Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge Costa Rica
Wildlife Viewing Tour along Rio Frio & Cano Negro Refuge
The Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge
It should first be noted that this tour does not actually bring travelers within the refuge – only near it. That said, the area just outside the park is just as spectacular as the area inside, so visitors needn’t worry about missing out on anything.
In order to visit Caño Negro, it’s necessary to join a day tour. Tours operate along the Río Frío (Cold River), a slow-flowing river that winds through canyons on its way to the Caño Negro Lake. Along the shores of the river and in the trees that bend over its waters, visitors will be able to spot birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians. There are howler, spider and white-faced monkeys, three-toed sloth, caimans, turtles, and even Jesus Christ Lizards. Keep your eyes on the river, too – there’s the chance of spotting the fin of a freshwater shark as it slices above the water’s surface.
During the wet season – which typically lasts from July to November – the banks of the Río Frío overflow. During this time, the reserve becomes a shallow lake and acts as a wintering site for migrant American birds. During the dry season – which runs from December until April – the water level steadily falls, until all that is left is the Río Frío's main channel. Some birds, like the Olivaceous Cormorant, make their nests in the reserve and stick around all year.
Most birds, however, make their appearance during the dry season. These include the Glossy Ibis, Black-necked Stilt, Anhinga, American Widgeon, Northern Shoveler, Wood Stork, White Ibis, Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, Snail Kite, Green Backed Heron, and Blue-winged Teal. What’s more, Caño Negro is one of the best places to see the Nicaraguan Grackle, whose only Costa Rican habitat is within Caño Negro, or the Jabirus, which is the largest bird in Central America and extremely endangered.
Tours of Caño Negro
This tour picks up guests from their Arenal-area hotels at 7:30 AM. A 1-½ hour drive to Los Chiles (a village only 4 km from the Nicaraguan border) ensues. Guests are required to have a copy of their passport on hand, as the tour begins near a checkpoint with the Nicaraguan border.
Once guests arrive at Los Chiles they will board a boat and begin the tour. The tour consists of a four-hour floating safari through tropical rainforest, pastures, and marshland. An experienced, bilingual guide leads the tour, teaching tour takers about the ecological history of the area and spotting various animals. Once the tour is over, guests will re-board the bus and be back at their hotel by 4:30 PM.
Lunch, regional fruits, soda, juice, beer, bottled water, and cookies.