A word from founder Bruce Smith

“Welcome to Seascape Kayak Tours. This company began as an outgrowth of my passion for paddling, outdoor education and sharing special marine environments with others. I love introducing people to wild places and helping them feel comfortable and reach their potential on the water. Whether you choose to join us for a sunset paddle, a day trip or an extended expedition, you will travel with just a few others, in a safe, sensitive and environmentally sound manner.”

Client Corner Recent Posts

A prayer for the crocodileDecember 2nd, 2009

Seascape has been back in Costa Rica now for a little less than three weeks, but the time has flown. We have already operated four day trips both from Curú Wildlife Refuge and from right in front of our home at the Hotel Tambor Tropical. We have run two multi-day kayaking and camping trips as well, one of which is currently in progress.

Between prep, cleanup and helping get folks out on the water with Bruce, I am slowly making my way through a new book by one of my favorite authors, anthropologist and ethnobotanist Wade Davis. Entitled The Wayfinders, the book compiles a series of lectures Davis gave recently in his native Canada. By exploring several key cultures that still interact with the world using intuitive knowledge rather than technology, The Wayfinders illustrates vividly why ancient wisdom still matters in the modern world. Davis opens the book with this quote from Mahatma Ghandi: “I want all the cultures of all lands to be blown about my house as freely as possible. But I refuse to be blown off my feet by any.”

I love the culture of Costa Rica. I love the warmth of the people, the laid back approach to time, the beauty of the language and the attitude that is encapsulated in the popular phrase “Pura Vida!” Pure life. However, as with any culture, local people here make some choices with which I am not comfortable and to which I am certain I will never fully adjust.



Sunday morning I arrived in Tambor with two clients I had picked up in San José. Bruce was just coming off the water after a paddle up the Rio Panica with the family of Tambor Tropical’s manager, Juan Carlos Cruz, and all were expressing their sadness at having just seen the torso of a large “cocodrilo” or crocodile that had been shot and then decapitated, de-tailed and left to wash about in the “boca” or mouth of the river.

As Wade Davis and many other students of culture have aptly described, modernity brought with it centuries ago an attitude in humans on many continents that nature is to be conquered, mastered, even destroyed. Instead of staying in tune with the natural world, humans decided to drown out its song. While ancient peoples hunted and killed animals for food, they did so with reverence and respect, honoring and dignifying the spirit that had given its life to provide nourishment. Today in many cultures, respect for life – whether animal or human – seems to have been forgotten.

In his Traveller’s Wildlife Guide to Costa Rica, Les Beletsky points out that, unlike the Nile Crocodile which is known to be aggressive, the American Crocodile found here in Central America – and in southern Florida, Mexico, and the South American countries of Columbia, Venezuela, Peru and Ecuador – is not a particularly aggressive species and “there are few documented cases of American Crocodiles killing people.” According to Beletsky, most crocodilian species were “severely reduced in numbers during this century. Several were hunted to extinction for their skins.” While today in Costa Rica “Caiman are abundant and American Crocodiles less so, the crocs were much more common in mangrove swamps and coastal rivers up until the 1950s.” Fewer and fewer large adult individuals survive, even though these primitive creatures have only two enemies: large anaconda snakes – and man. For this reason, American Crocodiles, which can live up to 60 years, are listed as endangered.



Seeing the crocodile’s massive, headless and tailless body at a distance on the beach yesterday made me very sad, and I thought of the awe inspiring cocodrilo Bruce showed me last year near Tortuguero National Park, basking in the sunshine along a bank where one meandering river meets the Caribbean sea. From our kayaks, we were practicing one of Seascape’s sustainable guidelines, which is to view wildlife from a distance, respecting the animal’s territory. And it in turn respected us. Whoever shot this particular individual in Tambor did not use the meat or the skin, and very likely cut off the head and tail as trophies. Seeing the undignified lifeless trunk that was once a living creature, I was struck by the irony that Tambor Bay itself is graced with a beautiful vista of a land formation perfectly resembling a large crocodile, watching over the entire bahia like a sentinel.



Few cultures exist today in which reptiles such as snakes, lizards and crocodiles are allowed to flourish unharmed. Growing up in Kentucky, I remember my dad carrying snakes as far from our home as possible, but nonetheless sparing their lives and teaching me to appreciate their place in nature. Most of my friends’ fathers, however, would have killed the snake on sight. Not far from Tambor there is a wildlife sanctuary called Rainsong that treats injured animals. One of the most touching stories on their web site concerns a Green Iguana that was found stoned nearly to death by school children.

