Last weekend I had the opportunity to enjoy an afternoon kayaking the Isla Damas Mangroves. Located just north of Quepos/Manuel Antonio, Isla Damas it is an estuary lined with mangroves. It is an excellent tour to take a break from the beach and sun while enjoying a peaceful, unique ecosystem via boat or kayak. Mangroves are found throughout Central America where rivers and streams meet with the ocean. They play a crucial role in protecting the coastline as well as harboring many wildlife species. While kayaking Isla Damas you may be lucky to see white-faced monkeys, iguanas, boas, anteaters, raccoons, crabs and numerous bird species. Underwater, the protective root systems serve as nurseries for fish, crab, and other marine life.
The Isla Damas tour starts with a pick-up at your accommodation either in Manuel Antonio or Jaco. The tour start time is dependent on high tide when the mangroves fill with ocean water and are therefore navigable by kayak or boat. Mangroves are salt tolerant trees that have adapted to the coastal conditions with complex root and salt filtration systems. You’ll see and learn about these filtration systems as you navigate around and through the trees’ roots. As you traverse from land in the direction towards sea you’ll learn about the different kinds of mangroves – white, black, and red – and how each has a different salt tolerance, red having the highest tolerance with it being closest to the ocean.
The mangroves root systems are vital forms of protection for both the coastline as well as the ocean. Mangrove swamps protect the coast from intense waves caused by storm surges and hurricanes. They create a natural barricade between the ocean and the coastline that breaks up and slows down these intense wave energies. Likewise, these intricate root systems trap debris and garbage runoff from streams and rivers from entering ocean waters.
While on the tour, you’ll enjoy 2 hours of kayaking or boating through the mangroves. Your naturalist guide will keep a trained-eye out for wildlife in the trees while you enjoy the tranquility of this endangered ecosystem. Kayaking allows you to maneuver through tighter canal ways, which is fun in itself but may also afford a closer look at wildlife. For those that don’t wish to kayak, covered boat rides are also available and is a great option for families with infants and young children.
If high tide occurs in the morning, you’ll have lunch after the tour and if high tide is in the afternoon, you’ll have lunch before the tour. We highly suggest a private tour experience to go at your own pace and to avoid crowds that may scare away any wildlife. Mangrove systems are seen throughout Costa Rica’s coastline and can be enjoyed from various beach destinations, including the Osa Peninsula, Manuel Antonio, and Tamarindo.
I highly recommend this activity for anyone interested in kayaking and learning more about the mangroves. Ask us how you can incorporate kayaking the Isla Damas Mangroves or other mangroves on your next Costa Rica vacation!