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-books The Guide to Tropical Nature Photography and Lightroom for the Nature Photographer. 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!
Costa Rican born and raised, Paulo Valerio is an ecologist, tourism entrepreneur, and nature photographer. Paulo graduated as a tropical ecologist from the Biology School of the National University. During his graduate studies, he specialized in the development of sampling and research methods for high-flying bats in the rainforest canopy. Involved with ecotourism since 1992, Paulo has worked as a naturalist guide and field instructor for several companies, and developed and directed field study programs for the National Learning Institute (INA) in Costa Rica and universities in the United Sates, including Nassau Community College in New York, Pepperdine University in California (where he was an associate professor) and Auburn University in Alabama. He has taught tropical ecology courses and workshops at the One Earth One People international events and lectured at NSTA (National Science Teachers Association) as well as various conventions and bird festivals in the U.S. He is also a nature photographer and birdwatcher. Paulo recently also decided to pursue a long time interest and passion and obtained his PhD in traditional Chinese medicine and acupuncture.
Day 1, July 18, 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, July 19, to the Atlantic Lowland Rainforest
After an early breakfast, we check out and head to our first destination, a rainforest lodge where Foto Verde Tours has worked to set up a feeder that offers unparalleled opportunities to photograph Keel-billed Toucans, Chestnut-mandibled Toucans, and Brown-hooded Parrots among many other birds. We arrive at the lodge for lunch and set in immediately to photograph at the feeders! This evening, Greg will give a presentation on fill-flash for bird and wildlife photography.
Day 3, July 20, Atlantic Lowland Rainforest
Today we will divide the group with half using the restaurant feeders for toucans, oropendolas, parrots, and aracari and the other half visiting the lodge manager's house where Foto Verde Tours has worked with the lodge manager to set up two blinds – one for honeycreepers (including the Green Honeycreeper, Red-legged Honeycreeper, Shining Honeycreeper, and Blue Dacnis) and one for a multiple-flash hummingbird setup where you will have the opportunity to photograph lowland hummingbird species including Crowned Woodnymph, White-necked Jacobin, Green-breasted Mango, Scaly-breasted Hummingbird, and Long-billed Hermit.
Day 4, July 21, Atlantic Lowland Rainforest
Today we concentrate on toucans and also have the opportunity to visit a blind that offers great opportunities to photograph the elusive King Vulture! After lunch, we'll have a session with some local tree frogs, poison frogs, and snakes. And in the evening, we have a very special treat – bat photography in a pavilion that Foto Verde Tours has set up in the forest right behind the lodge!
Day 5, July 22, to the Caribbean Cloud Forest
After breakfast, we have some time to shoot the toucans and parrots at our restaurant feeder before travel ing toward the higher cloud forests of the northern Central Volcanic Mountain Range. Our lodge 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. 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 local farm where Foto Verde Tours has laid the groundwork to set up photo opportunities of the wild, free-flying Great Green and Scarlet Macaws that inhabit the owner's large farm property. We arrive to our lodge in late afternoon, with time to settle in and enjoy a relaxing dinner after this busy day.
Day 6, July 23, Caribbean Cloud Forest
After breakfast today, we set in immediately to begin photographing hummingbirds at our multi-flash setups right on the lodge grounds. We will concentrate on the Violet Sabrewing (Costa Rica’s largest species), Green hermit, Purple-throated Mountain Gem, and Green-crowned Brilliant. Greg will run the setups and provide attractive native flowers to ensure that you capture some fantastic hummingbird images. When not on the setups, you can relax and download images, shoot the Black Guan, Silver-throated Tanagers, Agouti, and Coatimundi that frequent the lodge grounds. And you can explore the cloud forest trails for macro and landscape photography. There are some great rushing cloud forest stream images to be made only minutes from the lodge restaurant.
Day 7, July 24, Caribbean Cloud Forest
After breakfast, we visit a nearby waterfall, which is 110 meters high and offers beautiful photographic opportunities of the waterfall itself and the surrounding cloud forest. There are some absolutely world-class landscape and lush tropical foliage images to be made here. In addition, we have permission to set up our multiple-flash here to take advantage of some very interesting small hummingbird species such as Black-bellied Hummingbird, Coppery-headed Emerald, and Green Thorntail and others such as the endemic White-bellied Mountain Gem and the perennial favorite, the Green Hermit. We'll shoot throughout the day, alternating our time between the setups, perched hummingbirds, and landscape photography.
Day 8, July 25, to the Pacific Cloud Forest
After an early breakfast today, we head to the Talamanca Mountain Range and one of our favorite lodges where Foto Verde Tours has worked to set up a private photography area for hummingbirds, tanagers, and finches. We arrive to our family-owned lodge for lunch and set in to begin photographing the fantastic fiery-throated hummingbird!
Day 9, July 26, 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 begin working at our new private photo area. This is a new area that is a collaborative effort between the family that owns the lodge and Greg's company 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.
Day 10, July 27, Pacific Cloud Forest
Before breakfast this morning, we strike out again for the Resplendent Quetzal. After a late breakfast, we head over to a nearby valley that offers some great photos of rushing cloud forest streams. After our landscape work this morning, we'll grab a bite to eat at a local restaurant and then finish the day with a great surprise – a visit to a new feeder area run by a good friend of ours. From a private deck, we'll set up perches to photograph flame-colored tanagers and acorn woodpeckers and, if we're lucky, maybe even golden-browed chlorophonia and long-tailed silky flycatchers. We return to our lodge this evening for a relaxing dinner after this busy day.
Day 11, July 28, Pacific Cloud Forest/Back to San Jose
After breakast this morning we have time for our last hummingbird photos and also a session for photo captioning and post-processing. We depart mid-morning and arrive to our capital city hotel for a light lunch. We have the afternoon free to relax, photograph birds and flowers in the hotel gardens, or continue on with more post-processing. We'll enjoy a farewell dinner at the hotel restaurant this evening.
Day 12, July 29, 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 and bat photography
- Entrances and fees for all described activities
- Taxes for all specified services
THIS ITINERARY DOES NOT INCLUDE
- Airport departure tax (US $29, probably included in the price of your plane ticket)
- Alcoholic Drinks
- Non-mealtime snacks and drinks
- Dinner the first night (July 18)
- Single room supplement of $318
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 most hummingbirds beat their wings over 4,000 times per minute? Greg Basco will show you how to use flash to stop the action!
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! And all 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 learn how Greg Basco typically processes a multi-flash hummingbird photo.
- 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