Costa Rica Photo Tour Wildlife and Landscapes, Cathy & Gordon Illg

Tour Intro

Cathy and Gordon Illg return to Costa Rica to be by your side photographing Arenal Volcano and tropical landscapes, unique wildlife and exotic birds. There are also mammals, frogs, reptiles and butterflies. They invite photographers of all skill levels and anyone with a keen interest in seeking out the vast array of tropical birds in this amazing country.

They have chosen your accommodations wisely, taking in to account your comfort, the setting and photographic opportunities at the lodges, as well as being close to amazing landscapes, waterfalls, and closeness to your daily outings.

Costa Rica has been a biological land bridge between North and South America, which has given it a unique natural history. This diversity is reflected in its rich plant and animal life. There are more species of birds here than in all of North America, over 800 in a country the size of West Virginia. Among its 237 species of mammals are three-toed sloths, four species of monkeys, giant anteaters, tapirs, peccaries, jaguars, and humpback whales. Reptiles and amphibians include the Strawberry Poison Dart Frog, all five genera of sea turtles, the endangered American Crocodile, and the Basilisk Lizard, which can actually run across water. There are more butterflies in Costa Rica than on the entire continent of Africa. The plant life is spectacular; there are more than 12,000 species of plants, including a dazzling variety of trees and orchids.

The government has set aside thirteen national parks, eight biological reserves, three wildlife refuges, and other areas that now comprise one fourth of the country’s land area. These far-sighted efforts have placed Costa Rica at the forefront of conservation, especially among tropical countries, where deforestation is proceeding at an alarming rate.

Tour Highlights

• Guided by a Costa Rican naturalist and Professional Photo Leaders Cathy & Gordon Illg.
• Photographic locations filled with hummingbirds, reptiles, and tropical blooms and breathless backgrounds such as Arenal Volcano.
All meals included in land cost. Tour limited to twelve participants.
• Visit the La Selva Biological Station and Eco Observatory in Sarapiqui.
• Accommodations known for their bird feeders, hummingbirds, and gardens.
Savegre region, renown by birders around the world in search of the
Resplendent Quetzal.
• Amazing photo opportunities at hot springs, beautiful gardens, and a cloud
forest walk to capture one of the most gorgeous birds – the Resplendent Quetzal.

Tour Itinerary

November 6: Home – San José
Sevegr River

Photo By: Cathy & Gordon Illg

Photo Location: Savegre River Costa Rica

Your Costa Rican adventure begins today as you board your flight to San José, the country's capital city. Everyone will be transferred from the airport to the hotel up on arrival. This will be your first opportunity to see tropical flowers and birds on the hotel grounds. Enjoy a welcome dinner and orientation meeting. Overnight San Jose (D)

November 7-8: Savegre

Photo By: Cathy & Gordon Illg

Photo Location: Costa Rica

Make your way through the Cerro de la Muerte area, stopping along stunning mountain roads to photograph birds and local sights. Your destination today is at a charming, a Costa Rican owned property hidden away in the picturesque San Gerardo de Dota Valley of Costa Rica’s southern Talamanca Mountain range. The misty and beautiful surroundings provide a unique opportunity to enjoy the views and sounds of the cloud forest, as well as discover the wonders of Costa Rica's unspoiled ecology. In this virtually undiscovered location, we will get comfortable in our new mountain environs, and then photograph the lovely tropical gardens, clear mountain stream, and forest landscape. We will have another relaxing day, taking opportunities to discover this unique lodge, looking for great shots of the Resplendent Quetzals, hummingbirds, and many others. Overnight Savegre (B, L, D) both days

November 9-10: Turrialba Area
Green Honey Creeper

Photo By: Cathy & Gordon Illg

Photo Location: Costa Rica

The destination for the next two evenings is the Turriabla region. Rancho Naturalista, is located in the Tuis Valley, at the northern limit of Costa Rica’s Talamanca Mountains. At 900 meters elevation on the Atlantic slope of the country, Rancho’s forests, farmlands, and surrounding area offer an impressive 300 species of birds – many of which are difficult or impossible to see in other parts of the country.

