How cool, I didn't think there would be a place on tripadvisor for this tour!
I did the manatee tour in May of 2009. I was volunteering in Gandoca and every Sunday on our day off we'd head over to Changuinola for food and internet (easier to get to than Puerto Viejo, plus it's cheaper!) One of our taxi drivers told us about the manatee tours, and one day we decided to give it a try.
Tip #1: call ahead! The people at the AAMVECONA office were nice but they weren't too happy that we decided to just show up out of the blue (we also had to wait about 30 minutes for a boat to come) So, if you can, call ahead! If I remember correctly the tour was around $20 - $25.
When the boat arrived the three of us that were going hopped in and rode straight to the look-out dock (I think the tour takes you other places, like the volunteer station, but we didn't have time for that, as we still had to head to Changuinola and be back to Costa Rica before the border closed). On the way there our boat driver stopped to show us a mother and baby sloth (cuuute) and a snake hidden in a tree branch.
When we arrived at the look-out there was a person waiting for us (I think he worked for AAMVECONA, I can't remember) He lowered the plants and bananas to almost water level and we sat and waited!
Tip #2: BRING BUG SPRAY. Wear pants if you can, no matter how hot it is. The sandflies were KILLER and there is no where to go! And the manatees can take a while (see tip #3) so you will be miserable if you don't bring bug spray. As turtle volunteers we weren't allowed to wear bug spray but we were used to it, so we didn't bother, not knowing... not kidding, the WORST sand fly experience I came across while in Panama/Costa Rica. Wouldn't have been bad at all if we had had bug spray...
Tip #3: Be prepared to wait! We waited about an hour and a half for the manatees to show up. You aren't guaranteed to see them but if you are patient you will usually be rewarded. We waited, and they came - and it was amazing! The water is murky so you won't have a perfectly clear view of them, but you could still see them in the water and they were super cute when they came up to eat the bananas and leaves. It was a really cool experience, especially since I've only seen manatees at SeaWorld...seeing them in their natural habitat was awesome.
I would 100% recommend this tour but whether or not you will enjoy yourself depends on the type of experience you are looking for and your expectations - you won't be able to see the manatees perfectly, and you might have to wait a while (bring a book, haha). Personally though, I'm glad I did it.. it was great!
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