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Costa Rica Wildlife Photography Tour

Humming on Cloud Nine

Hum along with the planet’s most resplendent birds, laze around with the world’s slowest mammals, hop about with marvelous frogs, and lose yourself in an imponderably beautiful sunset. Come to these cloud forests, and you’ll see that such a thing as paradise does exist.

Tour Highlights

  • 11 nights and 12 days in a Central American paradise
  • A truly well-rounded experience with a variety of animals to photograph
  • Incredibly productive photography of some of the world’s most colourful birds
  • Extensive learning of multiple-flash photography
  • Exhaustive assistance in tasteful use of flash for natural-looking images
  • Intensive focus-training to help capture fast-flying birds with biting sharpness
  • Insightful pointers for creative composition and subtle lighting
  • Exquisite landscape photography opportunities of verdant cloud forests

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Upcoming Departures

13-24 FEB, 2021
Jainy Kuriakose

Photo opportunities maximised

Led by ace photographers

Immense experience

Hands-on assistance on and off the field

Image reviews and presentations

Photography gear on rent

Expert Advice

Want to tailor-make your own tour?

If you are not looking for a fixed group-departure, we can tailor-make a Personalised Vacation for you to suit your dates and travel needs – all with a great price match!

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How Is It?

In one word: prosperous. In two words: preposterously prosperous.

Hosting a dizzying 500,000 species — that’s more species per unit area than any other earthly country, by the way — Costa Rica stands as a sumptuous ecological tapestry draping the southern hemisphere. And when you consider that it houses 5% of Earth’s biodiversity in just 0.1% of its landmass, its name, which literally means ‘rich coast’, suddenly seems like the byproduct of excessive subtlety.

But then, when have words been anything but a travesty of Nature’s wonder? When have verbal eulogies been able to capture the magic of the birds rising to the clouds and the clouds descending to the treetops? Hence this Tour, so you may experience it firsthand.

What You Will See and Photograph:

If you’ve inferred that you’ll see and photograph a lot, you’re absolutely accurate.

Orchids and tropical flowers welcome us at the hotel in San José. And it’s all upwardly mobile thereafter.

In the Atlantic Lowland Rainforest range, keel-billed and chestnut-mandibled toucans, and brown-hooded parrots; green, red-legged and shining honeycreepers; lowland hummingbird species such as crowned woodnymph, white-necked jacobin, green-breasted mango, and scaly-breasted hummingbird.

In the idyllic premises of the Central Volcanic Mountain Range, your guest list may include black guan, silver-throated tanager, agouti and coatimundi. Meanwhile, the forests will treat you to the sheer extravagance of scarlet and great green macaws. Imaginatively named species like violet sabrewing and green hermit will capture your imagination, while the eulogized ones like the purple-throated mountain gem and the green-crowned brilliant will cause you to rapturously add to the eulogies.

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All this avian frenzy will be complemented by some truly exquisite landscape photography at a nearby 360-foot waterfall and the delightful cloud forest around it. But the bird photography hubbub will not slow down even here, as black-bellied hummingbird, coppery-headed emerald, green thorntail and white-bellied mountain gem do a most efficacious job of distracting you from your wide-angle lens.

Meanwhile, there will be detailed discussions, extensive demonstrations and execution of flash-based photography setup and camera techniques, particularly with the many-hued, magnificently nimble hummingbirds, the only birds to have a reverse gear in flight! So the experience is as sweet for you as it is for these diminutive birds sucking nectar off the exquisite flowers.

Later, in the Talamanca Range Cloud Forest, you’ll be fully exposed to the wonders called golden-browed chlorophonia and long-tailed silky flycatcher, even as the delicious possibility of adding scintillant and green violet-ear hummingbirds to your already impressively long species list looms large.

But the flagship species here is without doubt the resplendent quetzal, which might as well have been named splendacious, for it dazzles with brilliance to yield exceptional delight. With a really long tail, a vivid front and a small beak, it’s a big marvel, and a massive draw.

Adding the icing to the cake could be hairy and acorn woodpeckers, golden-hooded tanager, sooty robin and large-footed finch, so you can see just why this Tour is such a delicious prospect.

Important Information: Indian citizens need a valid visa to enter Costa Rica unless the traveller possesses a valid United States visa. A U.S. visa enables free entry into Costa Rica.

