Nick Hawkins is a Canadian professional nature photographer and environmentalist. Nick splits his time between the coasts and forests of eastern Canada and western Costa Rica. He is a BBC/Veolia Wildlife Photographer of the Year and Nature's Best Windland Smith Rice prizewinner, and he is also a young fellow of the International League of Conservation Photographers. In addition to his conservation photography projects, Nick is currently working with Foto Verde Tours' Greg Basco to produce an e-book on strategies for wide angle and remote wildlife photography.
Day 1, November 10, Airport/San José
Arrival to Costa Rica. Meet our representative at the Juan Santamaría International Airport and transfer to our hotel near the capital city of San José, where Foto Verde Tours’ Greg Basco will be waiting for you. Our hotel is surrounded by a beautiful tropical garden filled with great subjects for macro photography, including orchids, bromeliads, and passionflowers. There is free wireless Internet throughout the property.
Day 2, November 11, Central Pacific Coast
After breakfast, we enjoy an introductory presentation on flash from Greg Basco. We depart late morning and then head toward our lodge on the Central Pacific Coast. We arrive for lunch and then set in immediately to photograph macro subjects right on the grounds in order to get some great shots and practice our newly acquired flash skills. After dinner tonight, we will head out into the woods to try to photograph the awesome red-eyed tree frog!
Day 3, November 12, Central Pacific Coast
After an early breakfast this morning we have an early boat tour on the Tarcoles River where we will photograph egrets, herons, kingfishers, and crocodiles. We return to our lodge for a late breakfast and then take the rest of the morning to download pictures and do a quick image review. After lunch, we again head out in our private boat to photograph magnificent frigatebirds, pelicans, and bare-throated tiger heron in another section of the river.
Day 4, November 13, Central Pacific Coast
This morning after breakfast, we depart for a destination further down the coast that offers us some great wildlife and coastal landscape opportunities. We arrive to our hotel for lunch and then look for monkeys right on the lodge grounds. Later in the afternoon we head to a nearby beach that is a tropical paradise and will offer us a number of different compositional options for great sunset pictures! We return to our hotel later this evening for a relaxing dinner.
Day 5, November 14, South Pacific Coast
We enjoy an early breakfast this morning and then enjoy a day trip to the nearby Manuel Antonio National Park, a great place to photograph white-faced capuchin and squirrel monkeys, as well as iguanas, sloths, and crab-eating raccoon. We return to our lodge in late afternoon with time to relax and photograph monkeys at our hotel before heading out again for sunset at our favorite beach.
Day 6, November 15, South Pacific Coast
After breakfast today we depart and head toward the beautiful misty highlands of the Talamanca Mountain Range. En route we stop for a coffee at a small restaruant that has good bird feeders that attract some colorful tanagers and honeycreepers and even the fiery-billed aracari. We arrive to our mountain hotel for lunch and then settle in to photograph some beautiful rushing cloud forest river landscapes just down the road.
Day 7, November 16, South Pacific Coast
Today we have a special treat. We'll be spending all day photographing woodpeckers, tanagers, and hummingbirds at a new project that we helped to design with a friend of Foto Verde Tours. We'll set up special perches and flowers for our avian photo subjects and work the whole day to get some fantastic photos!
Day 8, November 17, Pacific Cloud Forest
After breakfast today we have some time to look for the fantastic Resplendent Quetzal which sometimes frequents our hotel grounds. In the late morning we check and head to our next destination, a family-run lodge even higher up in the mountains. At this location, Foto Verde Tours has a built a private hummingbird photography area. Right after lunch, we'll get to work there! This evening, we'll enjoy a presentation from Greg on the art and technique of multiple-flash hummingbird photography.
