Discover Costa Rica’s Curiously Cryptic Wildlife – With George McGavin.

# Group Tour

Discover Costa Rica’s Curiously Cryptic Wildlife – With George McGavin.

16 Days from £6266 per adult. Prices based on flight fares at the time of costing & may vary. Please ask for a definitive quote
16 Days
Group Tour
Off The Beaten Track

Known mainly as an ardent entomologist, George McGavin also has a deep interest in general zoology and ecology.  After 25 years as an academic at Oxford University, George became a television presenter, chiefly for the BBC taking him all around the world.

George’s boundless enthusiasm, energy and charm are clearly evident from his TV appearances and he will certainly bring those qualities to bear when helping the group members to observe the abundant wildlife to be found in Costa Rica.

As well as invertebrates, you should see three-toed sloths, up to four species of monkeys, coatis, various snakes, lizards such as iguana and basilisk, crocodiles, turtles and a great many of Costa Rica’s 900 bird species.

Join George, a local Biologist and a small number of like-minded natural history enthusiasts on this uniquely enjoyable journey to the New World and come home with far more knowledge of the hidden (and more visible) wildlife of the tropics than you ever thought possible. Costa Rica is indeed “The Rich Coast” for wildlife.

PLEASE NOTE:  The 2017 departure is full.  There is JUST ONE SPACE LEFT for our 2018 departure, please call to reserve your place on this.

Click to download 2017 group details (PDF)

Click to download 2018 group details (PDF)


Price from £6266 per adult. Single supplement £750

Day 1 - San Jose

Depart LONDON. Met on arrival at the airport and transfer to your hotel.

Staying at Bougainvillea Hotel. Includes In-flight Meals.

Day 2 - Maquenque

Pick up by your group minibus with driver and private Costa Rican bi-lingual naturalist guide, and transfer to northern Costa Rica, near the Nicaraguan border. The last 20km will be on a bumpy unpaved road from Pital to Boca Tapada. Boca Tapada is located near the mouth of the San Carlos River, around 150kms/93miles from San José and 15kms/9miles form the border with Nicaragua. This is certainly a remote and out-of-the-way location, boasting a high biodiversity of both flora and fauna within its rainforests. One reason why it’s so important is that it is one of the last remaining nesting sites for the highly endangered great green macaw. The Maquenque National Wildlife Refuge was created with the aim to preserve the habitat of this endangered species. It protects around 150,000acres (60,702ha) of vital rainforest and wetland habitat.

Park the minibus and take a ferry a short distance across the Rio San Carlos to the lodge.

Staying at Maquenque Lodge. Includes All Meals.

Day 3 - Maquenque

Daily activities are flexibile, but today might include: looking for butterflies Caligo atreus and Morpho cypris; a morning’s birdwatching around the lagoon; a walk in the rainforest reserve. After dinner, perhaps go on a night wildlife walk to spot nocturnal frogs, caiman, sleeping birds, bats and other nightlife. Gabriela and George might take you into the rainforest reserve to look for some of the less obvious species to be found there.

The lodge’s 68-acre private rainforest reserve is a fine example of lowland Caribbean rainforest and connects with the huge Indio Maíz Biological Reserve in Nicaragua, creating an important haven for lowland Caribbean wildlife. Tapirs can be seen here and scratch marks on trees show that jaguars also walk the forest trails but are hardly ever seen. Two species of poison dart frog (strawberry and black and green poison-dart frogs) can be easily seen on the forest trails (particularly after recent rainfall).

Staying at Maquenque Lodge. Includes All Meals.

Day 4 - Maquenque

Depending on circumstances, you might take an early morning ferry ride across to the car park to spot the endangered great green macaw. The bird nearly became locally extinct but won a reprieve when a husband and wife team of conservationists began a programme to preserve the remaining population and its host tree species. You might also plant a tree to aid reforestation, visit a local school, walk in the rainforest, swim in the secluded pool or maybe go birding and canoeing around the lagoon.

Staying at Maquenque Lodge. Includes All Meals.

Day 5 - Sarapiqui

Leaving the lodge will be an adventure in itself: you will enjoy a 3.5-4 hour-long boat journey through wild rivers to your next lodge. After breakfast, take a boat from the lodge jetty north along the Rio San Carlos until it reaches the Rio San Juan, which acts as the border with Nicaragua. Proceed westwards along the San Juan until the mouth of the Rio Sarapiqui where you will turn right and proceed in a southerly direction to Puerto Viejo de Sarapiqui. On arrival, transfer to a vehicle for the short distance to your new lodge. Afternoon at leisure to settle in.

Staying at Selva Verde Lodge. Includes All Meals.

Day 6 - Sarapiqui

After breakfast, take a short drive to enjoy a 3-hour, privately guided tour of LA SELVA BIOLOGICAL STATION. La Selva is a rainforest reserve and research station owned by a consortium of US universities and the University of Costa Rica known as OTS (Organisation of Tropical Studies). Founded in the late sixties, La Selva is perhaps the longest running and certainly one of the most prestigious research stations for tropical rainforest anywhere in the world. The property encompasses more than 1500 hectares including a variety of eco systems characteristic of the wet lowland tropical zone. It forms part of a much larger protected area that includes the Braulio Carrillo National Park.