Tour Itinerary

This Tour commences at San José on the morning of 2 February 2020, and ends at the same place after breakfast on 13 February. Flight fares are not included in the Tour fee.

Entry into Costa Rica requires a valid visa. Please get in touch with us well in advance to have your visa application for the Tour processed. This typically needs at least two weeks.

13 February 2021, Saturday

Upon your arrival in Costa Rica, you will be met by Tour Skipper Jainy Kuriakose, and if you arrive early enough, you’ll have the opportunity to photograph the orchids and other tropical flowers in the gardens of the hotel. Please note that meals are not included in the Tour fee on this day.

Atlantic Lowland Rainforest

14 February, Sunday

After an early breakfast, we check out and head to our first destination, a rainforest lodge where we photograph many birds at the feeders. Later, back at the lodge, we enjoy a highly enjoyable interactive session with the skipper, prior to supper and retirement.

15 and 16 February, Monday and Tuesday

We will set out to photograph monkeys, crested guan, and collared aracaris around the lodge. Also, we will take time to photograph the numerous Montezuma oropendolas at the lodge feeders, where the staff will help us photograph colorful animals on natural stages that we will set up on site.

Central Volcanic Range Cloud Forest

17 February, Wednesday

Prior to an invigorating breakfast, we enjoy a spot of good bird photography before climbing higher to the cloud forests of the northern Central Volcanic Mountain Range, where we’ll check in to our next lodge. En route, we stop at a nearby farm for a delicious lunch and then photograph macaws in flight and on attractive perches. In the evening we’ll enjoy a highly insightful session on flash-based setup photography by Jainy Kuriakose.

18 February, Thursday

After breakfast this day, we get straight down to the highly enjoyable task of photographing hummingbirds with our multiple-flash setups right on the lodge premises. The Skippers will run the setups and provide attractive native flowers to ensure that you capture some fantastic hummingbird images. When not on the setups, we can relax and download images, and photograph the other birds and mammals that frequent the premises. We can also explore the cloud forest trails for macro and landscape photography.

19 February, Friday

After breakfast, we visit a nearby waterfall for a round of landscape photography of some lush tropical foliage. In addition, we’ll have the opportunity to set up our multiple-flash ‘studio’ here to capture a few small hummingbird species. We’ll shoot throughout the day, alternating our time between the setups, perched hummingbirds, and landscape photography, enjoying a picnic lunch at the waterfall.

Talamanca Range Cloud Forest

21 to 23 February, Sunday to Tuesday

After an early breakfast this morning, we head up into the Talamanca Mountain Range en route to our last destination, the high cloud forests just on the Pacific side of the Continental Divide. We arrive at our hotel for lunch and spend the afternoon in pursuit of the resplendent quetzal, widely recognised as one the world’s most beautiful birds, and quite clearly our chief target over these three days.

Next morning we continue our search for the quetzal regardless of the previous evening’s success, for you can never have enough of this magnificent bird. After lunch we visit a house where special bird feeders will very probably get us some new species.

The third day at Talamanca will be spent visiting another property where bird feeders have been set up along with plants and bushes that attract some great birds. This afternoon, we’ll keep an eye out for the quetzal again, while also focusing on photographing a few different hummingbird species right outside the hotel’s restaurant.

24 February, Wednesday

After breakfast this morning, we’ll take a last shot at photographing some birds on the lodge premises before checking out and being transferred back to San José, arrive at the capital for lunch. We’ll spend the afternoon captioning and cataloguing images to ensure we get the species names right, and learn a bit of post-processing, before enjoying a farewell dinner in the hotel restaurant.

25 February, Thursday

You are transferred to the international airport for your flight home, and the Tour ends after you’ve hopefully been introduced to the unbridled bounty of the American wild.

Cost and Terms


USD 4650
  • Per Person on Twin Share Accommodation


USD 9100
  • Per Couple on Twin Share Accommodation

Toehold Patrons

USD 4500
  • Per Person on Twin Share Accommodation

All prices above are excluding taxes. 5% GST would be applicable.

Toehold Patrons: Customers who have participated in at least three previous Toehold Photo Tours.

Exchange rates listed here as on the date of payment will apply. Additional bank charges may be payable at actuals.

What’s Included?

  • All meals and transfers within Costa Rica
  • Guide and Photography Skipper services
  • Multiple-flash photography setup to photograph hummingbirds

What’s Not Included?