The ranch lies on 125 acres in pre-mountain rain forest. You will be impressed with the famous hummingbird pools where Snowcap and Purple-crowned Fairy are regular bathers. The numerous hummingbird feeders offer a wonderful opportunity to photograph White-necked Jacobin, Green Violet-ear, and Green-crowned Brilliant species. The beautiful old tree off the veranda that is covered with bananas, attracts Fiery-billed Aracari, Passerini Tanager, and other topical birds. The Rancho itself is somewhat eclectic, an attractive combination of main house - in bed and breakfast style - plus additional hotel-style rooms in separate but nearby buildings. Balanced, nutritious meals are prepared in the newly remodeled kitchen and served family-style in the cozy dining room. Overnight Turrialba (B, L, D) both days.

November 11: Sarapiqui Region

Photo By: Cathy & Gordon Illg

Photo Location: Costa Rica

On the way to the Sarapiqui region, there will be a photography stop at a lovely hummingbird garden, with feeders attracting several different species of birds.

Sarapiqui region is one of the most exuberant and luscious places in Costa Rica, especially with respect to the rainforest. It is named after a river and rests at the base of the Central Volcanic Mountain Range.

Stay at an eco-lodge this evening, photographing and appreciating the beautiful gardens on the property. Visit the La Selva Biological Station, a rainforest reserve and research station. It forms part of a much larger protected area, which includes Braulio Carrillo National Park. The trails are very easy to negotiate, ranging from paved to hard-packed earth.  Overnight Sarapiqui (B, L, D)

November 12-13: Arenal Volcano
Arenal Colcano

Photo By: Cathy & Gordon Illg

Photo Location: Arenal Volcano, Costa rica

Depart early this morning to visit a lovely nature park. Sarapiqui Eco-Observatory consists of three covered open-air observation decks for world-class photography and bird watching. Enjoy a spectacular display of beautifully colored Costa Rica birds as they perch just feet away. Over 215 bird species exist here including the Keel-billed Toucan, Crimson-collard Tanager, and the White-necked Jacobin.

Continue on to the Arenal Volcano Area. Arenal, a spectacular, cone-shaped volcano rises out of the flat San Carlos Plains. It is the most active volcano in the country.

The next day enjoy a visit to the Arenal Hanging Bridges. Located in primary forest there are 15 bridges to enjoy with a rain forest circuit of trails connecting them. The imposing vistas of the Volcano from the hanging bridges over the forest make a perfect combination for an unforgettable experience. In the afternoon visit the Hidalgo Family Hot Springs, an exclusive retreat for those looking for a relaxing respite in natural springs heated by Arenal Volcano. Overnight Arenal (B, L, D) both days

November 14: San Jose
Poison Dart Frog

Photo By: Cathy & Gordon Illg

Photo Location: Costa Rica

After breakfast photograph at the Danaus private ecological reserve where programs for conservation, training, environmental education and sustainable production are developed. As you walk the trails you can observe and photograph animals in their natural habitat, there are also a wide variety of plants and a butterfly farm. They also support the conservation and rescue of the indigenous culture Malek, who exhibit their crafts and provide information to visitors.

Return to San Jose and overnight about fifteen minutes away from San José airport. The hotel is located amid coffee plantations, orchards, and is surrounded by colorful gardens. The rooms feature native woods, tiled bathrooms, and balconies offering marvelous views of the mountains or the city skyline. Enjoy a farewell dinner at the hotel. Overnight San Jose (B,L,D).

November 15: San Jose - Departure for Home

After breakfast transfer to Juan Santamaria International Airport to take your flight back home. (B)

Photo Leader

Cathy & Gordon Illg
read more
Cathy & Gordon Illg

Cathy and Gordon Illg are freelance photographers specializing in nature and wildlife photography. For more than twenty years they have been guiding tours to outstanding locations for both scenic and wildlife photography. Their work has appeared in nearly all the major nature publications and prominent travel magazines, as well as earning numerous awards in Nature’s Best International Photographic Competitions. In 2003, they earned second place in the Wildlife Photographer of the Year contest.

They are more than just skilled photographers and instructors; they are also Certified International Tour Managers, which ensures that traveling companions will have a great time, regardless of where they are traveling and what they are doing. The job is particularly fulfilling when it involves bringing guests face to face with the great outdoors and the creatures that call it home.

If you are already an accomplished photographer, they will get you to the good locations, at the right times, and set you free. However, if you want help, they will provide as much instruction as you want. On most tours instructional presentations are provided, and participants are always encouraged to bring a sample of their work for a helpful, friendly critique or just to share with the group.

