Barra Del Colorado National Wildlife Refuge

The importance of this largest of Costa Rica’s wildlife refuges as a wildlife annex to TORTUGUERO NATIONAL PARK (see p.343) cannot be overstated. Together they comprise over 470 square miles (1,215 km2) of riverine coastal rain forest, habitat for crocodiles, poison-dart and glass frogs, spider monkeys, sloths, and more than 300 species of colorful birds, as well as miles of precious nesting beach for endangered sea turtles. Other mammal species are jaguars, manatees, white-faced and howler monkeys, tapirs, ocelots, pumas, and among birds, great green macaws, great curassows, great tinamous, keel-billed toucans, and numerous herons.

Barra del Colorado is much like Tortugero but wilder, just south of the Nicaraguan border, with fewer facilities and staff, and not as protected against illegal logging, ranching, colonization, and road construction, especially in the less swampy west. Lodging is available in Barra del Colorado village (a famous sportfishing area); access is by boat from Tortuguero or charter flight from San José. Tours can be arranged.

An interesting natural phenomenon is migration of bull sharks from the saltwater Atlantic Ocean up San Juan River to freshwater Lake Nicaragua. Why these huge relatives of great white sharks do this and how they deal with the salinity change is not known. Fortunately no river attack has ever been recorded. Unfortunately, they are in danger of extinction from unregulated overfishing.