Within La Selva, visitors can experience tall virgin rainforest, secondary forest at different stages of growth (much of it so advanced that only the experts can distinguish it from virgin forest), forest edge vegetation, lowland rivers, swamps and cultivated areas around the buildings. The station’s primary function is research and it also serves as an educational centre. During the morning you have a good chance of seeing sloths (which are very common here) as well as other tropical wildlife including toucans, humming birds, howler monkeys and peccaries. Benefit from a talk and lecture given by a station researcher.

Return to the lodge for lunch. In the afternoon, walk across the hanging bridge into the lodge’s own 500-acre private primary rainforest reserve, escorted by a naturalist guide from the lodge. Experience first-hand the wonders of a virgin tropical rainforest. Learn more than just the names of rainforest plants and animals - discover their secret lives and fascinating natural histories too. Be on the lookout for monkeys, motmots, toucans, poison dart frogs, and remember to bring your camera and binoculars. Also look for unusual arthropods such as the scorpion Centruroides margaritatus and the Ctenizidae-Cyclocosmia trapdoor spider.

Staying at Selva Verde Lodge. Includes All Meals.

Day 7 - Turrialba

Depart by road to the TURRIALBA valley. After a final bumpy drive of 1.8km we arrive at the lodge for lunch, then go on a nature walk along a rainforest trail in the lodge’s private reserve at 900m altitude. In the evening, listen to a talk prepared by Gabriela.

Staying at Rancho Naturalista. Includes All Meals.

Day 8 - Turrialba

Drive a short distance for a morning tour of CATIE (Tropical Agricultural Centre for Research and Higher Education) located just outside Turrialba. This tour offers an alternative way to learn about local culture as well as obtain more information regarding the institution’s projects. The guided visit will show you with the extensive plantations at CATIE as well as provide information about the significant contributions the centre has made towards research and education in tropical agriculture. CATIE’s grounds contain a wide variety of tropical plants from various parts of the tropics. The plantations of major relevance include: coffee, cocoa, pejibayes, tropical fruit, and forest species.

Enjoy a stroll through CATIE’s special Botanical Gardens with its century-old kapok tree, towering stands of bamboo, dripping orchids, bromeliads hanging from trees, and abundant colourful flora (including fruit plants). This garden serves as a laboratory for students and scientist investigating the molecular and morphological characteristics of preserved species. It is also an educational site, where awareness about environmental conservation as well as the sustainable use and protection of natural resources is promoted.

Return in time for lunch at the hotel. Afternoon at leisure, or perhaps have a walk on the lodge trails. Maybe later go on a night walk.

Staying at Rancho Naturalista. Includes All Meals.

Day 9 - Turrialba

A further day for on-site activities in the lodge’s private reserve. Perhaps go for a nature walk or maybe visit a nearby site for a different wildlife perspective.

Staying at Rancho Naturalista. Includes All Meals.

Day 10 - Osa Peninsula

Depart by road from Turrialba to SAN JOSE airport. Catch a flight down to the southwestern Pacific coast landing at PUERTO JIMENEZ on the Osa Peninsula, the wildest rainforested region of Costa Rica. Change to 4x4 vehicles for the remaining two-hour drive along rough roads to your next lodge. Remainder of the day at leisure to settle in.

Staying at Luna Lodge. Includes All Meals.

Day 11 - Osa Peninsula

A full day for exploring the lodge’s forest trails. Luna Lodge is located within 150 acres of privately owned tropical wilderness in the heart of the lowland Pacific rainforest. It is lushly landscaped with an abundance of fruit trees, lovely tropical flowers and varied wildlife. The lodge property is adjacent to Corcovado National Park, and enriched by the diversity it holds, including almost 400 species of birds, 140 species of mammals, 116 species of amphibians and reptiles, over 500 species of trees, and more than 6,000 species of insects. This is where we may find the Urania fulgens moth, with its interesting migration patterns.

Corcovado National Park protects endangered species such as the jaguar, puma, crocodile, tapir, various poison dart frogs and the harpy eagle. It also has the giant helicopter damselfly (Megaloprepus caerulatus), so called because when it flies its wings look like they are rotating. It also has a fascinating natural history, searching out orb spider webs to feed on their catches. The expansive beaches of the Osa, especially those near Carate where Luna Lodge is situated, are also major nesting sites for several varieties of sea turtles. If you really want to experience a lowland tropical rainforest in its most natural state, yet also enjoy an outstanding tropical beach environment, this is the place to do it.

Staying at Luna Lodge. Includes All Meals.

