Costa Rica: Photograph the Wildlife and Landscape

Tour Intro

Sponsored by Houston Audubon Society.

Costa Rica’s natural heritage is one of astonishing diversity. Bordered by the Caribbean and the Pacific, its coastline rises abruptly to volcanic mountains that run the length of the country. For millions of years, it has been a biological land bridge between North and South America, which has given it a unique natural history. The sheer variety is amazing for a country of just 20,000 square miles. Within its borders are more than a dozen life zones. In the same day, you can experience 12,000-foot mountains, cloud forests, lowland rain forests, mangrove swamps, palm-lined beaches, dry tropical forest, and savannah.

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.

All of this is being wisely protected in an excellent system of national parks and reserves that has won praise from conservationists around the world. 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, Professional Photo Leader Kathy Adams Clark and Naturalist Gary Clark.
  • 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.
  • La Paz Waterfall Gardens, a photographer’s playground filled with hummingbirds, reptiles, and tropical blooms.
  • Savegre region, renown by birders around the world in search of the Resplendent Quetzal.

Tour Itinerary

March 10: Home – San José
Blue Crowned Motmot

Photo By: Kathy Adams Clark

Photo Location: Costa Rica

Your Costa Rican adventure begins today as you board your flight to San José, the country's capital city. We will stay overnight overlooking the sprawling mountains and volcanoes in the hills of Alto de las Palomas, about fifteen minutes away from San José. The hotel offers excellent accommodations and superb service in a suburban village setting. We will have a Welcome Dinner and Orientation. Overnight Hotel Alta. (D)

March 11-13: La Paz - Sarapiqui
Snowcap Hummingbird

Photo By: Kathy Adams Clark

Photo Location: Costa Rica

Before breakfast photograph in the beautiful grounds  surrounding the hotel. This will be your first opportunity to see topical flowers and birds. Blue-gray Tanagers are easy to photograph as they feed outside the dining room and Blue-crowned Motmot occasionally perch out in the garden. Enroute to your next location visit the LaPaz Waterfall Gardens. The hummingbird garden and feeders attract several different species of birds we can photograph along with the beautiful orchids and flowers. A nearby frog house and reptile display offers opportunities to photograph red-eyed tree frog and several snakes that visitors rarely encounter in the wild.

Depart for the Sarapiqui region, arriving this afternoon. This 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 in an eco-lodge for the next three evenings, photographing and appreciating the beautiful gardens on the property. With the vision of maintaining Sueno Azul as a peace and nature sanctuary the management is focused on being an eco-tourism business offering the perfect mixture of nature with comfort, and adventure with safety. In addition to the natural forest, more than 200 bird species have been identified on the property. You may also see a multitude of colored butterflies, moths, tolumucos, bats, iguanas, lizards, toads, sloths, and armadillos.
From here we will visit the La Selva Biological Station, a rainforest reserve and research station owned by a consortium of U.S. Universities and the University of Costa Rica known as OTS (Organization of Tropical Studies). La Selva is perhaps the longest running and, certainly, one of the most prestigious research stations on tropical rainforest anywhere in the world. 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.

Depart early one morning to visit the Sarapiqui Eco-Observatory/ Nature Pavilion, consisting 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 Tangaer, and the White-necked Jacobin. After a three-hour photo session here, enjoy lunch on this beautiful property for additional photo opportunities. Overnight Sueno Azul. (B, L, D three days

March 14-15: Savegre
Resplendent Quetzal Savegre

Photo By: Kathy Adams Clark

Photo Location: Costa Rica

Make our way through the Cerro de la Muerte area, stopping along stunning mountain roads to photograph birds and local sights.

Your destination today is the charming Savegre Lodge, 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.

Photographing birds in this lovely setting is extraordinary. We will have an opportunity to photograph hummingbirds at the stop-action studio at this location.  Overnight Savegre Lodge. (B, L, D) both days

March 16: San Jose
Red Eyed Treefrog

Photo By: Kathy Adams Clark

Photo Location: Costa Rica

Depart for San Jose after breakfast, with various photographic stops along the way. Enjoy a farewell dinner at the hotel. Overnight Bougainvillea Hotel. (B, L, D)

March 17: Departure for Home
Large Footed Finch

Photo By: Kathy Adams Clark

Photo Location: Costa Rica

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


Photo Leader

Kathy Adams Clark
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Kathy Adams Clark

Kathy Adams Clark has made her living as a professional nature photographer since 1995. Her work has been published in a variety of national and regional publications including National Geographic Books, The New York Times, Nature’s Best, and Sierra. Kathy teaches over fifty photography workshops and classes each year. Her work may be viewed weekly in the Houston Chronicle’s “Nature” column, written by her husband, Gary. She is Past-President of the North American Nature Photography Association.

Kathy enjoys traveling with people new to photography as well as with folks with advanced skills. She has an ability to explain complicated photographic terms in an easy-to-understand language. She likes to teach those hungry for new information but also understands that photography can be a solitary task. Each person traveling with Kathy is treated as an individual, but the group always has fun. Kathy is an accomplished naturalist as well as a photographer, skilled in many different digital cameras. She is very passionate about nature, birdlife, and wildlife.

Gary Clark joins Kathy as co-leader on some of her tours. He is an acclaimed naturalist guide in his own right will co-lead some trips each year with her. A lifelong naturalist, Gary Clark has studied birds, mammals, and butterflies in North, Central, and South America and in East Africa. He is an award winning professional writer whose column “Nature” appears weekly in the Houston Chronicle. He has authored feature articles in state and national magazines and has written ten books that include photographs from his wife, Kathy. He frequently conducts birding workshops and leads birding tours. He is founder of the Piney Woods Wildlife Society of Texas, former president of the Houston Audubon Society, and former vice-president of the Gulf Coast Bird Observatory. Gary is a full professor at Lone Star College. Because of both Kathy & Gary’s love of nature, and the work they do, Strabo Tours is proud to make a donation to the Houston Audubon Society for each trip they take part in.

This was the trip of a lifetime for me. I was challenging myself to learn all sorts of new things, photography, a new culture, and was immersed in it. It surpassed my expectations and I met so many beautiful souls along the way. Kathy was fantastic, I give her a 10++!!!

D. Whitney

Pricing and Details

US Dollars based upon minimum of 10 paying participants. There is a small group surcharge of $300 if 6-9 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.


Kathy is a remarkable photographer and is soooo willing  to share her knowledge with the traveling companions.  She provided a wealth of guidance on what might be good to shoot but was not in your way if you wanted to do things differently.  I would travel with her again in a heartbeat and will if I get the chance!

B. Adams

Additional Notes

This tour is designed to be a photo tour, and, as such, we must be flexible in our scheduling. Much of what we do, and when we do it, will depend upon the weather and light. In the event that changes may occur, we will need to be flexible, which will also allow us to take advantage of new photographic opportunities. Gary is an avid birdwatcher and naturalist who enjoys teaching people about the outdoors, especially in Costa Rica.

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.


Accommodations are clean, comfortable and pleasant, but not luxurious. When visiting parks and reserves, expect cabin-like accommodations with private baths.

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.

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