  • All airfare, airport departure tax (USD 29)
  • Any extra accommodation availed of (e.g. extra night’s stay in San José)
  • Meals on day one
  • Insurance, laundry and phone calls
  • Vaccination, visa and insurance expenses
  • All applicable taxes
  • Anything that is not included in the inclusions list

Payment Terms

  • USD 1000 of the Tour fee as booking amount (non-refundable)
  • USD 2000 of the Tour fee before 20 September 2019
  • Remainder of the Tour fee before 21 October 2019

All figures per person.

Cancellation Fees

  • USD 1000 of the Tour fee on or before 20 September 2019
  • 50% of the Tour fee between 21 September and 20 November 2019
  • 75% of the Tour fee between 21 November and 21 December 2019
  • 100% of the Tour fee on or after 22 December 2019

All figures per person.

Please note: The date of written (email) communication of intent to cancel is the date considered for calculation of the cancellation fees.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why Costa Rica?
What can you learn on this Tour?
What if you are not a bird photographer?
What wildlife can you expect?

Toehold Photo Travel vs Vacations

While Toehold Photo Travel is one of our most popular offerings, we work as a travel agency without bringing the photography guide element in to your travel. In short you would be using our travel experts service to just plan the vacation and execute it.

  • Unlike a Photo Travel experience, your Vacation is completely personalised.
  • The dates, style of travel, class of hotels and lodges, destinations, everything is tailor-made to suit your custom requirement.
  • A Skipper or a photography guide doesn’t travel with you to guide you unless you decide to take our customised and guided photo travel experience.

So take advantage of the immense experience and field knowledge that we bring in to your Vacation’s planning without having to pay for our time and costs. Plus, we don’t charge an additional fee for our time and travel planning services.

What are the requisites to participate in this Tour?

Apart from interest, a valid visa and related documents, and a minimum level of fitness are essential. Visa assistance will be provided.

I am a newbie in nature photography. Am I eligible?

Absolutely! This Tour is meant for fledgling as well as experienced photographers. Beginners get all the advantages of learning on and off the field from Toehold’s eminent Skippers. In fact if you are a newbie, you should jump on this terrific learning opportunity and sign up right away! However, in order to make the most of the Tour photographically, we recommend that you be familiar with photography fundamentals. If you’re not, we suggest you join an Art and Science of Photography Workshop before the Tour.

By what mode or modes will we explore Costa Rica?

We will travel between the destinations by road, but almost all the photography will be done on foot, or stationed in one place, in the case of setup multiple-flash photography sessions.

How sure are you about photographing wildlife on this Tour?

Considering the meticulous attention to timing we pay while scheduling Tours and the local expertise we leverage, we believe that it would be extremely unfortunate if our sightings and photography were unsatisfactory. Costa Rica is a country blessed with the greatest biodiversity, and the destinations we’ll be visiting are teeming with wildlife, particularly birds, but since we will be in an uncontrolled environment, we do not claim that sightings of specific species are guaranteed.

What equipment do you suggest on this Tour?

For birds, a lens with a focal length of around 400mm is essential. For mammals, a telephoto zoom lens in the range of 100 to 400mm works very well, but a longer lens is fine too. A wide-angle or normal zoom to capture landscapes or creative perspectives of wildlife is a must, along with a macro lens for closeup flora work. A tripod, with a gimbal head (such as the Wimberley II) or ball head is necessary, and so is an external flash unit with preferably a Better Beamer flash extender. However, if you do not have appropriate equipment, there is no need to fret. Toehold offers an exhaustive array of cameras, lenses and accessories for hire, so you can always hire what you need. Visit our Rental Store to see what we offer.

How different are your Photo Tours from ordinary tours?

Unlike travel agents who plan your holiday from a remote destination to places they sometimes haven’t experienced themselves, Photo Tours offer a comprehensive toehold to experience a place through the guidance of a professional photographer. The common ingredients in all our Photo Tours are fun and a lot of learning and knowledge-sharing. Besides, most or all of our Tour participants are photography enthusiasts, which keeps the group in harmony and helps make your experience focussed.

Reviews by Tour Participants

Interested? Make a Booking Enquiry

It’s easy. Call us on 1800 1200 901 (Monday to Saturday, 10:00 a.m. to 06:00 p.m.) or simply fill this form, and we’ll get back to you like the whirring wind.

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