Day 12 - Osa Peninsula

Today take a tour of the CORCOVADO NATIONAL PARK. Transfer to Carate, then walk along the beach for up to an hour to the entrance of the park. Hike with your local guide through the tropical lowland rainforest and arrive at the beautiful Madrigal River. Take a dip in the river and meander downstream to arrive at the beach. Inside the forest, within a distance of 100mts/328ft, 100 different species of trees can be found. You will have plenty of time to explore the trails.

Corcovado has the greatest variety of wildlife to be found in Costa Rica, including the largest concentration of scarlet macaws, sloths, howler, spider, capuchin and squirrel monkeys, crocodiles, jaguars, tapirs and reptiles, and boasts eight different habitats including true wet primary rainforest, montane forest, cloud forest and swamp forest. Because of its relatively unspoilt state, it is one of the most important wildlife regions in Central America. Walk back along the beach, meet your transfer and return to the lodge.

Staying at Luna Lodge. Includes All Meals.

Day 13 - Los Angeles Cloud Forest

After breakfast, transfer to PUERTO JIMENEZ. Catch domestic flight to SAN JOSE. Upon landing, your private coach will be awaiting you to continue the journey to the area of San Ramon, your next destination and known as the City of Presidents and Poets, where you will stop for a visit to its central park and local market before arriving to the hotel in the small community of Los Angeles.

In the afternoon enjoy the El Silencio de los Angeles Nature Walk in the hotel’s private cloud forest reserve. Walk into the heart of the cloud forest to unveil a secret world of rich tropical life along four kilometres of user-friendly trails. Located right on the hotel property, the trails were created by the hotel’s professional nature guides and designed to showcase a variety of tropical flora and fauna as it winds its way through this rare and incredibly diverse biosphere. As a part of only 2.5% of the planet’s remaining cloud forests, this unique forest habitat is home of the endemic tarantula Megaphobema mesomelas, the Costa Rican Red Leg, which Gabriela will look for during your outings in this area.

Staying at Villa Blanca. Includes Breakfast.

Day 14 - Los Angeles Cloud Forest

Today you will have the chance to be a guest researcher at Jose Miguel Alfaro’s Research Station. Also located in Los Angeles Cloud Forest Private Reserve, José Miguel Alfaro’s Research Station is attached to Villa Blanca Hotel and Natural Reserve. It was originally created to study the order Lepidoptera by the National Biodiversity Institute (INBIO). Today, its facilities keep collections and provide specialized equipment to visitors, students and researchers for a lasting experience and enjoyment of the cloud forest. It is an ideal location for both educational and sustainable tourism. The cloud forest biodiversity, the easy access and the available trail network offer good opportunities to explore its complex characteristics. José Miguel Alfaro’s Research Station offers attention to groups of different interests and ages through lectures about current issues involving protection of water resources, presentation of recent results of studies, sustainable tourism, among others. It provides facilities for researchers and volunteers, who want to generate knowledge in conjunction with the station’s work team and naturalist guides. In the case of our group they have designed a day of practices in the forest that will allow you to observe the various species of insects of the area. We will set fruit traps in different areas, collaborate with the insect display works and light traps during the evening.

Staying at Villa Blanca. Includes Breakfast.

Day 15 - Villa Blanca

Full day to enjoy the facilities of the lodge. Enjoy a morning’s cloud forest walk in the hotel’s reserve, perhaps to spot the amazing variety of birds. Costa Rica boasts approximately one-tenth of the world’s total bird species population, with around 898 species recorded within its borders. There are over 258 species to spot here, including endemic birds such as the orange-bellied trogon, coppery-headed emerald and much more. You may also have the chance to see small mammals as monkeys and coatis.

Staying at Villa Blanca. Includes Breakfast.

Day 16 - Fly home

Free morning to relax or explore some more of the lodge trails. Transfer to SAN JOSE INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT. Catch BRITISH AIRWAYS flight home.

Staying at London. Includes In-flight Meals.

Day 17 - Arrive London


Includes In-flight Meals.

Travel Info

Are Flights Included?

Flight Info:
Flights are envisaged to be with BA on their direct service to San Jose. As these flights are booked on an ad hoc basis (since names are needed to make bookings), the earlier you book, the more likely it is that you will be able to fly direct.

Area Specialist

Jonathan Morris

If you have any queries about this tour please feel free to call me directly on +44 (0)1803 866965 or...

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We would like to express our thanks for your help in arranging a superb holiday in Costa Rica…Throughout the tour the organisation was of the highest order and was, to all intents and purposes, perfect.. .To sum up, the holiday was a great success.. .We saw around eighty species of bird, many for the first time, and many more animals than we expected. Everyone we encountered was unfailingly pleasant and helpful and the standard of the accommodation was absolutely superb. Many thanks.

Mr S C - West Sussex

Route Map

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Luna Lodge: 8.448732, -83.462448
Maquenque Lodge: 10.740097, -84.201236
Selva Verde Lodge: 10.450366, -84.069150
Bougainvillea Hotel: 9.999105, -84.109250
Rancho Naturalista: 9.831471, -83.562324
Villa Blanca Cloud Forest Hotel and Nature Reserve: 10.201772, -84.482196