Monday, January 25, 2016

Nature Air Flight to Tortuguero, Costa Rica

The morning after we arrived in San Jose, Costa Rica, I awoke at 3 a.m. after a whole four hours of sleep.

I checked my phone 10 times to make sure it wasn't after 5. Graham and I had a flight to catch from San Jose to Tortuguero at 5:50 a.m. Our hotel's check-in agent advised us to arrive at the airport an hour early for domestic flights, but that didn't seem like enough time (Spoiler: It is). Unfortunately, the shuttle at the Wyndham San Jose doesn't start running until 6, so we had to pay for a taxi to take us to the airport. It was a $15, 10-minute drive. (The taxi charges more on the way to the airport because they stop to pay a toll.) Only about 10 people were in line for Nature Air check-in, which was not available online as far as I can tell. We were asked to step on scales and allowed a 40-pound bag to carry on and a 10-pound personal item. The Nature Air agent gave us handwritten boarding passes with photos and instructed us to use the "fast-track" security line. After check-in we made our way through airport security, which had no line at all. I was allowed to bring my opened water bottle and a soda, in addition to keeping my flats on. Our Nature Air flight was set to depart from Gate 12, which is downstairs. We waited with the seven or so other passengers on our flight until it was time to walk outside, hop on a shuttle bus and drive to the runway where two small planes were waiting for us. Our initial flight reservation was a direct 35-minute flight to Tortuguero, but two days earlier we had received an email that a stop had been added in Limon. A second plane was heading to another destination (Nicaragua, I think).

I should mention that on a flight this small the pilots are the flight attendants. They introduced themselves and mentioned where the exits were, not that it's necessary on a plane this small. As we took off, the sun was rising over the mountains near San Jose. We could see the vast city, then never-ending forest, rivers, mountains and clouds. The flight itself could be a tour of the beautiful country. In about 30 minutes, we landed in Limon, on the Caribbean side of Costa Rica. The airport was a small building next to a runway. Outside, four people were waiting for us. They boarded our plane and we took off over the ocean to Tortuguero. This 15-minute part of the trip was over the turquoise water. We soon saw a narrow strip of land with a runway on it right next to the ocean. The Tortuguero airport is non-existent. It is just a runway with an empty shell of a building next to it. On the other side of the runway is a river. As we landed I could see several boats waiting for their passengers. I had called the Tortuga Lodge, located just across the river from the runway, three days earlier to request a pickup, and as soon as the plane doors were opened a lovely gentleman from the lodge asked if I was Marette Flora. He helped us with our bags, took our photo and led us to our boat, which took us on a 30-second ride across the river to our accommodations for the next two nights. It was an amazing start to our Costa Rica trip. If you want to visit Tortuguero, where sea turtles nest at certain times of the year, you can only do so by plane or boat. I highly recommend the flight, which saves you a day of travel from San Jose and only costs $90 (for the two of us). I will never forget those views. Best of all, Nature Air is a carbon neutral airline! 

Nature Air, Costa Rica
Waiting for takeoff.

Nature Air, Costa Rica
Sunrise in San Jose, Costa Rica


Nature Air, Costa Rica
View of the country from the plane.

Nature Air, Costa Rica

Nature Air, Costa Rica



Nature Air, Costa Rica
Passengers wait to board the Nature Air flight back to San Jose from Tortuguero.

Tortuguero
View of the Tortuguero river on our way to Tortuga Lodge.

Happy travels!

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