River shaded by tall trees
Birds,  CFFC,  Costa Rica,  Rivers

Misadventure on the Rio Nosara

The electric boat moved almost noiselessly along the Rio Nosara. The birds on the banks seemed largely unaware of our presence. The sounds of the forest were all around us.

But suddenly there was a thud somewhere beneath our feet and the boat slowed, then stopped.

River shaded by tall trees
Trees with vines overhanging a river

At this point we had been out on the river for well over an hour and had seen lots of wildlife. The crocodiles known to nest on its banks had eluded us but birds there had been aplenty, and a small troop of Howler Monkeys too. We were nearing the end of our Costa Rica trip and this outing was a welcome opportunity to add to my list of sightings.

Group of large birds in a dead tree

Did you know that cormorants poop when scared? We didn’t, until our naturalist guide Victor told us. And we saw it for ourselves when the boat driver manoeuvred close to this tree! Best not to go directly below such a tree as you could get hit with an unwelcome shower!

Two large grey birds on a fallen tree trunk
Little Blue and Great Blue Herons
Tall grey bird with yellow legs and white crest
Yellow Crowned Night Heron
Large white bird on a fallen tree trunk in a river
Great Egret
Large pink bird on a branch
Roseate Spoonbill
Large bird with very large beak, swimming
Brown speckled bird with a long bill
Black, white and tan bird on a dead tree
Male Amazon Kingfisher
Green-black and white bird on a dead tree
Female Amazon Kingfisher


We had just turned back towards the hotel when there was a slight knock underneath the boat. We had scraped a log. No problem. But then it happened again and this time it seemed it was a problem. A blade of the propeller had snapped off. But again, no, not a problem, as the driver carried not one but two spares in his tool box and the spanner with which to fit one. The outboard motor was hauled into the boat, the damaged prop removed, and the replacement lined up to be attached. But yes, a problem after all, as it was the wrong size; and so was its twin in the tool box. As our naturalist guide Victor explained later, the motor had quite recently been replaced and these spares fitted the old motor but not, it turned out, this replacement.

So what to do? With very little help from the driver, who seemed to find the whole thing rather amusing, Victor managed to get us back with a combination of paddling (luckily they carried oars!) and wading in the thankfully shallow water, pulling us along.

Man wading and pulling green boat in a river
Victor pulling the broken-down boat

Of course it took far longer than it should have done, but Victor’s hard work and willingness to get very wet ensured we made it back without getting wet ourselves! Only as we neared the end did he mention that he was rather worried about those crocodiles!

Needless to say, we tipped him well. But the boat driver? Not so well!

I’m sharing the above gallery of bird images with Cee for her CFFC theme this week of Birds. And for those of you who enjoyed the views I shared previously from our beautiful hotel here, Lagarta Lodge, here’s what it looked like from the river as we neared the end of our adventurous ride. Use the slider to see our room’s location.

Buildings on a ridge above a river, one circled in redBuildings on a ridge above a river

Lagarta Lodge from the Rio Nosaro

I visited Costa Rica in February 2022


  • Annie Berger

    Not a birder – possibly because I can’t identify them or even usually see them! – but I loved your bird shots of the herons and spoonbill at the top of the post, Sarah. Amusing to read from the comfort of our condo in Hawaii, mind you, about your calamitous boat ride. Thank goodness Victor came through in a pinch and kept his concerns about the possibility of crocs to himself until you were safely back!

    • Sarah Wilkie

      I can’t identify many birds either – I rely on local guides, knowledgeable friends and the internet! But I love the challenge of trying to photograph them πŸ™‚ Glad you’re having such a good time in Hawaii πŸ˜€

  • Easymalc

    People like Victor are typical in places like this aren’t they? No calling for the marine equivalent of the RAC, they just get on with it. While I was watching the film I was thinking “what if those crocodiles made an appearance now?” and poor Victor was thinking the same. For once a non-appearance was welcome πŸ™‚

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Yes, absolutely right Malcolm, he really did just get on with it. As he said to us when we thanked him afterwards, it’s the first responsibility of a guide to look after the guests, whatever happens πŸ™‚ One good thing about the crocodiles is that the river they nest in is one of two that meet here just before running into the Pacific, and we were in the other one when this happened. It doesn’t mean there were none around but we weren’t in the stretch where they are most numerous πŸ™‚

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Oh yes – even as it was happening I was thinking ‘great, this will make an interesting account for the blog’ πŸ˜† And yes to the wildlife spotting – and I haven’t even got around to sharing the excursion that gave us the best opportunities of all!

