no guarantee that it will work, as they are wild animals and, once released, are free to do what they want. The guides will capture a number of these on the day before our arrival. We will be appropriately positioned and will photograph them as they are released. The idea behind the set-up is that they will run across the top of the water and we will shoot them (with our cameras) as they make their escape. We used five lizards on my recce. Three dived below the surface and two offered us the chance to get the shots we wanted. It is not easy, but if you are lucky (and a certain amount of luck is needed) you will have some exceptional and rare photos to take home.
We swill have fairly regular visits to the bird feeders by two types of Toucans and also one type of Toucanet. They are Keel-Billed Toucans, Chestnut Mandibled Toucans and Collared Anacari. Our guide will provide different branches, which he has carefully chosen from the forest for these to perch on. He will change these from time to time so that your Toucan photos are not all of birds on the same branch. What is really special is that the birds will only be a few metres away and at eye level. The backdrops are superb and are far enough away to give totally blurred backgrounds.
There will be a selection of other birds to photograph between the Toucans’ visits. The Montezuma Oropendolas, various Tanagers, Yellow-crowned Euphonia, Green Honeycreepers, Red-legged Honeycreepers are regular visitors. A large bunch of bananas are placed next to our branches and the birds queue up on these while waiting for their turn to eat. Two types of parrots visit regularly and we had a group of eight Cassowary spending time clearing up the discarded bits of banana on the floor both early morning and late evening. There were three Woodpeckers who never seemed to be more than twenty metres from our shooting deck, which also came quite close from time to time. Indeed, their nest is just about four metres from our shooting platform.
Long Tongued Nectar Bats
We will photograph Long Tongued Bats just after darkness has fallen. We will temporarily replace their feeders with a flower drenched in sugar-water. They will spend approximately half a second licking the water from the flower. They never actually land on the flower but just hover for a very short time. Once they start the activity is quite frenzied. Everything will be set up for you. We will provide the background, a studio light and the flashguns. You will use either my guide’s camera and lens, or one of mine, which will be already set up on a tripod. All you need is a CF card. You will fire the camera with a remote release when a bat approaches the flower. Not every shot is perfect. You will find that their wings often obscure the bats’ faces. It is a numbers game. The more you shoot, the more success you will have. It really is a fun thing to do and the results (well some of them) are quite astounding.
King Vulture Restaurant
There is a well-designed Vulture hide about half a mile from the lodge. The guides will put out a cow’s head or maybe a pig’s head, which has been bought from the local slaughterhouse. They are virtually hidden from view so that all you see are the Vultures. First to arrive are the Black Vultures. There were more than twenty squabbling for the best bits. The Black Vultures are not our main subjects today. Our main quarry is the King Vultures. They are amazing birds and the vividness of the bright red heads is astounding. I did not even know that these birds existed before my visit here. For me, they were certainly the highlight of the whole trip. They are virtually 100% certainties to put in an appearance whenever meat is put out. There were three and they certainly didn’t disappoint. I have also been treated to two gorgeous Caracaras each year at this session. These are irregular visitors and I would not lead you to believe that you will be as lucky during your visit. You may be. Who knows? I hope so.
Add-on Itinerary 2019
Day 1; 21st November 2019
The activities of the main tour finish after lunch on November 21st. Those not taking part in the extension will be driven back to San Jose for their final night before departing the following day for home. This final journey will be without our guide or myself. Those taking the extension will collect a second vehicle in La Fortuna (en route to San Jose) and our tour add-on will begin from there.
Afternoon photography at Macaw Farm. Overnight Selva Verde Lodge. BLD.
Day 2; 22nd November 2019
Morning photography at Macaw Farm. Transfer to remote lodge. Bird photography at feeders. Evening Bat photography. Overnight remote lodge. BLD.
Day 3; 23rd November 2019
Early morning bird photography at feeders. King Vulture hide. Lunch. Lizards set-up. Late afternoon bird photography at feeders. Bat photography. Overnight remote lodge. BLD.
Day 4; 24th November 2019
Early morning bird photography at feeders. King Vulture hide. Lunch. Drive to San Jose. Overnight at Bougainvillea Hotel. BL. Dinner at own expense.
Day 5; 25th November 2019
Breakfast. Transfer to San Jose airport for your flight home.