It was an amazing trip and the uniqueness of the Galapagos Islands certainly added to that. Everyone did a great job!!

S. Hon

Pricing and Details

US Dollars based upon minimum of 8 paying participants. There is a small group surcharge of $500 if 5-7 paying participants. All our program prices are based on double occupancy unless noted in exceptions.

Single rooms are subject to availability. We try to accommodate travelers who request single accommodations, as well as travelers who are looking for a roommate. If a single room is requested, or if we are unable to find a suitable roommate, you will be required to pay the supplement.


Photo By: Cathy & Gordon Illg

Photo Location: Costa Rica

Based on your advice I had everything I needed for the trip. Greetings upon arrival were great as well as all transportation, group size was also good. Local guide, Cathy & Gordon worked well as a team and were very laid back which I very much appreciated. Variety of locations was also great. We got useful tips on camera care and shooting for the environment.

J. Chase

Cathy & Gordon are great tour leaders because they are uniquely qualified in nature and in photography. I highly recommend taking one of their tours IF you want to learn a lot and get some fine images for your collection. They really spent time with those of us on the tour to be sure we got the images we wanted. In my opinion, you can't lose by taking one of the Adventure tours.

L. Poe

Your naturalist guide was excellent as were Cathy and Gordon. The lodges etc. were well selected and put us in the correct location. Most had excellent food, and transfers worked like clock work. Well Planned, well organized and well done!!!

R. Zimmermann

I want to tell you what a wonderful experience last week was for me.  I thoroughly enjoyed the trip and I feel I really learned a lot.  I can see a progression in my pictures of getting better as the days went by...Thanks for all your help and the time you spent with us.


Cathy & Gordon are great tour leaders because they are uniquely qualified in nature and in photography.  I highly recommend taking one of their tours IF you want to learn a lot and get some fine images for your collection.  They really spent time with those of us on the tour to be sure we got the images we wanted.  In my opinion, you can't lose by taking one of the Adventure tours." 


Additional Notes


The trip will not be strenuous, but there will be walks each day, sometimes uphill in the heat, mud, or high altitude (7000 feet). Anyone who is reasonably fit should be able to participate in all scheduled walks, but if you have questions about how much activity is involved, please inquire further.

Terms and Conditions

Unless otherwise noted, this information applies to all tours.


Contact Strabo Tours if you would like rates on International Airfare. Please note on your trip application form if you would like us to assist you with your airfare needs, a charge is added for this service. If making your own arrangements, it is important to discuss flight times with Strabo Tours before booking any airline tickets. This will avoid you having to pay airline cancellation penalties. Please contact Strabo Tours for destination airfare estimates, specific flight time arrivals, and departures.

The land cost includes:
  • Group transportation for tour events in the tour van.
  • Accommodations based on two people sharing a room, singles are assigned on a first come, first served basis.
  • Services of driver, English speaking cultural guide (if applicable) and photographic leader, during the tour.
  • Meals as listed in itinerary (B=breakfast, L=lunch, D=dinner).
  • Park entrance fees, day tours and excursions as shown in the itinerary.
  • Extensive pre-departure information and services.
The land cost does not include:

Domestic or International air fare; other airfare if noted in exceptions; air fare tax; airport departure tax; airport transfers; additional transfers or accommodations that may be required by those not traveling with the group; excess baggage charges; meals not included in itinerary; activities taken on your own; passport/visa expenses; personal medical or travel insurance; any expenses of a personal nature, such as room service, laundry, beverages not included with meals, medical expenses, photographic equipment, any activities not specified in tour itinerary or listed as optional, or any items not listed in what is included; fuel surcharges; exchange rate surcharges; upon the completion of your trip, modest gratuities to the local guides and the drivers are customary; tips for meals not included in itinerary.

Fitness and Health

The majority of trips are not strenuous (see exceptions below for particular destinations) and anyone who is reasonably fit should be able to take part in most of the activities. You may experience general fatigue due to the long flights and the change in time zones. You will need to be sufficiently agile to climb in and out of the tour van and be able to carry and manage your own equipment. We will frequently hike trails ranging from easy to moderate. Some hotels do not have elevators or air conditioners.

