Saturday 2 December 2023

“Lady Gaga”, “Obama” and “Bin Laden”: names of crocodiles that attract tourists in Costa Rica

Tour operators who work on the Tárcoles River, in Costa Rica, offer tours that attract locals and foreigners alike interested in spotting crocodiles that can measure up to five meters.

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2 December 2023 - At The Banks - Source: BCCR

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QCOSTARICA (VOA) The Tárcoles River, famous in Costa Rica for the number of crocodiles that inhabit its waters, attracts dozens of locals and tourists every day who pay around us$35 to see them up close.

“Madonna” “Lady Gaga” and others are some of the famous names chosen by tour guides to recognize the crocodiles in the Tárcole River, in Costa Rica.

The tour along the Tárcoles River lasts about an hour and a half in boats to see the crocodiles that are identified with the names of famous people, from politicians to artists, as is the case of the specimens that tour guides call Barack Obama, George Bush or Lady Gaga and Brad Pitt.

“It is a very safe, very comfortable tour, where we are going to see iguanas, crocodiles, birds; “We entered the mangroves,” Diego Vargas, administrator of the Cocodrilo Man Tours company, told Voz de America (VOA).

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Vargas recognizes that the biggest attraction of these tours along the Tárcoles River are the crocodiles, some of which measure up to 5 meters (16 feet).

In the Tárcoles River it is estimated that there are approximately 2,000 crocodiles.

He said that the peculiarity of naming them seeks to generate closeness with customers. “Who doesn’t know Brad Pitt or Angelina Jolie or Osama Bin Laden?” Vargas concludes.

The crocodile they identify as Bin Landen, around six meters long, was named that because there are seasons or days in which he disappears, says Vargas. “We can’t find it and there are times when we see it every day. Hence the name,” he explains.

The specimen they call “Lady Gaga”, which is missing an eye, reminds them – says Vargas – of a song by the American singer. “[It] has one eye that is black like in one of the videos in which Lady Gaga sings,” says the local businessman.

Feeding the crocs is prohibited

Mary Anne Alvarado, a tourist from Belize, told VOA that the colorful birds are attractive in the river, but what catches her attention the most are the crocodiles.

Crocodiles are “territorial,” a Tárcoles River tour guide explained to VOA. They generally stay in the same area. Some remain hidden for a long time.

“They are huge and I had not seen them in their habitat, only in books. Everything is wonderful, Costa Rica is beautiful,” said the tourist, who traveled to Costa Rica during her vacation week. “This is wonderful. I think you should come because you can really see a lot of animals, flora and fauna, and the people are very wonderful,” she added.

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Joanna Pizarro, who has been working as a tour guide for the company Tiquicia Tours for 14 years, said that in the area there are about five formal companies that offer these tours, although Cocodrilo Man Tours was the pioneer.

“Actually, tourists are always amazed to see how we conserve and protect our environment,” says Pizzaro.

An updated law to care for local fauna

During the tour, the guide explains to tourists that it is not allowed to feed the crocodiles or get off the boat to take photos.

Tour operators offer trips in boats that have the capacity to carry up to 60 people.

“It is prohibited because we must remember that we are in their natural habitat, so we have to learn to be very respectful, not approach them in order to avoid accidents. What is intended is for tourists to come, enjoy, observe, but above all, maintain precautionary measures,” she noted.

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Costa Rica approved a reform to Ley 7317, la Ley de Conservación de Vida Silvestre (Law 7317, the Wildlife Conservation Law), which establishes prohibitions on providing food to crocodiles. Those who do so are subject to fines of US$300.

“Here people can come and observe them, but they will not be allowed to touch or feed the crocodiles. This is their natural habitat and we have to be very respectful,” concluded the tourist guide.

Read the original, in Spanish, at

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Q Costa Rica
Q Costa Rica
Reports by QCR staff

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