Palo-verde-boat-tour-Costa Rica crocodile

Palo Verde boat tour Costa Rica: Don’t put your hands in the water because there are crocodiles and piranhas,” said Jorge Pizarro, the comedian in charge of our 90-minute ride on Costa Rica’s Río Tempisque with Palo Verde Boat Tours, one of the best Costa Rica boat tours.

Few of the tourists in our 28-seat boat appeared to get the joke. It was a beautiful day for a boat ride, with a bank of grayish clouds overhead but no rain, so it was neither hot nor wet.

We were floating under a shady roof on Costa Rica’s third-largest river (144 km long). It originates in the mountains between the Orosí and Rincón de la Vieja volcanoes and empties into the northernmost part of the Gulf of Nicoya. On the east bank was Palo Verde National Park, and on the west was equally lush but private land.

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Shortly after introducing himself, Jorge pointed out a large male iguana in a bush right by the dock.

“Iguana males can make cootchie-cootchie with two at a time, because they have two penises,” Jorge said.

I asked him to repeat this in Spanish for my girlfriend, which he did, and he insisted that just like the crocodile, the iguana has a “little hook” down there to keep the female from getting away.

“I feel jealous of him,” he said.

And we were off.

Palo Verde National Park is considered one of Costa Rica’s greatest bird sanctuaries. I thought I would see birds by the hundreds, but in fact we saw only one tiger heron, a few social flycatchers, one boat-billed heron and a Baltimore oriole nest.

We saw plenty of long-nosed bats, typically resting in a line on a tree trunk. Jorge said that there are 119 bat species in Costa Rica, more than any other country in the world except Ecuador. He says one of these fellows can eat 1,200 mosquitoes a day.

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Next, Jorge said we were on our way to see one of the largest crocodiles in the river, 18 or 19 feet long. “They love white meat,” he said.

But when we motored up to a log in the water, we had to strain to see the tiny baby croc lying on top of it, roughly six inches long.

“That’s really a toy we put there,” said the perpetual jokester. “It’s made in China.”

Moving on, we saw (and heard) a big troop of howler monkeys, and then another troop of white-faced capuchins. The latter darted among the branches overhanging the river, dipped their tails into the water and then drank from their tails. They do this to avoid being eaten by crocodiles, Jorge said.

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“What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever seen here?” I asked Jorge.

“A jaguar,” he said, and he wasn’t joking, though sightings of Costa Rica’s apex predator are extremely rare. “We were on a tour. It’s a very nervous animal. About four people on the boat saw it.

“Then about four years ago, a horse drowned and the crocodiles ate him. I’d never seen that live.” He said the horse was tied up, but the waters rose because of heavy rains. It started to drown and the crocs moved in for the kill.

The third strangest thing he’s seen is a boa constrictor devouring a coati, the raccoon-like animal that Costa Ricans call a “pizote.

As we motored back to the dock, the normally laconic captain, known as Zorro, shouted that there was a big crocodile swimming in the water up ahead. He slowed down, and the tourists crowded around to see a big, long, brown and green thing bobbing in the current.

“He’s teasing you guys,” Jorge said. “That’s a logodile.”

Palo Verde Boat Tour Costa Rica is a family-run operation in Ortega that for 25 years has offered morning and afternoon tours of the Tempisque River, with a big, traditional lunch afterward (or breakfast before, for the 8 a.m. tours). Tours ordinarily cost $60 for foreigners, with lower prices for nationals and groups.

A few other local companies offer similar tours. Administrator Jetty Patricia Mendoza said her company used to have a lot of signs along the road, but someone stole them.

Ecotourism, not unlike the life-and-death dance between crocs and monkeys and boas and coatis, can be a cutthroat business.

For more info:
Phone: (506) 2651-9000
(506) 2651-8001
(506) 8841-8943

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