If you have any special needs or any physical condition that you feel might prevent you from fully participating, please contact Strabo Tours with your concerns (607-756-8676).

You should also be aware that medical services or facilities might not be readily available during all or part of your trip. This could include emergency medical care, presence of physicians, or adequate medication.


The following destinations require more physical activity. Bhutan, China, Patagonia, Peru, Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands, New Zealand, Scotland, Domestic tours. On the African Safari you will spend many hours in a vehicle on game drives, land travel will sometimes be over very bumpy and dusty roads. Galapagos Cruise accommodations are in upper and lower berths (bunk beds) only.

The following destinations require more physical activity. Bhutan, China, Patagonia, Peru, Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands, New Zealand, Scotland, Domestic tours. On the African Safari you will spend many hours in a vehicle on game drives, land travel will sometimes be over very bumpy and dusty roads. Galapagos Cruise accommodations are in upper and lower berths (bunk beds) only.

Deposits, Cancellations AND Refunds

A deposit of $750 ($500 on domestic tours) per person is required. Specific tours may require an additional deposit due to accommodation bookings or transportation requirements. If applicable these will be noted on your invoice. Payment in full is required when bookings are made less than 120 days before the departure date. Space is subject to cancellation by Strabo if payment is not received when due.

If a passenger wishes to cancel they must send notification in writing to: Strabo International Tour, Co., P.O. Box 580, Dryden, NY 13053; fax 208-545-4119. At the time we receive your notification, the following per person charges apply:

  • 91 days or more before departure: $300 cancellation fee ($150 fee on domestic tours), plus Strabo’ costs, as well as fees that are charged by the suppliers providing the services included in your tour, and/or the airlines providing the air transportation.
  • 61-90 days before departure: $500 ($250 on domestic tours) minimum cancellation fee, plus Strabo’ costs, as well as fees that are charged by the suppliers providing the services included in your tour, and/or the airlines providing the air transportation. Fees may range from 25% to 100% of tour costs.
  • 60 days or less before departure or anytime after departure: NO REFUND.

Refunds for services that are voluntarily not used by you cannot be made.


Each participant must be covered by medical insurance that is valid overseas.

We strongly urge you to evaluate your risk and to take out insurance on your trip. It is vital for you to realize that if you experience a delay or find it necessary to cancel or cut short your trip for any reason, you will lose part or the entire sum you’ve invested in it (see the section “Deposits, Cancellations and Refunds” in the trip brochure).

Travel insurance helps to minimize the risk of monetary losses you would incur in the event of a delay of your departure due to weather, airline strike, missed connection, etc., your inability to travel for reasons such as illness, injury, unforeseen financial complications and other personal circumstances, or if you were required to cut your trip short for medical or any other reasons.

There are restrictions and limitations on any insurance program. For this reason, please read carefully the enclosed pamphlet, which outlines their program of trip cancellation, baggage, and medical insurance. Trained agents are available to answer your questions, so don’t hesitate to call the toll free number in their brochure. It is to your advantage to apply for insurance at the earliest possible time, so don’t delay in making a decision.

Subject to Change

Itineraries have been carefully constructed to assure participants the best each destination has to offer; however, should events arise that are beyond our control, activities and hotel arrangements are subject to change without notice. The itineraries summarize typical areas you will explore. Since there is no possible way to visit all of them, your guides will plan each day considering the interests of the group and the weather at hand. Be assured that we will make substitutions that are as similar in quality and interest as possible.

Photo Release

Strabo International Tour Company, Inc. reserves the right and permission to use photographs of individuals on tour for use in promotional and publicity purposes. We also reserve the right to use clients photographs for promotional and publicity purposes, when submitted to Strabo International Tour Company, Inc.

Food & Drink

Costa Rican food is not spicy. Menus are usually simple, but the food is always good and plentiful. Breakfast menus are much like those in North America. Rice, meat, beans, and vegetables are usually served at lunch and dinners. Local cheeses are quite good. Delicious fruits and juices are in abundant supply.

Food is generally safe to eat everywhere in the country. Water is safe to drink in San José, and generally through out the country, your local guide can offer guidance if you have concerns. Although malaria has probably been eradicated from areas we'll be visiting, you should consult your doctor about precautionary measures. Full details will be sent upon enrollment.

loading icon