Costa Rica is home to two species of crocodilian, namely the American crocodile and spectacled caiman, and we were fortunate enough to encounter both species during the trip! Our first sighting of a spectacled caiman came as early as day 1, very soon after we arrived at our first destination (Maquenque Eco-Lodge) which had a huge lagoon within its grounds:

Spectacled caiman
Spectacled caiman close up

We saw a smaller one swimming around later that same day, they were so elegant and graceful in the water.

Smaller spectacled caiman

We also saw plenty of young caiman during our night walks at Maquenque, they were really easy to find because their eyes reflected the light of our head torches!

Young spectacled caiman

Whilst the spectacled caiman is not a particularly large crocodilian, measuring a maximum of around 2 metres or 7 feet, the American alligator is a completely different beast – they sometimes reach close to 5 metres or 16 feet in length! The first one we saw was also at Maquenque. He was very easy to spot (impossible to miss in fact) as he could often be found lying in wait at the bottom of a small flow of water between the two sides of the lagoon, where he would catch fish as they tumbled over the waterfall! There was a bridge over the lagoon which formed a barrier between the upper and lower parts so you could stand literally a few feet above him:

American alligator head

The other American crocodiles we saw were spotted from our river boat as we cruised along the Sarapiqui River between Maquenque Eco-Lodge and Selva Verde Lodge. Some of them were absolutely HUGE, especially the one in the foreground of this picture. The one coming into the water from the bank was gigantic enough but the one already in the water was a whole lot bigger and everyone agreed it could easily have been 5 metres or more long!

Riverside American alligator

In spite of their enormous size and the potential danger they pose, I found them to be absolutely beautiful creatures and it was a real privilege seeing such amazing animals in the wild.

Closer shot of American alligator
Bank side American alligator
Close up of American alligator