Luis is from the town of Tortuguero and works at Manatus Lodge as the hotel’s guide. A Tortuguero native, Luis has kind eyes and a small frame, from which a pair of binoculars seem to permanently be strapped. Boating down the river, he sits at the front of the boat, his eyes scanning the green rainforest bordering the water before him.
He lights up at the sight of something, snatches his binoculars and peers to the right. He tells the driver to stop and circle back slowly – a spatula rosada (pink spoonbill), the only pink bird in Central America, is daintily stepping in the shallows in search of a meal. Luis explains “this bird’s beak is actually shaped like a spatula”, hence the name. “It will put its beak into the bed of the river, and swish it side to side until it finds a creature, usually crayfish or some other marine invertebrate, and then snap it up”.
I am amazed at his ability to distinguish between apparently identical creatures far, far away – his exceptionally well-trained eye means he is able to see the tiniest details of a bird before I even see where it is. His passion for and affinity for the animals here is obvious and it fills me with joy – to witness someone in what is clearly their natural state, doing what they enjoy and do best.
He has been a guide for two years now at Manatus but in the low seasons all the guides here seem to rotate between the lodges and hotels. He explains one good thing about working as a guide Tortuguero is that all the guides must be from the area.
Luis has also been taking an English course in Tortuguero to learn the language and biological terms in English, that way he can pass on his knowledge to people visiting the area. He has been on the course for two years and eight months so far, and has two more years left. After he finishes his English qualification, he will receive a certificate and he says that he hopes he will speak English very, very well. He also teaches English to children in the school in Tortuguero, in between guiding.
Luis is passionate about the wildlife here and preserving it – he is driven to pass on his message to the people he guides, educating them on the area and just why it is so important to preserve it for future generations. I for one appreciate the amazing craft of Luis, thank you.