It is my hope that more parents, whether in Los Estados Unidos or in Costa Rica, will teach their children to live and let live. Humans are not on the earth to rule nature, but to coexist with it and learn valuable lessons from the many life forms that surround us. As the almost full moon rises over Playa Tambor where the vultures are still working away on the carcass that was once a beautiful sentient creature, I am saying a prayer for another life crossing the Great River and for the American Crocodiles who are still enjoying the streams, estuaries and coastal habitats of this amazing country.


Kayaking in CurúOctober 24th, 2009

Seascape will return to Costa Rica and open its southern base Nov. 16. Today’s blog is adapted from an article by Jennifer Harter of Santa Teresa, on the Nicoya Peninsula, not far from Seascape’s southern base in Tambor. She wrote the story for a local Costa Rican publication about a trip she did with us almost a year ago. If you want to know what a day trip with Seascape is like, this gives you a pretty accurate description.

Last November our friends Bruce Smith and Frances Figart from Seascape Kayak Tours invited us to have an experience of a lifetime. We met the couple about a year ago and learned that Bruce has been offering multi-day sea kayaking trips in Costa Rica during the winter months for the past 13 years, splitting his time between here and New Brunswick, Canada, where he has been guiding expeditions of the highest quality for 15 years. Several years ago, he added half-day and full-day kayaking tours to Seascape’s multi-day trip Costa Rica product. With his charismatic outdoor leadership qualities, Bruce has managed to organize trips that combine a day of fun, education, wildlife observation and conscientious environmental practices. The kayaking expeditions are all designed with beginners in mind so that anyone can share and enjoy the experience. The place that Seascape has chosen to share on their tours is Curú Wildlife Refuge, also our meeting point.


Curú is a natural haven of beautiful beaches and abundant biodiversity, the first privately owned National Wildlife Refuge in Costa Rica. This place is an undiscovered treasure and a wonderful example of a very thriving sustainable development program, combining forest management, protection and sustainable agriculture. The refuge has managed to offer locals valuable job opportunities, as well as educational programs and conservation projects like the reintroduction of Scarlet Macaws and the rehabilitation of Spider Monkeys. They have also started research groups, built artificial coral reefs and studied migratory patterns of various bird species found on the land. All while offering tourists the chance to kayak, hike, horseback ride, snorkel, enjoy the beaches and see a wide variety of flora and fauna. Curú is the perfect place to spend a day of enlightening enjoyment and pleasure.

We arrived at the main gate just before 9 a.m. where the guards were already expecting us; we were greeted and instructed to drive in towards the beach where Bruce and Frances were waiting. Once the rest of the group arrived, Bruce gave us an introductory tutorial on the refuge, went over some pointers on paddling technique, told us what to expect and reviewed kayaking safety procedures. He explained the importance of staying together as a group and of respecting the environment, and encouraged us all to go at our own pace and enjoy our pristine surroundings. Once we all had gotten comfortable in our kayaks, and had paddles, spray skirts and life vests on, we proceeded to carry our boats toward the still water. One by one, we were assisted in being launched into this pool-like bay of teals and greens.


As you glide along the waters the feeling of peace is overwhelming. The coastline to your left is amazing and to your right you begin to see various islands, including Isla de Tortuga. With each stroke I began to sink into a meditative-like state of bliss. The surroundings were dreamlike and the water was perfect – and changing. As we advanced along the shoreline, the ocean began to obtain mosaic qualities. The colors began shifting from turquoise to deep blues and emerald greens, such a gorgeous contrast to the earthy tones on the beach and mountains. We glided past the beaches of Posa Colorado and Quesera to turn left around a point towards the bay of Playa Organo.

Organo Beach is a beautiful oasis of tranquil coastline with an abundant estuary filled with marine life. On the edge of the bay a wall of cliffs shoots out of the water to create an impressive and dramatic landscape. As the winds blow against the rock face, you can hear the sounds of nature’s music that resemble someone playing an organ, hence the name of Organo. Once we reached the coast here, we had been paddling for about an hour and a half at a steady yet mellow pace.  Once again, one by one we rode small waves towards the beach where Bruce assisted us to shore. Here we swam, took some photos and enjoyed the setting for about half an hour before departing towards the true highlight of the trip.

As soon as everyone was geared up and in the water, we all began to paddle back towards Playa Quesera, our next destination. After a short crossing of about 20 minutes, we were once again beached in another awe inspiring heaven. Playa Quesera, is definitely amongst the most unspoiled beaches I’ve visited in Costa Rica, creating a surreal castaway feel. This place is a true gem, a small cove of white sand and the most intensely toned waters, surrounded by yellowish stone walls and remarkable rock formations. As Frances and Bruce set up our picnic, we were free to help, explore, photograph or swim. I couldn’t believe we were on the Pacific Coast; I felt like we had just arrived on a secluded Caribbean cove.

