Rio Grande de Tárcoles is the habitat for various types of wildlife including hundreds of American crocodiles.
The beasts are one of the largest of the crocodiles and can grow up to 6 meters in length and have a recognizable V-shaped snout.
Tourists and locals line the bridge on the coastal highway to get a glimpse of the large animals that can be found down below sunbathing.
Those who want a closer look can arrange tours. Guides take persons out on the river where the creatures swim just a few feet from the riverboats.
One such tour is Jose’s Crocodile River Tour, which was founded six years ago by José Eduardo Chaves.
Chaves said he and his staff grew up in the area around the tours and decided to start their own. He serves as a bilingual guide who entertains patrons for two hours with facts and funny anecdotes.
He points out different bird species such as the kingfisher, egrets and spoonbills and whistles for the crested caracara, which comes to feed on chicken pieces thrown in its direction.“You have to whistle in Spanish,” Chaves jokes.
He also draws his tourist’s focus to the many iguana that are on the shorelines.
“Over here we have iguana condominiums,” he says. “They all have riverfront properties.”
The main attraction comes minutes into the tour, when Chaves spots the first crocodile.
The boat is brought close to the creature so those on the tour can take pictures.
Then the driver, known as Crazy Jimmy, jumps out of the boat with raw chicken in hand. He lures the crocodile toward him by smacking the water with the chicken
“It makes the crocodile think the chicken is live,” said Chaves.
Once Jimmy has the crocodiles full attention, he dangles the chicken out from him at which point the crocodile jumps up to catch the meat as Jimmy throws it in its mouth.
“He swallows it bones and all,” said Chaves.
Crazy Jimmy feeds several different crocodiles who the men named after pop stars such as Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber and Selena Gómez. At one point of the tour, Jimmy even kisses one of the large beasts.
“I’m not afraid, because I have many years doing this,” Jimmy says. “I really love it. It’s my job.”
Due to the territorial nature of the crocodiles, they are always seen in the same area of the river, awaiting the Jose’s Crocodile River Tour’s crew’s next visit.
The dock for the crew is located in Tárcoles, about an hour and a half from San José and 30 minutes from Jacó. For more information visit the Web site at www.crocodilerivertour.com.