Greg Basco is a resident Costa Rican professional photographer and environmentalist. He is a BBC/Veolia Wildlife Photographer of the Year and Nature's Best Windland Smith Rice prizewinner, and his photos have been published by National Geographic, Outdoor Photographer, and Newsweek. His latest work is an acclaimed coffee table book on Costa Rica's natural wonders, and he is co-author of the popular e-book The Guide to Tropical Nature Photography. Greg has earned a reputation as a knowledgeable workshop leader who puts his clients first. Greg does his own shooting on his own time, not yours!
This tour is for 6 to 8 participants, and your leader Greg will have the support of Foto Verde Tours' co-founder, photographer, and ecologist extraordinaire Paulo Valerio and Foto Verde Tours' photographer and driver Jose Lopez. You will get lots and lots of personalized attention! There is a non-photographer discount of $500 just in case you are a photographer and wish to travel with a friend, relative, or significant other who is not a photographer.
Day 1, September 9, 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, September 10, Tortuguero
We depart early today to travel to the Tortuguero area, one of Costa Rica's most amazing destinations. There are no roads here – only canals through the lush rainforest. After a quick breakfast en route, we take our bus to the boat docks and then continue on the rest of the way to Tortuguero on a private boat. We arrive to our lodge for lunch and then have the afternoon to roam the grounds in search of birds, monkeys, and basilisk lizards.
Day 3, September 11, Tortuguero
This morning we have an early boat tour through the jungle canals in search of wildlife to photograph. We'll have great opportunities to photograph snowy egrets, tiger heron, northern jacana, and many other birds and animals in our verdant jungle setting. Cruising through the canals of Tortuguero is an unforgettable photographic experience. We return to our lodge for a late bite to eat and then take a break before lunch. After lunch, we'll take some time to review our images from the morning boat trip to ensure that everyone is dialed in for the next day. In the afternoon, we'll do a hands-on learning session for macro photography with off-camera flash. And in the evening, we'll do a night hike to look for nocturnal frogs!
Day 4, September 12, Tortuguero
This morning we have breakfast and then take the morning to shoot wildlife on the lodge grounds or to relax and process photos or enjoy the pool if you choose. After lunch, we head out again on our private boat for an afternoon shooting wildlife in the jungle canals, and we'll also be on the lookout for landscape images from the boat with reflected leaves in the blackwater canals we'll be visiting. We return in time for dinner and then have a relaxing evening downloading images and packing up for our departure tomorrow.
Day 5, September 13, Sarapiqui
After breakfast, we travel toward one of Costa Rica's premier rainforest destinations, the county of Sarapiqui. We arrive to our lodge for lunch and then take the afternoon for photography on the lodge grounds, looking for tanagers, kingfishers, and caiman.
Day 6, September 14, Sarapiqui
This morning we head to a nearby destination with bird feeders that Foto Verde Tours worked with the owner to set up a few years ago. We'll be setting up great perches for colorful tanagers and honeycreepers and with a bit of luck, we may be able to photograph aracaris, toucans, and motmots too! We'll also photograph a few different species of lowland hummingbirds that visit the feeders. We return to our lodge for a relaxing dinner after this busy day.
Day 7, September 15, Sarapiqui
After breakfast this morning, we head out all day to a couple of surprise destinations. First, we'll visit the house of a very talented local wildlife painter who has set up feeders that attract a number of different tanagers and even the grey-necked wood rail. We may also be able to photograph the elusive white-tipped sicklebill hummingbird! After a delicious home-cooked lunch at our friend's house, we head down the road to the home of another friend for an afternoon of frog photography. We'll have the chance to photograph red-eyed tree frogs, poison dart frogs, and maybe even a glass frog among other subjects. What a day! We return to our lodge for dinner in the evening.
Day 8, September 16, Cloud Forest
After breakfast, we travel to the cloud forests of the northern Central Volcanic Mountain Range and our lodge and photography base for the rest of our trip, Bosque de Paz. Bosque de Paz Ecolodge is located in one of the most biodiverse areas of the country, nestled in a picturesque valley at approximately 4,500 feet above sea level between the Poas Volcano and Juan Castro Blanco National Parks. With its rushing mountain streams, cool air, and orchid and moss-festooned trees, the area is akin to a tropical Colorado. En route we stop at a nearby farm for a delicious homecooked lunch and then an afternoon photographing wild Scarlet and Great Green Macaws both in flight and in the trees – an unparalleled opportunity! We arrive to our lodge in the evening with time to check-in before dinner.
Day 9, September 17, Cloud Forest
Today we will work with multi-flash hummingbird set-ups throughout the day on a rotational basis, photographing the vividly iridescent Violet Sabrewing and Green-crowned Brilliants that are abundant around the lodge. When not on the setups, you can explore the private cloud forest reserve for macro and landscape opportunities.
Day 10, September 18, Cloud Forest
After an early breakfast today, we head to a nearby waterfall, which is 110 meters high and offers beautiful photographic opportunities of the waterfall itself and the surrounding cloud forest. As a special surprise, Foto Verde Tours has negotiated permission to set up our multiple flashes at the feeders around the restaurant at the waterfall. This is a great place to photograph some species, such as the green thorntail, coppery-headed emerald, and white-bellied mountain gem, that are less common at Bosque de Paz. We will alternate turns on the hummingbird setups with landscape photography. There are some spectacular tropical foliage shots here of palms and ferns on the cliffs surrounding the waterfall. We enjoy a delicious typical lunch at the waterfall. We return to Bosque de Paz in the evening for a relaxing dinner and time to download our great hummingbird and landscape images.
Day 11, September 19, Back to San Jose
We have the morning today to explore the private cloud forest reserve at our lodge for landscapes or you can photograph more birds or work with the fascinating orchids blooming in the lodge's orchid garden. After lunch, we check out and head back to our captial city hotel. We enjoy a farewell dinner at the hotel before retiring to pack for tomorrow's departure.
Day 12, September 20, Departure - San José/Airport
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 of $515
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.
+ I see we will be shooting from a boat. Should I bring a monopod?
Good question. Though a monopod seems like a good idea for shooting from a boat, we've actually found it to be limiting in two ways. First, it restricts your mobility. And second, it can pick up vibrations through the boat floor. (The same goes for shooting from a tripod.) We've found that handholding on the boat gives the best results. We'll teach you how!
+ 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 the Red-eyed Tree Frog's gaudy colors are actually a form of camouflage? Via the "flash and dazzle" strategy, these frogs show their full colors to a predator and then jump away and curl up into a green blob on a leaf. Scientists believe that this behavior helps the frog to visually disorient a predator just long enough to disappear again into the green leaves.
You should arrive to and depart from Costa Rica's Juan Santamaria International Airport (SJO).
As of July 2017, US government regulations mandate that flights from Costa Rica to the US have additional security measures. Before boarding, you may be asked to turn on laptops, tablets, and phones. Please have these items charged. Failure to comply may prohibit boarding.
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 read how Greg Basco took this dramatic portrait of a howler monkey in the rainforest at one of the lodges that we will be visiting on this trip.
- 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