Cano Negro National Wildlife Refuge, Migratory Birds?

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wood stork

wood stork

negroLet’s travel to Costa Rica to Cano Negro National Wildlife Refuge.  It’s the middle  of December and the weather is gorgeous with lots of sunshine. We leave early in the morning from San Jose  and travel north on the Inter American Highway (Highway 1)  We will drive first to the Arenal Volcano Areas where we will spend the night and this drive will take us around 3.5 hours.  We take the quick route which is the San Ramon exit.  At the end of this article I will give the detailed directions on this route.

In La Fortuna we stop at Sunset Tours on the square and book our early morning  day tour to Cano Negro National Wildlife Refuge, because December is one of the best  months to see the hundreds of migratory birds that stop here to feed.    December, January, and February is when these migratory birds, flying from the northern hemisphere to the southern hemisphere  stop over in these lagoons to eat the plants and small fish.  In La Fortuna we  choose Volcano Lodge to sleep because it is located only 5 miles from La Fortuna on the main road so it’s easy for Sunset Tours to pick us up.  Plus the price is right for our budget,  approx. $100 for a double with breakfast included and what gorgeous gardens they have and the rooms are very very comfortable.  A great value in a small hotel and view to the Arenal is spectacular!

Next morning we are picked up at 7:30 a.m.  for our 1.5 hour journey to Cano Negro and what a beautiful drive this is!  Lush green papaya farms, bananas, and pineapple plantations.  A feast for the eyes.   Upon arrival we board a 20 passenger boat with a canopy overhead to protect us from the strong tropical sun.  And down the Rio Frio River we go.

What is the Cano Negro Wildlife Refuge? It is a  shallow marshy wetland, the third largest wetland in the world,  abundant with plants and small fish, and other wildlife.  It is formed  from the overflow of two rivers, the Rio Frio River and its tributary the smaller Monica River.   This overflow happens at the end of Costa Rica’s heavy rainy season.  ( which lasts from May through November)   There is a lot of water in the marshlands  until around end of Feb. (this is dry season)  when the wet marshes begin to dry up. And stay dry until the rainy season begins again in May.

Cano Negro Wildlife Refuge is the heart of a new UNESCO biosphere reserve named “Water And Peace.” A biosphere reserve is an area of great natural wealth.  Here conservation of natural resources  and the rational use of these ecosystems is promoted by the local communities.  It covers a hugh area of 916,000 hectares  among navigatable rivers, wetlands,  and tropical humid forest.

Why do Tourist want to visit Cano Negro National Wildlife Reserve? The main reason is the see the hundreds of migratory birds that make it their feeding ground.  These birds migrate from the northern regions of North America all the way south to South America and they stop here to rest and feed.  These birds are here from around  first week of December   through around middle  of March.  But the best time of year to visit is mid December through mid February to get to see the most birds.

Among the many  birds we see are ibis, cormorants,  several species of storks,  herons,  roseate spoonbills,  American wigeon, blue winged teal,  tree ducks,  snail kite,  and the Nicaraguan grackle.  This is a bird watcher’s paradise!

Also has  abundant wildlife.  We see monkeys- the spider monkey and the howler.  Crocodiles, black river turtles, green iguanas, and Jesus Christ lizards.

Summary. If you want to see the most birds you come here mid December thru around end of February.  If you come any other month of the year you will see the wildlife-monkeys, crocodiles, iguanas, but the number of birds you will see will be much  fewer.

Best way to see Cano Negro National Wildlife Refuge is to take a day tour from La Fortuna, Arenal areas with Sunset tours.  They are on the web  click here:

What if I want to come on my own to visit the refuge. You can do that too but there are no public facilities there, no hotels etc.  You can go to Los Chiles by car and ask the locals directions to the boat dock  (no far away) on the Rio Frio River and  get on one of the tour boats and pay there.

What clothing should I wear? It’s hot here so you need cool clothes and I recommend you wear tennis shoes.  Sun Screen, sunglasses, sun hat, mosquitoe repellent, camera, and bottled water.  The day tour will include lunch.  The boat is covered so if it rains you are safe.

What is the weather like at Cano Negro National Wildlife Reserve, Costa Rica? The weather is hot year round.  Around 80 plus degrees.  There is a dry season and a rainy season here.  Rainy season May through November and dry season December through April.  Usually we get sunny mornings and the rains starts  around 1 p.m. and lasts for a few hours.   Average rainfall is 98″ per year, a lot less than other areas of  Costa Rica.

What is the quickest and easiest route from San Jose to Arenal Volcano and La Fortuna? Go north on the Interamerican highway (highway 1)  Take the San Ramon Exit  (around 20 miles fron San Jose) go straight thru San Ramon and look for sign to Arenal Volcano.  You will travel mountainous winding roads with gorgeous scenery. You will pass thru  little towns but if you feel confused just stop and inquire  “how do I get to Arenal”  The locals are friendly and helpful.  From San Ramon the drive is around 2.5 hours to Arenal-La Fortuna  The entire drive from the San Jose areas is about 3.5 hours.  Don’t drive at night because of the winding mountain roads and fog.

Can I fly from San Jose to La Fortuna? Yes     click here

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