We prepared for a half-day tour on the Tárcoles River. It originates on the southern slopes of the central volcanic mountain range, going across the central part of the country, and flowing southwest into the Pacific Ocean.

The Tarcoles River provides an important ecosystem for many animals and birds, mammals such as white-faced monkeys and raccoons, and of course, reptiles such as crocodiles and iguanas. It also contributes to the irrigation of fields and plantations in the area, and people take advantage of the river currents to generate electricity.

Many people limit themselves to observing the crocodiles from the Tárcoles Bridge, used as a passing place. The area is promising to take time to visit, and doing bird watching on a boat tour that provides accessibility to observe the largest population of crocodiles in Costa Rica from up close, the river is home to approximately 60% of the country’s crocodiles.

In this area you may, not only enjoy the crocodile and bird watching tour but also horseback riding tours on the beach, visits to Carara National Park, sport, and artisan fishing, among others.

Upon arrival at the dock, the crew serves cold coconut water to all those who wish to refresh themselves before entering the boat and setting sail on the current of this relevant river, which is fed by other rivers such as the Virilla and Grande de San Ramon. Many of the rivers in the central valley flow into it, pollution increases downstream, and much of it ends up in the ocean.


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About the Crocodiles

Many Costa Ricans believe that the Tárcoles is nothing more than a contaminated river with many crocodiles. The truth is that this river is a privileged spot that allows us to admire an enormous amount of dinosaurs living in their natural habitat. Their predators are themselves, and when they are young, they are ideal prey for the males as they are such a territorial animal, another of their predators in Costa Rica is the jaguar.

The Tárcoles River has been a place for countless studies of the American Crocodile, the only species of crocodile that inhabits it. The river is one of the areas with better accessibility to this magnificent species for its study.

Before there was strict control over the activities that take place in the river, some imprudent actions were carried out, such as feeding the crocodiles from the boats and shores to attract the attention of tourists. For this reason, many crocodiles have lost their fear of boats and come to them in search of food. Now, some laws prohibit feeding the animals and activities such as high-risk fishing because there are so many crocodiles, people used to hunt them to avoid danger. Awareness is growing in different areas of the country, and the Tárcoles River is no exception, the emergence of new laws strengthens the security of society and at the same time of all the species of the river and its ecosystem.


About Bird Watching

The Tárcoles River is, without a doubt, one of the exclusively ideal places for bird watching and identification. National and migratory species transit the river areas throughout the year, some birds that migrate from the north, mate, and stay in the proximity of the river taking advantage of the suitable climate. Some of these migratory species return to the north to live the rest of their lives, while others decide to stay in Costa Rica.

You can get ready to see many crocodiles, but also to see many bird species. If you consider booking this tour, prepare to be amazed to see the mangrove trees completely covered by different birds, on each branch laying herons, pelicans, and an uncountable amount of species in the trees near the banks through various sectors of the river, including the crocodile nesting area, the river mouth, the mangrove, and the brackish water junction with the ocean.


The Crocodile Monument

There was a great initiative by the entire community to build a monument at the entrance of the town. The crocodile monument is a 10 meters long ferrocement construction, and it took approximately four months to be sculpted, making it the most massive crocodile sculpture in the country. It was created by the national artist and sculptor Fabio Brenes Morales, with 36 years of experience and monumental works built throughout the country and internationally in countries like Germany, France, Spain, Mexico, among others. This renowned artist received help from his son (also a sculptor) Sebastian Brenes Fonseca, Mr. Fabio Brenes recognizes that his son is a great sculptor and was vital in shaping some parts of the sculpture. 

The financing of the crocodile, materials, and labor is due to the Tácoles community, including local operators. Some of the contributors are: Municipality of Garabito, Ferreterías el Pacifico, Crocodile Man Tours, Villa Lapas Hotel, among others. 

The work deserves much merit, Tárcoles is a town mostly of fishermen, and this helps the tourism potential of the area in such a remarkable way! The entire community of Tárcoles should be proud to have this magnificent monument at the entrance of their town.


About the contamination of the river

The Tárcoles River is one of the most contaminated rivers in the country; however, both the government and the local community of Tárcoles and volunteers are working hard on programs to clean up the river. Much of the pollution in the river goes back to 15 or 20 years and gets mixed up with sediment on the banks and depths of the river.

It is incredible to realize how much we have polluted this river. You can see all kinds of trash, like plastic bottles, and aluminum cans floating in some areas.

It is fundamental to contribute by carrying out the adequate separation of waste and recycling the most harmful materials for the environment from our homes. Many products that we consume in the central valley and discard daily end up in this river. 

We must be conscious and take care of the environment, as well as natural resources. For the sake of all living beings, including our families, loved ones, and the plants of this world that guarantee our welfare and grant us a great opportunity. The opportunity to live a happy life and take care of others, to be aware of our impact upon the world, and to collaborate if possible by creating consciousness in others.

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Photos and writing by Juan Pablo Soto Sáenz, powered by Neoescritores. If you want to reproduce this original article, please use the following reference:

Photos and writing by Juan Pablo Soto Sáenz for Amazing Costa Rica – Daytrip on the Tárcoles River, our experience with Crocodile Man Tours (2020). Amazing Costa Rica. Posted on 19/01/2020, link: https://www.amazingcostaricacr.com/blog/daytrip-on-the-tarcoles-river-our-experience-with-crocodile-man-tours/

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