The Pachira Lodge in the Tortuguero Rain Forest on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica cannot be reached by road or rail and, by the time we finally touched down in the capital city of San Jose after a series of delayed flights, our tour group had already made the 51/2 hour journey along bone-shaking, unmade roads and canals. Ever resourceful, I discovered the delightful Nature Air had a 25 minute flight leaving for Tortuguero at 06.00 the following morning: the tiny twin prop plane landing on a small airstrip a short boat ride away from Pachira Lodge. (See my review of Nature Air.) At least we would arrive in time to enjoy a full day and night in the rainforest before moving on the Arenal Volcano.
The lodge is a charmingly rustic series of log cabins and blocks, in the middle of rainforest and surrounded by wildlife: howler monkeys, toucan, acari, humming birds abound. Our room, in a block of several rooms sharing a terrace and veranda, was basic but functional and the ceiling fan kept us cool. No phone, TV, hair dryer or wi fi – which suited us fine. The shower was temperamental and quickly ran out of hot water. The toilet ceased flushing in the middle of the night and had to be cleared using jugs of water. The windows are covered by an insect screen – no glass – so it is difficult to get any privacy and you can hear every noise from outside. It is described as one of the better lodges in the area but, hey, I spent many years camping so this is luxury compared to life under canvas!
Food was wholesome – plenty of fresh fruit, rice and beans, and the vegetarian lasagna was delicious, turning out to be welcome change from the pasta and tomato sauce which was typically the sole vegetarian option available throughout much of the rest of the tour. All guests were sat at large group tables – no privacy for couples wishing to have a romantic evening. However, the open air bar by the pool offered a more intimate setting, though my partner and a fellow smoker were reprimanded for trying to smoke their roll-ups at a table several yards away from fellow guests and sent off by the barman to a dark and dingy naughty (smokers') corner!
The large turtle-shaped pool area (Tortuguero means "turtle hunter") was delightful to relax by, although they could do with supplying more sun beds. It is surrounded by exotic plants and trees in which a three-toed sloth kept us entertained. There are plenty of nature trails to follow through the grounds and it was such a thrill to discover a mother humming bird settled on her tiny, egg-cup shaped nest. As part of our tour we enjoyed a lengthy boat trip along the canals spotting birdlife, monkeys, snakes, iguanas and a caiman. We discovered that on the previous day we had missed a walk into the town of Tortuguero and a visit to the beach and although we were invited to join another group taking this tour, we preferred to continue exploring the trails around the lodge. I was determined to see a Blue Jeans Frog, and although I had to wait until later in the tour to spot this tiny fellow, I was rewarded by watching the antics of a howler monkey family across trees and rooftops; magnificent spiders and a determined trail of leaf-cutter ants.
All in all, a great experience but I thoroughly recommend using the local air service, Nature Air, if travelling here from San Jose or other connecting cities within Costa Rica. At just $40 each, we considered it well worth it, especially after experiencing the nerve-wracking boat trip along the canals (fearing our cases, balanced precariously on top of a pile of cases in an open sided boat) might slip into the water at any moment), followed by a bone-shaking road trip over dusty, unmade roads on our return leg.