Rain Forests & Reefs

Bill Tuttle, April 2003

Our Rain Forests & Reefs expedition, which departs 04 November 2003, includes six countries and the Panama Canal. Realm of the Macaw, beginning 15 November 2003, further explores Costa Rica and Panama. The two voyages, combined with our pre-extension to the Mayan cities of Tikal and Copan, provide an in-depth look at the history, nature, and culture of Central America. Bill Tuttle was aboard last year's expedition, and these excerpts from his journal give a taste of what participants can expect.

Sunday -- Belize City, Belize

...we took the day to venture deep into the Belizean forest to explore Lamanai, the mysterious Mayan ceremonial site on the banks of the New River Lagoon. Small boats whisked us down canals lined by dense vegetation harboring crocodiles, turtles, and an array of birdlife. The ruins of Lamanai boast several large pre-classical temples in a sprawling complex. We shared the site with a band of howler monkeys...

Monday -- Lighthouse Reef, Belize

...Lighthouse Reef is home to a nesting colony of roughly 4,000 red-footed boobies, and we spotted a great number of these pelagic birds from the vantage of an observation platform. The boobies nest right next to magnificent frigatebirds, and the latter had an almost saurian aspect as they wheeled through the sky.

Scuba divers reported great success, sighting moray eels, sergeant majors, and a manta ray, while some of the snorkelers inspected the famous Blue Hole.

Saturday -- Corn Islands, Nicaragua

We came ashore in Zodiacs to meet the mayor and a delegation from town, including a dance troupe comprising the children of the village. The Zegrahm office reports snow in Seattle, but here it's bright sun, dazzling sand, and inviting waters.

Sunday -- Tortuguero Canals, Costa Rica

We negotiated the series of lagoons, spying among the banks several sloths, howler monkeys, iguanas, and two crocodiles. The area is home to over 400 bird species, and we saw a sampling of these inhabitants, including great egrets, spotted sandpipers, and roseate spoonbills.

Tuesday -- Panama Canal

Our day long passage gave us a firsthand look at the workings of the canal, as well as ample time to reflect on the level of audacity and industry responsible for its construction.

Thursday -- Isla Coiba, Panama

The Pacific waters, while slightly colder than those of the Caribbean, are richer in nutrients... Snorkelers reported moray eels, octopus, sea snakes, and parrotfish, among others. Dolphins provided an impromptu escort for the final dive of the expedition. Divers also spotted a white-tip reef shark and numerous pufferfish.

Friday -- San Josecito, Costa Rica

Passengers opting for a more rugged hike disembarked early to explore Corcovado National Park....the hikers reported two species of monkey, coatimundi, and a number of birds, including a black-cheeked ant tanager, endemic to Corcovado. The rest of us took a shorter river hike through heliconia, orchids, and strangler fig to the R'o Claro....enjoyed great views of howler monkeys, mangrove hawks, and a chesnut-mandibled toucan. Upstream, "Jesus Christ lizards" raced across the river surface. Both groups spotted scarlet macaws, which had become something of a goal during our voyage.

Saturday -- Quepos, Costa Rica

Our wildlife-viewing proved fruitful -- a juvenile crocodile, two- and three-toed sloths, agoutis, a silky anteater, iguanas, green herons... The real standouts, however, were the white-faced capuchin monkeys. These were very active, swinging through trees, scampering down boughs to water level, chattering at us from their perches...