A.M.  Costa Rica
Postcard
from Tortuga Island
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This story was published Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2002, in Vol. 2, No. 244

A small island rock juts out of the ocean.

Tourists admire a view of the biological reserve on Isla Punta Coral from the Calypso Tour catamaran.
Isla Tortuga: a network of natural beauty
By Saray Ramírez Vindas
and Bryan Kay
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The bus ride from San José to Puntarenas was a relatively long and sleepy one. We didnít open our eyes until we reached the harbor in Puntarenas. Maybe it was the sea air. However, the mere sight of the unruly harbor was enough to awaken our senses. 

We were about to embark on our catamaran ride to Isla Tortuga. The early morning was fine, casting a brilliant, blue sky, rarely interrupted by clouds.

As we boarded the catamaran, the sun was beginning to make a breakthrough. Within a short period of time, the coldness of the early morning was gone and the air was filled with intense heat, penetrating from the summer sun. Just the remedy.
 
Photos by
Bryan Kay and Saray Ramírez Vindas

The sea was calm, and the catamaran cut through its smooth surface like a fine cutter blade through long grass. Our path to Tortuga had begun and the day couldnít have been more expertly cast.

The journey took in many of the spectacular sights south along the Nicoya Penninsula, where the island is located around halfway down its inner pacific coast. Isla San Lucas is particularly interesting, having in the past housed a network of underground prison cells. 

Tortuga waits at the end of a circuitous route of rocks, islands and mainland. Although maybe hard to find, 120 visitors still make it here weekly.

This small island is like a mirror of the sun, with its beautiful sand beaches that reflect the wonders of the Pacific. Owned by the state, this virgin beauty is maintained by an agreement that 85 percent of it is to remain ďundeveloped,Ē according to tour guide, Leda Saenz.

Not so far away children play, while the parents and families prepare barbecues, emanating tempting smells. 


A very old tree at the entrance of the park provides a welcome to visiting tourists.

Rocky caverns line the brim of the island.




Some other people come from a Catamaran ó people from everywhere, who come to visit the island to take away with them the memory of the gift of life and the sharing of a wonderful experience with the rest of the visitors. 

Visitors can take a small trip on a canopy tour. This zip chord roller coaster ride offers the opportunity of a panoramic of treetops and beyond and the island below, in all its glory, from the air.

Kayakers, too, can have their day. A kayak tour is available where more of the Castaway-like landscape can be explored at a slower more studied pace. 

On the beach there are spaces available to use for picnics. The staff that takes care of the island for the state leaseholders, the Cubero family, maintain its cleanliness. This is evident. It is pristine.

Those who love to walk can take a stroll through the islandís tropical dry forest. Wildlife on the island runs across the whole spectrum of species. Amongst the bird species, there are grakles, a wild bird, as well as pelicans.

There is a hiking trail that winds up the islandís awkwardly tall posterior. Monkey vines, fruit-bearing soursop and cashew trees, strangler figs and orchids line the trailís path.

Wild pigs, deer and lizards are among the other creatures to be found roaming the island. In fact, deer and wild pigs were re-introduced to the island by the Cuberos.

Apparently, if youíre lucky, in summer, sometimes dolphins can be seen riding the oceanís surface. The boat ride to and from the island is a stage set for the keen-eyed ó or the just plain lucky.

In a place where an elusive weather system operates, which gifts the island the least rain in the whole Pacific, relaxation, then, flourishes. And San José scratches its head.
 

The reporters visited Isla Tortuga courtesy of Calypso Tours.


A Costa Rican tourists passes the afternoon collecting shells.

A breathtaking vista point from the top of the island reveals the Penisula de Nicoya below.

The first stop of the trip was the harbor of Punta Coral.
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