Playa Zapotal and Tamarindo Estuary

Jan 06, 2020 - National Geographic Sea Lion

What a great way to start the day: group snorkeling, a nature hike for others and beach times for the rest that just wanted to kick back and enjoy Playa Zapotal.  As soon as we approached the beach, we were enchanted by a beautiful dry forest life: howler monkeys, crested caracara, tropical kingbird, great kiskadee, black vultures and many more. On the way back to the beach we were accompanied by big giant ceiba trees or kapok tree, name that resembled the kapok fiber used throughout history to fill mattresses, pillows, tapestries and dolls.

Later this morning, I was ready to point out a nice white-fronted parrot when I heard a guest saying, “Ahhhh, this is life!!” And for some reason I was expecting someone else to comment, but instead nearly everyone took a deep breath and exhaled with a big smile on their faces. Meanwhile the parrot was gone, but that was a moment that I just could not interrupt.

In the afternoon, we repositioned National Geographic Sea Leon onward to Playa Tamarindo, another paradise of a location in the northern coast of Guanacaste. Upon disembarking, we took ten-minute drive by bus through the middle of town to get to the third largest estuary and mangrove forest in Guanacaste. This amazing ecosystem is one very difficult for naturalist to interpret, because there is so much wildlife and you are constantly calling name after name with almost no chance to talk about the natural history or interesting facts about all of them. Herons, egrets, flycatchers, trogons, and birds of all sorts were fabulous, but by far the one that caught everybody’s attention without a doubt was the king of the estuary: the American crocodile!  What a fantastic way to finish this journey!

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About the Author

Juan Carlos Arrieta


Juan Carlos is double majored in Sustainable Tourism Management and Biology with a specialization in ecology and sustainable development. He has earned his international certification in Wilderness First Aid, CPR, Swift Water Rescue and Vertical Rope Rescue by organizations like RESCUE 3 INTERNATIONAL and NATIONAL SAFETY COUNCIL from USA.

About the Photographer

José Calvo

Naturalist/Certified Photo Instructor

Nicknamed “Indio” (Indian) because of his powers of observation and quiet nature, José has almost two decades of experience working as a naturalist and photography guide; as well as being recognized as an expert birder and nature photographer in Costa Rica. Costa Rica is rich in biodiversity — over 893 bird species have been recorded in the country. Since very young José spent all of his free time in the outdoors in the forest, where he soon fell in love with the birds. He particularly enjoys listening to their calls, and watching their behavior. Oddly enough, another one of Jose’s passions is science and technology, and because of this, he was among the first in Costa Rica to experiment with digital photography. As the technology quickly improved so did his love for it.  He truly believes that nature photography is the perfect combination of both of his passions.

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