Visit: San José, Buena Vista, Sarapiquí, Barrio Flamina, Granada, Managua
Product Code: 44421
Guide Language: english
Starts: San Jose, Costa Rica
Finishes: Managua, Nicaragua
Duration: 11 days
Physical rating: Basic
Price does not include airfare (to the Trip start & from the end location)
Trip Price generally includes accommodation, transport/transfer, activities, services of a professional guide & more. (Please refer to the include/excludes section for details)
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Arrive in Costa Rica's capital of San Jose, where you are met at the airport and transferred to our hotel. Meet your Expedition Leader and traveling companions at a welcome dinner and orientation this evening.
On a stunning drive into the Talamanca Mountains we cross 11,322-foot Cerro de la Muerte, the highest point along the Pan-American Highway. En route we stop for lunch at Quetzal’s Paradise, perched high on the side of a bluff surrounded by misty cloud forest. Myriad hummingbirds flit around the lodge, and we’ll hope to see the namesake quetzal as well, with its striking green, turquoise and scarlet plumage. Continuing to Savegre Mountain Hotel, the afternoon is devoted to exploring this 1,000-acre private biological reserve. Nature walks through the lush forest reveal a variety of bromeliads and orchids among many flourishing species of flora. Ferns and mosses also thrive in the constant veil of mist, while birds add splashes of color to the canopy. Looking for wildlife, we keep an eye out for Baird’s tapirs, wild boar, coati and monkeys. The lavish habitat is also the territory of six species of neotropical cats including jaguar, puma, ocelot, margay, oncilla and jaguarundi, though we are not likely to see them as they generally remain hidden in the dense undergrowth.
Today is devoted to exploring the wondrous biodiversity of the cloud forest. A gentle hike along the Los Robles Trail showcases the magnificent tropical oaks found here, some of which are more than 700 years old and up to 200 feet tall. This high-altitude habitat will delight bird lovers, as it is home to more than 600 different species including many endemics. A nature walk reveals a wide array of vibrant birds, and we may see the emerald toucanet, golden-browed chlorophonia and spangle-cheeked tanager. This habitat is ideal for the resplendent quetzal, a revered and endangered creature of striking beauty. Listen for their deep, melodious calls as we quietly track these elusive birds. We’ll also walk along a stream to a cascading waterfall fed by the Savegre River. This evening, enjoy an authentic home-cooked meal with a local family.
Transfer this morning to the Sarapiqui region with lunch en route. Humid and carpeted with fruit plantations, Sarapiqui also shelters some of the best-preserved premontane rainforest in Costa Rica, making it an outstanding ecotourism destination. This afternoon we embark on a 2-hour private boat tour on the Sarapiqui River, enjoying views of the exuberant flora and fauna along the riverbanks. We’ll have opportunities to observe monkeys, iguanas, crocodiles, caimans, sloths, otters, toucans and a wide diversity of other birds in their verdant tropical habitat.
An exciting day of discovery is in store today as we explore the rain forest on visits to two field education centers in the Sarapiqui area. Learn about global efforts to conserve rain forests on a guided walk through La Selva, an international biological research station. During our short hike we may see monkeys, sloths, peccaries, iguanas and up to 400 different kinds of birds! This evening, we head to Tirimbina Rainforest Center to learn about bats — 113 species comprise almost half of Costa Rica’s mammals. On a short night walk into the forest we learn in detail about the fascinating natural history of bats and find the mist nets that scientists have erected to trap them for research purposes.
Transfer to San José this morning for a charter flight to Ometepe, an island set within vast Lake Nicaragua. This giant lake contains more than 400 volcanic islands and is surrounded by towering volcanoes. Our first destination on Isla Ometepe is Finca Magdalena, an 865-acre organic farm run by a collective of 24 families. The farm, which stretches up the slopes of Maderas Volcano, produces coffee, plantains, corn, beans, rice, vegetables, milk and honey. We’ll have a chance to sample some of the farm’s coffee as we learn about sustainable agricultural methods that benefit the land and those who work it. Ometepe is famous for its wealth of pre-Columbian petroglyphs and rock carvings, many of which are strewn throughout the premises. Created by the island’s first indigenous residents and dating to the dawn of the first millennium BC, they comprise one of the great rock art areas of the world. On a tour of several petroglyph sites, we’ll observe the highly stylized artistic motifs etched into the basalt boulders, noting the use of abstract circles and spirals in the intricately carved designs.
This morning we stroll through old-growth tropical dry forest along the mile-long Peña Inculta interpretive trail where we’ll see enormous trees growing straight out of lava rock. Among these old giants are jinocuavo, sandbox tree (also called possumwood), spiny cedar and the ceiba, or kapok, tree. More than 60 bird species are frequently seen along the trail; look up for glimpses of yellow-naped parrot and black-headed trogon, as well as howler monkeys and white-faced capuchins swinging in the trees. Later today we take the local ferry to the mainland and make our way to Granada, the oldest city in Nicaragua. Founded by Spanish conquistador Cordoba in 1524 and named for the city of Granada in Spain, this long-standing center of commerce has witnessed many battles and invasions from English, French and Dutch pirates trying to take control of Nicaragua.
Tour the highlights of colonial Granada, also known as La Gran Sultana, reflecting its Moorish and Andalusian appearance. Located on Lake Nicaragua, Granada is known for preserving some of the finest colonial-era architecture in the country, its cobblestone streets lined with pastel-colored buildings decorated with ornate white balconies. A highlight of our city tour is a visit to Hamacas Tio Antonio, an artisan hammock-making workshop whose handcrafted products are made by handicapped or otherwise disadvantaged youth. One of these intricately woven hammocks was even made for Pope Francis.
When the massive Mombacho Volcano that towers over Lake Nicaragua erupted violently some 20,000 years ago, it threw huge rocks into the water, creating 365 islets in front of where the city of Granada is today. From tiny lava outposts graced with a few palm trees to habitable small islands home to local fishermen as well as the extravagant villas of Nicaragua's upper class, the islets are ideal for exploring via boat. A scenic private motorboat excursion among the islets provides an impressive vantage point on the immensity of Lake Nicaragua. Our local guide points out varied birdlife, and we may see cormorants, herons, parrots, hawks, vultures and many others. A stop at the 18th-century Fort of San Pablo, built on one of the islets to keep pirates out, provides a historical interlude.
Located on a 4,000 acre expanse of Nicaraguan jungle on the country's southern Pacific coast, nearly half of Morgan's Rock is a government-protected reserve. The remainder of this breathtaking family-run estate is set aside for low-impact agriculture and sustainable tropical forestland. The mile-long sandy beach is frequented year-round by nesting sea turtles. We spend today exploring the reserve, which harbors a variety of wildlife including spider, howler and capuchin monkeys, sloth, deer, agouti, reptiles, and many native and migrant birds. Over a farewell dinner tonight, we'll have a chance to recap personal highlights of our extraordinary nature odyssey together.
After breakfast we transfer as a group to the Managua airport, about a 2.5 hour drive north from Morgan's Rock. We'll plan to arrive around 11 am, and guests are advised to book departing flights no sooner than 12 noon.
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Trip Name: Tropical Discovery: Costa Rica to Nicaragua Plus Granadas Rich History
From Price: 5495
Trip Code: 44421
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