When I was planning my trip to Costa Rica, I kept reading about how I should take a day trip from Arenal to the Cano Negro Wildlife Refuge. It was hard to tear myself away from the hot springs at Tabacon, but I'm very glad that I did. As our boat rode up and down the Rio Frio, I saw an amazing amount of birds, lizards and monkeys.
I had heard that I should book the excursion with Sunset, because they pioneered the tour (and the others in the area) . But they were full, so I booked with Jacamar, who must have switched me over to Canoas Aventuras, because that's who picked me up. But it all worked out well, as our guide and captain were terrific and we seemed to go to the exact same place as the Sunset group (but somehow never saw them once we were on the river, probably because the twists and turns of the river allowed for us to feel like the only boat there).
The van picked us up around 7:15 AM and drove for two hours to reach Cano Negro, a protected wetland reserve near the Nicaraguan border. Our guide told us that as we got near the end of the trip we would probably see some police presence on the road, and we did see a few. That's because Costa Rica has a big problem with illegal immigrants coming from Nicaragua. Nicaragua is much poorer than Costa Rica, and the Nicaraguans sneak across the border looking for jobs that Costa Ricans don't want, like picking pineapples (which is especially dangerous because those are tough plants) and sugar cane. Speaking of which, we also passed a sugar factory (pictured right).
We made one stop before Cano Negro, which was at the Restaurante Las Iguanas to see the famous "Iguana Tree." Right next to the restaurant/gift shop, there is a large tree where iguanas like to hang out because there's sun, leaves and water (the river below). Plus the people who work at the restaurant feed them things that iguanas like but don't usually get, like carrots. It's a good gig for the restaurant because it's in the middle of nowhere (as far as tourist attractions go) and this brings in the tours. There must have been 100 iguanas in the tree, but at first it didn't look like there are any because they are so well camouflaged.
When we arrived at the last stretch of the journey — a bumpy dirt road a few miles long — the wildlife tour began… through the windows of the van. We were introduced to caimans, which are small crocodiles common in Central America, and other types of birds. Here are the photos below… Tomorrow I promise to post the photos from the river ride, which included lots of monkeys.