Day 9, November 18, Pacific Cloud Forest
This morning we head out with the lodge owner to look for the Resplendent Quetzal, the Holy Grail for neotropical bird photographers. The lodge owner and his family have started a project to work with local farmers in the area to monitor and protect the Quetzal, and this network exponentially raises our probability of getting a good photographic look at this beautiful species. After breakfast, we will work the rest of the day at our new private photo area. This is a new area that is a collaborative effort between the family that owns the lodge and Foto Verde Tours. We'll spend the afternoon photographing the amazing Fiery-throated Hummingbird as well as other hummingbird species such as the Green Violet-ear and Magnificent Hummingbird. In addition to getting great pictures, you will learn how to do multiple-flash hummingbird photography using Foto Verde Tours co-founder Greg Basco's renowned technique for capturing natural looking images.
Day 10, November 19, Pacific Cloud Forest
Before breakast this morning we have time for our last chance at the Resplendent Quetzal. After breakfast, we check out and head back toward San Jose, stopping for lunch at a lodge that has great hummingbird feeders that give us a chance to photograph the charming Magenta-throated Woodstar. We arrive to our hotel in late afternoon and then enjoy a farewell dinner at the hotel restaurant this evening.
Day 11, November 20, Back to San Jose
Private transfer to the Juan Santamaría International Airport for your flights home.
THIS ITINERARY INCLUDES
- Lodging as specified
- Meals as specified
- Transportation as specified w/private driver in spacious air-conditioned tour bus
- Professional, full-time photo instruction from your leader(s)
- Multiple-flash setups for hummingbird photography
- Entrances and fees for all described activities
- Taxes for all specified services
THIS ITINERARY DOES NOT INCLUDE
- Airport departure tax (US $29, may be included in the price of your plane ticket)
- Alcoholic Drinks
- Non-mealtime snacks and drinks
- Dinner the first night
- Single room supplement ($431)
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
+ Will someone be there to meet me at the airport?
Certainly! We take care of you from the moment you step off the plane until the moment you leave to return home. We'll send you all of the info you need to know regarding arrival in a final info message before the trip.
+ I plan to arrive a day early. Can you help?
Definitely, we'll be happy to make your reservations to ensure that you get to the same hotel that we have booked for the official first night of the tour. By the way, private transfers to and from the airport are always included in our tours, and you can use this transfer whether you arrive early or depart later than the official dates.
+ What kind of clothes should I bring?
In general, your best choices are lightweight garments that breathe and dry quickly, and you’ll want a mix of long sleeves and short sleeves. A light polartec and a good rain jacket are also good to have. For meals, it’s informal at the lodges and in the region in general. A pair of jeans, tennis shoes, and a clean shirt are just fine for dinner, even in the captial city hotels. Lightweight hiking boots are fine for your photography out in the field, and if you’re visiting a beach area, you will want sandals or aqua shoes as well. Of course a good hat and sunscreen are important. The sun is strong in the tropics, even on cloudy days. We will send you clothing information specific to your trip after you've signed up.
+ Can I have laundry done?
Many of the lodges we use offer laundry service for a cost of approximately $1 per garment with same or next day service. We will indicate to you which lodges have laundry service after you've signed up for a given trip.
+ Can I drink the water?
This is probably the question that our clients ask us the most. And it’s the one for which we have the least definitive answer, except to say that beer is always a safe choice!. Water in and around capital cities is treated with chlorine and generally can be consumed with no worries. The lodges that we use for our photo travel often have their own well water, which is tested regularly by the Ministry of Health. Nonetheless, upset stomachs do occur as a result of change in diet or simply bacteria different from those to which Northern stomachs are accustomed. Serious disorders such as Giardia or amoebic dysentery are virtually unheard of. Bottled water is very widely available at our hotels and lodges, and a conservative strategy would be to use it as often as possible when outside the capital. As with travel to any foreign country, immodium pills are good to have along, and some of our clients also bring along Cipro or other broad-spectrum antibiotics. Some go so far as to begin taking antibiotics before arriving in-country. For antibiotic use, we suggest you consult with your physician. That said, we have very very few problems with water and food-related issues on our tours.
+ How do I keep my equipment safe from humidity while in the rainforest?
