Black and white monkey in a tree with small orange fruits
Animals,  Birds,  Costa Rica,  Travel galleries

Gallery: wildlife in the Caño Negra refuge

In the far north of Costa Rica, almost on the border with Nicaragua, is a magical place, or at least I found it so.

The Caño Negro National Wildlife Refuge was named a ‘Wetland of International Importance’ in 1991. It is home to an immense variety of wildlife, one of the most diverse areas in this famously naturally diverse country.

We visited on a day tour from La Fortuna, on the recommendation of our UK tour company, and it proved to be one of the highlights of the whole trip! Our boat ride on the Río Frío delivered more wildlife sightings in a few hours than anywhere else that we went; and gliding past almost silently on the boat ensured the birds and animals weren’t spooked by our presence. Maybe due to Covid, or maybe it’s always the case, but our boat was only about a third full, so we could all sit by the edge or get up and walk around to get the best viewings and photos.

Open sided boats moored by a grassy bank on a river
Boats moored by the restaurant – ours was the far one

After driving here and enjoying coffee and fruit in a simple restaurant by the water’s edge we set off. Straight away we saw some Turtles, a Caiman and an Anhinga fishing. Next came Howler Monkeys, including one with a melanin deficiency causing him to have ginger fur rather than the usual black. And so it went on, sighting after sighting!

Complete(-ish) list of sightings
  • Wood Storks
  • Mangrove Swallows
  • Anhingas
  • Least Grebe
  • Little Blue Heron
  • Great Egret
  • Green Backed Heron
  • Boat Billed Heron
  • Grey Necked Wood Rail
  • Ringed Kingfisher
  • Amazon Kingfisher
Mammals & reptiles
  • Spider Monkeys
  • White Faced Capuchin Monkeys
  • Howler Monkeys
  • Long-nosed Bats
  • Green Iguanas (which surprisingly can be orange!)
  • Jesus Christ Lizard, aka Emerald Basilisk
  • Black River Turtles
  • Crocodiles
  • Spectacled Caimans including some babies (two weeks old)

There are probably more that I omitted to note at the time and have since forgotten! Here are some of my favourite shots from this special place.

Turtle on a log

Black River Turtle

Bird's head seen behind a log, with a fish in its bill

Anhinga with the catch of the day

Bird on a log with a small fish

And now, time to eat!

Two large monkeys on a branch, one ginger and one black

Two Howler Monkeys – Caesar (the guide’s name for him) has a melanin deficiency

Crocodile half out of the water


Two small silver grey birds on a dead branch over water

Mangrove Swallows

Green lizard on a twig over water
Green lizard on a twig over water

Emerald Basilisk lizard, also known as the Jesus Christ lizard

Large orange lizard on a log

Green Iguana (yes, really!)

Small reptile on a sandy bank

Two week old Caiman

Grey kingfisher with a rust-coloured breast

Amazon Kingfisher (male)

Grey and reddish bird on a branch

Green Backed Heron

Grey bird with a large bill perched in a tree

Boat Billed Heron

Slim tan-coloured monkey in a tree

Spider Monkey

Black and white monkey in a tree with small orange fruits

White Faced Capuchin Monkey

And to finish, a short video I manage to shoot of the White Faced Capuchin Monkeys enjoying their lunch:

I visited Costa Rica in February 2022


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