This is the entrance to Tortuguero National Park. Most visitors arrive and tour the park wetlands by boat, as the hiking trails do not cross the maze of rivers and canals. That is why the park entrance booth faces the water.
Parque Nacional Tortuguero is 190 sq. km., or 73 sq. miles. It also includes a marine protected area that extends 22.5 km (14 miles) out to sea, and 39.5 km (19 miles) of shore line are protected.
As reflected by the painting on the front of the rustic park entrance, there are manatees in the area. There are also howler monkeys, spider monkeys, white-faced capuchin monkeys, jaguars, ocelots, tapirs, caiman, 309 species of birds, and 60 species of frogs!
The manatee population in the park is stable, and perhaps increasing, despite the fact that they are a threatened species. Manatees are sometimes called a sea cow, and they are like a walrus without tusks. They are 3.7 meters (12 ft.) long, and weigh 1 ton (907 kg.).
Manatees are rarely seen because they spend most of their time under water, and they prefer the lagoons in the west end of the park, whereas most visitors spend more time in the waterways closer to the coast. My National Geographic guide book for Costa Rica says that the best way to tell that there are manatees is to watch for bubbles floating up, and the book goes on to explain that the bubbles are a byproduct of the aquatic plants that the manatees eat.
One of the more unusual animals in the park is called the greater, fishing, or bulldog bat (Noctilio leporinus). It is a large bat that swoops over the water and catches fish with its finger and toe nails. We did not see one, but we did see, and I will show you in the days ahead caiman, examples of the abundant birds, a poison dart frog and eyelash pit viper.