The lush cloud forests and rain forests for which Costa Rica is famous means that your camera gear will be exposed to high humidity. We’ve never had problems with our gear here in Costa Rica, and neither have our clients, so humidity is nothing to be obsessed about. And it is certainly not a deterrent to visiting and photographing the rainforest. Nonetheless, a three-pronged strategy will help avoid damage to your gear and allow you to concentrate on your photography.
First, pack your gear well in water repellant camera bags and backpacks and sprinkle these liberally with silica gel packages. Former Foto Verde Tour participant Christian Moynihan turned us on to this site for all of your silica gel needs: http://www.silicagelpackets.com/. Whenever possible, pack each item in ziploc bags to avoid condensation upon exiting an air-conditioned vehicle or when traveling from the cool highlands to the warm lowlands.
Second, try to avoid actually getting your gear wet. We try to send our photo clients to lodges with covered shooting areas but these are not always available. A good rain cover for your camera and/or a small umbrella that clips onto your tripod can be very useful. And rain showers can come down suddenly when you are out with your camera. That same small umbrella is an easy way to cover up as are garbage bags stored in handy places in your camera bag. Camera bags with built-in rain covers are particularly useful.
Third, at night you may want to dry your equipment with a compact hair dryer that you bring along for this purpose (most lodges do not have hair dryers in the bathroom).
+ I'd like a single room. Can that be arranged?
Certainly. Simply indicate your rooming preference on the workshop signup form.
+ I'm traveling by myself but would like a double room. Can that be arranged?
It depends. If we can match you up with a suitable solo traveler who also wants to share, we will place you in a double room.
Did you know that capuchin monkeys use tools? Yep, they employ branches and rocks to break open hard fruits and, by one account in Costa Rica, even to kill prey!
You should arrive to and depart from Costa Rica's Juan Santamaria International Airport (SJO).
All of our hotels and lodges have electricity and hot water. They're quite nice! Many even have WiFi available.
Plan to arrive early? No problem, we'll make your reservation for you!
This trip requires only moderate fitness. Your leader will go over the gear you need for every shooting session so you don't have to carry the kitchen sink. There are no long hikes involved, but you are always welcome to get out on the trails if you want!
Electrical current is 110 volts, the same as the US. If you are coming from Europe or Asia, you may need a voltage converter.
A small power strip for charging camera, flash, laptop, and phone/tablet is useful. Greg Basco recommends this one:
We recommend purchasing travel insurance if you have not already done so. There are many companies out there, but we've found Frontier MedEx to have a pretty good selection. Note that in the case of a medical emergency, we will assist you in every way possible.
Gear insurance is also a good idea. You may, of course, have your gear covered under your homeowner's policy. If not, we've heard good things about TCP Insurance. Greg Basco has had his gear covered under the NANPA policy offered through Rand Insurance for years. He's only had to file one claim but they took care of things right away with no hassle. Note that NANPA also offers recommendations for travel insurance for photo tours.
Costa Rica does not require any special vaccinations or medicines.
Check out our reading list for our recommendations on great natural history books for our destinations.
Click the pic to see how Greg Basco used 2 flashes to simulate natural sunlight for a shot of a fer-de-lance.
- Apr 14, 2018 – Apr 24, 2018 COSTA RICA - Art of Biodiversity Pacific - SOLD OUT! Apr 14, 2018 – Apr 24, 2018
- Jan 20, 2019 – Jan 31, 2019 COSTA RICA - Toucans, Hummingbirds, & Quetzals - SOLD OUT! Jan 20, 2019 – Jan 31, 2019
- Feb 25, 2019 – Mar 9, 2019 ECUADOR - Tropical Bird Photography - SOLD OUT! Feb 25, 2019 – Mar 9, 2019
- Mar 12, 2019 – Mar 23, 2019 ECUADOR - Hummingbirds, Herps, and More - SPOTS OPEN! Mar 12, 2019 – Mar 23, 2019