“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

TravelHaven Journal – Costa Rica Adventure 5

The Turtle Watch

There is a $30 per person fee for the turtle watch and no guarantee you will get to see the spectacle of the turtle nest. The night that we went out only two of the four groups in our Section saw turtles. Fortunately, we did!

We met at 7:30 and were in a group of about twelve people led by Danny. July is nesting season for the very large green turtle. There are five areas or sections where guides take people to see turtles lay eggs. All are protected by the Park Service. No one is permitted on the beach between 6:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m. except people like us on a scheduled turtle watch No lights are allowed on the beach during this time, because they can disorient the turtles. Costa Rica is very serious about protecting the turtles. Anyone caught harvesting turtle eggs (to sell them on the mainland) is prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

A boat took us from the Lodge to the dock in town and then we walked through town and into the jungle. After hiking for about 10 minutes through the jungle (with very little lighting provided by one or two small flashlights), we came to a concrete structure, where we waited until a spotter on the beach spotted a turtle nesting. They radioed Danny, who took us on a further walk ten minutes in the dark to reach the beach.

Just as we got to the beach, the skies opened up—huge raindrops! Apparently, the turtle was disturbed for some reason and, instead of laying her eggs in the nest she had prepared, she turned around and headed back to the water. So, back to the shelter we go.

Our window was only 8:00 to 10:00 and, as the minutes ticked by, it looked like we were out of luck. But we finally got called to the beach again. At least the rain was just a drizzle. And this time, we got to see the turtle laying her eggs, and then covering them with sand, using her flippers to camouflage them so predators can’t find her eggs. Then she wriggles back to the sea.

The green turtle lays about 100 eggs. Then, about twelve days later, she comes back to an area near the first nest, and lays another batch. A very small percentage of the hatchlings make it to maturity. Some are eaten by predators, others die trying to make their trek across the sands, and still others are killed by the rough surf.

We felt privileged to see part of this incredible cycle.