Bruce in kayak.

"We specialize in small group travel, which minimizes environmental impact, increases safety standards and allows for personalized, enriching and authentic experiences."

— Bruce Smith, founder and owner, Seascape Kayak Tours Inc.

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Posts Tagged ‘Tambor’


Feliz Año Nuevo.

We thought it was time to post a new blog entry, finally! I think we have definitely transitioned to Tico (Costa Rican) time.

I am very happy to introduce you to a new member of the Seascape team. Nick Hawkins, who hails from New Brunswick, will be working on an internship / assistant guide basis in Costa Rica for the next several months. Nick is a marine biologist, keen naturalist and wildlife photographer. His enthusiasm for facilitating connections between guests and the natural world is clearly evident. Look for Nick’s photos to appear with blogs and Facebook posts in the future. Bienvenidos, Nick.

We hope that you will join us for a warm water escape in Costa Rica this winter.


Hello friends! My name is Nick Hawkins; I am a biologist and naturalist guide from Fredericton, New Brunswick. I first heard of Seascape last summer, when I lived in St. Andrews, NB, and worked as an interpreter aboard the whale watching boat the Quoddy Link. I contacted Bruce via e-mail and expressed my interest in guiding. We then met at his place on Deer Island, where we discovered that we shared a similar outlook on ecotourism, sustainability and what it means to be a nature guide. Before I knew it I was packing my bags for Costa Rica, booking a flight for the 7th of January.

After arriving in San José, I traveled west to the Nicoya Peninsula, to Tambor, Seascape’s Southern base. I was happy to leave the busy urban areas, thick with tourists, cars and construction. I watched it all disappear as I took the Paquera Ferry across the bay of Nicoya. Bruce met me on the other side and we drove along winding roads to Tambor Tropical. The resort is made up of small luxury suites built of exotic hardwood such as teak and bloodwood. They are nestled under a tranquil grove of large palm trees, directly adjacent to the ocean. The suites are spread out over the property, which is teeming with life. I unload my gear and talk with Bruce, trying to ignore the urge to seek out the sounds of the strange animals all around me. Bruce senses my anxiety and sends me for a walk up the estuary, the Rio Panica, which empties into the ocean next to the resort. I grab my binoculars and guidebooks and set-off up the river.

By this point I am well aware of the level of biodiversity in Costa Rica, but am yet to experience it. What I find on that thirty-minute walk will forever serve as a defining moment in my life, when I am introduced to the biologic potential of a tropical forest. I am greeting by a plethora of bird life…I count and record 26 new species in this short amount of time and miss dozens more. Flocks of Snowy Egrets glide over Tri-colored and Little Blue Herons, which run and lunge after small fish. Brown Pelicans and Royal Terns plunge into the surf in pursuit of small fish. A Ringed Kingfisher gazes down from his fishing perch; this species is the largest kingfisher in the Americas, twice the size of the familiar Belted Kingfisher. Small forest birds flutter through the tropical growth, their yellows, blues, and oranges mixing with the red blossoms of flamboyant trees. Hummingbirds zip in all directions, freezing in place momentarily to grab a sip of nectar. Scissortail Flycatchers and Tropical Kingbirds perch high up on the treetops, bursting from their resting place to snag flying insects, before returning to their perch in wait for the next suspended morsel. I am absolutely floored by the abundance of life, and I haven’t even left the resort yet. What awaits me in the depths of the protected habitat soon to be explored fills me with an excitement I haven’t felt since I was a young boy.

The next morning Bruce takes me to Curú Wildlife Refuge, from which most of the kayak trips depart. A 20-minute drive from Tambor, Curú contains Costa Rica’s first private National Wildlife Refuge. When we arrive at the center of Curú ,I hop out of the truck and gaze around at the tropical paradise that surrounds me. The only way to describe Curú is that it looks and feels just like you’re in Jurassic park, a real lost world. The forest floor is littered with coconuts, which cover the ground like the leaves we rake off our lawns in the fall. Hermit Crabs are nearly as abundant as they scurry throughout the undergrowth. Something catches my eye… I look down and watch as a Spider Monkey climbs onto the back of the truck and sits on the cab. She reaches out and holds my hand in a compassionate, human-like gesture. I am completely dumbstruck. Her name is “Trina,” a rescued spider monkey who now calls Curú home. White-faced Capuchin Monkeys leap from tree to tree in the canopy overhead, which shades the forest floor from the strong sun.

We carry the kayaks through a narrow corridor of palms, which opens up to a long beach surrounded on both sides by steep hills. There is no one on the beach, except the crabs throwing sand out of their burrows and a few sunbathing iguanas. The bay is full of Brown Pelicans and magnificent Frigate birds, all diving and swooping to catch the masses of sardines that have come into the shallows. We launch our kayaks directly into this swirling mass. The Frigate birds soar within feet of my head; they remind me of pterodactyls with their huge angular wingspans and relatively small bodies. They dive down and snag fish from the surface with impressive agility, never wetting a feather. The Pelicans have a different tactic, they plunge head-first into the shallow water, dozens at a time, bobbing to the surface to snap down their catch before taking off.

We paddle our way through crystal clear water, watching as flocks of birds fly against the steep backdrop of tropical forest, which bounces the many sounds across the bay. It is like being in a giant amphitheater set in the Cretaceous period, a place forgotten by time. Bruce leads me to a small secluded beach at a point of land called Quesera; palm trees lean over powder white sand and turquoise water. This is the beach where we will be setting up our base camp for the multi-day expeditions. From here we will do day trips to the surrounding Tortuga Islands, named after the sea turtles that lay eggs upon their beaches. Stingrays, Dolphins, Moray Eels, Flying Fish and giant Manta Rays also guard these islands.

We paddle back towards the undisturbed panorama of hills, valleys and beaches. Not a man-made structure is in sight. I begin to realize that Tambor and Curú may be Costa Rica’s best-kept secrets, amazing destinations away from the masses of tourists and busy urban centers where a private adventure in pristine habitat is still possible.

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.


Meaningful MemoriesJanuary 27th, 2009

Having never set foot in a kayak before, I was prepared for a pleasant adventure and returned to Tambor Tropical’s sandy beach refreshed (even though it was the beginning of the day) and genuinely connected with the beauty of the bay. The bay’s resident pelicans are a joy as they dive for fish, yet I had never observed them from the water while they remained perched in the trees lining the bay. We had clear water so I could view both the swarms of young fish and local Costa Ricans fishing in water up to their waists. In his gentle manner, Bruce provided pertinent technical information about the birds, fish and monkeys (including Tanya the spider monkey who resides within the Curu Wildlife Reserve) that made memories of the trip more meaningful.

— Pamela Jones, Vancouver, Washington, USA, sunrise paddle, Bahia Ballena, Tambor