  • Bama

    I need to steer clear of any cormorant then since for some reason birds seem to love to poop on me (it has happened three times, and I’m certainly not looking forward to the fourth).

    If I were on the same boat, I too would have been worried of the crocodiles. I’m glad in the end it all worked fine for you. Love your photos of the bird and the river, Sarah.

  • Anne Sandler

    What a fun adventure Sarah. As soon as I read that the guide got into the water to pull the boat, I wondered about crocodiles. I’m glad all of you made it back safe. Your images are amazing!

  • Rosalieann Beasley

    Pooping when scared is a good adaptation – makes you lighter and more able to get away πŸ™‚

    Our guide at Manuel Antonio told us not to stand under the monkeys because they pee on the people below – I think in their case it is mischief. I got a photo of them doing that.

    Great photos – I enjoyed being able to see close up some of the birds I saw IRL but couldn’t get good photos of

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Ah yes, that’s a good point Rosalie πŸ˜€ And I bet you’re right about the monkeys – they will have learned that they get a reaction out of people!

      Glad you enjoyed the photos. Needless to say, I missed more than I got!

  • justbluedutch

    Oh Sarah, this is a wonderful posts. My favourites are the Cormorants and the Pelican. Your photos brings such brilliance and life to these feathery creatures. Lovely to ponder on your adventures as well!

  • Sue

    What a brilliant post! I did a shorter trip in Costa Rica, saw a few similar birds, very distant Howler Monkeys ,…..but your images are way superior to mine! Oh, but I got a Sloth

    • Sarah Wilkie

      I know he felt it was his responsibility but we felt bad that the driver didn’t really help when it should have been his responsibility to navigate around obstacles – the water was clear enough to see everything on the river bed!

  • kzmcb

    Fabulous shots. I’m intrigued by the difference in some families of birds, in a different location, such as the kingfisher and pelican.

  • maristravels

    What an advenrure, indeed. I wouldn’t have needed Victor to worry about the crocodiles. I would have been having 70 kinds of breakdown about the fate awaiting us if we weren’t rescued soon(er). I’m always scared when on water, scared of falling in (I can’t swim), scared of crocodiles, scared of sea-snakes, scared of things I don’t even now about. I admire your stoicism in face of this calamity but it was worth it. You got some lovely images and I’m sure you were thrilled with them. Thanks for sharing them.

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Oh dear, you make it sound much more dramatic than it felt at the time! Once I could see that Victor had a plan and was prepared to execute it, I wasn’t too worried. And not being able to swim wouldn’t have been an issue – you can see how shallow the water was πŸ™‚ I must admit though that I’d forgotten about the crocodiles, perhaps because we hadn’t seen any, until Victor mentioned them just as we reached our landing place!

  • sustainabilitea

    I’m glad this misadventure turned out so well, Sarah. You certainly used the time to get some excellent photos. I’ve seen most of these birds here at the Riparian Preserve in Gilbert, but I’ve never seen a female kingfisher anywhere and thankfully we have no crocodiles (or alligators) here.


    • Sarah Wilkie

      Thanks Janet – the silence of the boat (when it was working properly!) made it easier to get good photos as we could get quite close to the birds before they noticed us!

  • Yvonne+Dumsday

    What an adventure but thank goodness it all ended well. As always, the pictures were superb and how fortunate to see both genders of kingfisher. Until just now, I never realized that pelicans had yellow heads. Many thanks once again for sharing with us.

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