I recently had the privilege of visiting Tortuguero (loosely translate to “turtle land”), a small village and national park isolated in Costa Rica’s northwestern corner. The first thing that struck me upon arrivingat Moin is that the road abruptly ends. From Moin the journey continues by boatas there are no roads leading to, or in the Village of Tortuguero. The boat rideup the Canals of Tortuguero National Park was amazing. Wildlife is abundant inthis area, with three species of monkey in the trees, mellow manatees and snappycrocodile in the waters and beautiful toucans in the skies overhead. UnfortunatelyI was not lucky enough to see the elusive Jaguar, but the real stars of theshow were still to come.
The small village of Tortuguero is home to only a littleover 1000 people, but the town has many lodging options so there was no problemfinding accommodations on the fly. I had left the sounds of cars and buses leftlong ago. This is a slow paced town where relaxation is the action, and thejungle songs of birds and insects mesh with rolling waves to create a naturalfeeling almost like traveling back in time.
I strolled along the Coffee colored beach and encountered afew Nesting Hawksbill Turtles. It was an interesting sight as the turtle’s eyesactually tear as they lay their eggs. I forgot to ask why this occurs but Iwill just go with my notion that they are tears of joy. I walked about a mile then decided to turnaround as I began to get hungry, and a local told me the real action happensafter the sun goes down.
I went back to my lodge and booked a guide for a night timeturtle tour. One thing to note is that visitors are not allowed on the beachwithout a guide after 6PM, sadly this is because poachers have stolen the turtle’seggs pushing some species to the points of near extinction. We set out at 8PM,the guides use special red flashlights which I though was interesting and wastold this is because the turtle use the moon as a navigational tool. Regularflashlights confuse the turtles and sometimes force them to return to the seawithout laying their eggs.
There were many turtles exiting the sea and slowly crawlingup the beach. The first turtle we approached was a massive Leatherback. I neverimagined a turtle could be so big, the guide said they can reach lengths ofover two meters and weights of 900 kilograms! We stayed a few minutes andwatched the soon to be mother dig a hole by swatting away sand with her backflippers. An interesting fact is that Sea Turtles return to their birthplace tolay their eggs. Somehow after years at sea they find the beach where theyhatched. This amazed me.
Four species lay their eggs here; Green, Hawksbill,Leatherback and Loggerhead. We had the pleasure of seeing all but the Green Turtle,possibly because our tour got cut a bit short by some scary lightning nearby. Wedid not get a chance to see the famed “arribada” which is an event that occursa few times of year in which up to 100,000 turtles come to shore over a shortperiod of time to nest, maybe next time.
All in all Tortuguero was an amazing experience. The naturalismof the area and knowledge of the guides made the trip one I will never forget.To this day the all species of Sea Turtle are either on the threatened or endangeredlist. Many commercial fishing boats are catching turtles in their nets andpoachers are still a major problem. There are many foundations to help SeaTurtle conservation in Tortuguero and around the world. I truly hope they can effectivelyhelp preserve this natural wonderland for centuries to come.
Guest Post Written By Matt Ymbras for TV Pura Vida