Only one downside: since these beaches are facing the Gulf of Nicoya and so many rivers end up here, sadly lots of trash washes up along these shores every rainy season. After surveying the damage, we all sat together under some beautiful almond trees to enjoy a delicious and healthy picnic in the shade. Over lunch we all talked about the experience so far and got to know each other and our guides better. Everyone expressed their pleasure in the kayaking, and their dismay that such a beautiful place could be violated by ocean pollution and garbage. After eating, we packed up our things and were each handed plastic garbage bags so that we could all help to clean up the beach. We all agreed it is the responsibility of environmentally conscious people who visit these places to lend a helping hand by cleaning up the beach and taking debris back to a place where it will be recycled. What a great way to educate visitors as well as local people on waste management and the importance and value of protecting rivers and oceans.


We packed up again and started launching the kayaks into the water. As we headed back to the Bay of Curú, I felt intense gratitude for the occurrence of the day. Bruce and Frances shared a unique escapade with us to treasure forever. This tour stands out in greatness and is a must if you are visiting the Nicoya Peninsula area. Kayaking in Curú is a very different and special tour in comparison to all the ones I’ve tried in the area and even in Costa Rica. The opportunity to learn, experience and enjoy is a treat for foreigners and locals alike. I highly recommend contacting Seascape Kayak Tours to plan a visit to Curú Wildlife Refuge while it is still, for the most part, a pristine place.

Jenny Harter is an outdoor enthusiast, photographer, beach lover and bookworm who is opening a new book shop inside the Holistic Clinic at the shopping center at the crossroads between Malpais and Santa Teresa. View her surf and wedding photography at www.blissphotocr.com and www.soulsistasurfphotography.com

Winds of changeOctober 7th, 2009

As always, the busy summer just past is a blur at this time of year. The quiet, peace and solitude have returned to the Bay.

The trees are glowing red and yellow. The cool winds from the north have started to blow across the water. Bonaparte gulls, terns and cormorants have congregated in the harbor to find protection from the open bay and to feed on abundant herring. The marine life has been extraordinary on the bay this summer, a true testament to how special this marine ecosystem is.


As a part of the community here on Deer Island, I feel it is important to connect with local folks on the working waterfront whenever there is an opportunity. While guiding, I often stop to chat with local fishermen. On one such occasion this summer, I paddled over to a fellow working the weir off Dinner Island. The paddling group was eagerly following the guide in the lead boat, so I made an executive decision to lag behind and strike up a conversation.

“Beautiful day,” says I.

“Shore is,” says he.

Weirs have been the topic of previous blog posts. We always share with our groups that these somewhat haunting structures made from poles, brush and nets are a traditional method for catching herring traced to the ancient Passamaquoddy Tribe. As I bobbed up and down in my kayak on this sunny afternoon, the fisherman shed new light on weir fishing.

“You know, we often get porpoise following fish into these weirs,” he said. I replied that I knew about this and had helped release several harbor porpoise from the Iris weir in the front of Seascape’s base.



“At first this pissed me off, you know,” he continued. “Lots of extra work to get these fellas out of the nets. Then one time I grabbed one innocently by the tail and all of a sudden the porpoise went limp. This made it very easy to release the porpoise from the weir.”

Was the porpoise trusting the fisherman? I wondered.

“You know, then I made an observation,” said the fisherman. “If there were porpoise in the weir, no seals would enter the weir.” Seals will feed indiscriminately in weirs and can damage nets, unlike porpoise, who often find their own way out of the weir. “So I says to myself, ‘Self, why don’t you leave the porpoise in the weir and only help them out if they need it?’ ”

The kayak group was a distance away enjoying an interaction with a pod of porpoise. We made our farewells and I paddled over to join the group.


But I continued to reflect on the conversation I’d just had with the fisherman. Through his vast experience on the water, he had learned an important lesson about coexisting with the many animals that come to the Quoddy region to compete for food. This lesson was a reminder to me that connections on the water are not just about people. If we look beneath the surface, we can see that our connections to marine life are just as vital as our connections to one another.

Seascape has a number of trips left to run this fall from our northern base, but the season is almost over. Fall is settling into the region and the winds have shifted. I will miss the Bay of Fundy as I travel to Costa Rica for the winter. However, I take comfort in knowing that I will be back to assist guests in making meaningful connections to this special place next summer.