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On the Hunt for Turtles...

COSTA RICA | Saturday, 2 October 2010 | Views [673] | Comments [1]

While driving down the Pacific coast of Costa Rica from Jaco down to Peninsula de Osa, I read that October is a prime time for seeing turtles come to the beach and lay their eggs. Tired of driving and not sure what to expect from Osa, we made a last minute decision to stop in Uvita and check out the turtles. On the way to our hostel there were tons of roadside stands selling ceviche. After our last experience of ceviche on Big Corn Island being a cup of shrimp doused in a BBQ-like sauce, I was a little hesitant about trying more. We decided to give it another shot and pulled over to discover a delicious, Marlin filled limey, pico de gallo-style mixture. The guy selling the ceviche gave us a couple of tips about finding turtles. As we cruised around, we stopped at the entrance of the Bellena National Park where the attendant gave us more turtle info. We thought we’d narrowed down the place and time of where the turtles would be until we arrived at our hostel. The people working at Hotel Tucan weren’t very sure about where and when we should go out looking, so they put us in contact with someone from a turtle protection agency that took people out on free turtle watching trips.

The plan was to meet someone from the agency at a construction company called Ventana at 8:50pm. We were told that the trick to seeing the turtles is catching high tide around midnight that bringing all the turtles to shore. One of the girls working at the hostel gave us directions to the meeting spot and we set out right after dinner. The first problem we encountered was the passport checkpoint set up on the highway we were taking. Usually it’s a quick process; you show your passport and move on. Because neither of us had our passports to show, they had us pull to the side until the chief could come over and tell us we needed our passports and send us on our way. We had 5 minutes to get to the meeting spot and as we drove along, we searched the signs for the word Ventana. We drove and drove and got to thinking that maybe we had missed the store. Almost late for our meeting, we decided to turn around and retrace our path. We searched again until we ended up back at the checkpoint again! This time we were stopped by another cop and had to attempt to explain the situation of the missing passports again. This time they had us open the trunk so they could search the contents before sending us on our way again. We asked the cops about the elusive Ventana and they assured us it was in the direction that we headed before, just further down than we thought it would be.

We were determined. We sped down the highway and 15km later we found Ventana! With all the passport check, the potholes and the time spent driving the same stretch of road 3 times over; we showed up pretty late and didn’t find anyone waiting for us in the parking lot. There was one other car and a security guard. After speaking with the security guard, he had us convinced that the guide had left with the other turtle-watchers and if we hurried we could catch up with the group. All we had to do was walk about a kilometer down the highway, cross over the bridge and there would be a trail on the left that we could take straight down to the ocean.

Once again determined, we set out down the highway, in the pitch black, moonless night. Brett led the way with his wind up flashlight and I followed behind. We were confident that if we walked fast enough then we would catch them. We crossed the bridge and found a trail directly to the left. The problem was that it was just one of the few paths off to the left. Being the first that we came across, we decided to take it. It led us past the river, over wet and muddy trails. Brett saw footprints in the mud and thought for sure that they were the footprint of the other turtle hunters. Brett in his sandals and me in the back searching the trees for leaf frogs, we wandered down the trails towards the ocean with no sign of any other people anywhere.

Excited as we could hear the waves getting closer and closer, 45 minutes later we finally made it to the ocean. I expected that even if we took the wrong trail down to the ocean, that the others would be visible once we were on the beach. This would make since if you were talking about a sand beach, but about 50 meters to our right, the forest came down the beach all the way to the water, making it impossible to cross past this point. We knew that if the people had gone down any of the other trails, we weren’t going to be running into them anytime that night. Our next realization was that Brett’s wind up flashlight and my little LED flashlight were not putting out enough light for us to see the rocks on the beach and definitely not any turtles. And if there was a moon that night, it was completely covered by clouds.

We waited a minute, turned off our lights and tried to let our eyes adjust to the dark, but still we could see nothing! We were both toying with the idea of sitting around and waiting for the turtles to come right up until the point when it started raining. I think it was clear to us that this was not our night for turtles. If we’d had a guide there to ensure us that the turtles would come and we just needed to wait it out, we would have. But with just us, two crappy lights and rain, we decided to put on the rain jackets and trek back as fast as we could. We made it quickly back down the trail, down the highway and happily back into our dry car.

Even though the turtle luck wasn’t with us that night in Costa Rica, we have not given up. We are in the prime season of turtle nesting and I’m sure that we will find some in Panama! I think that after all the trouble we went through to find them the first time, it will be even better once we finally see them. Onto Panama… Wish us luck!

Sophia

Tags: costa rica, nesting, sea turtles, uvita

Comments

1

Great story Sophia! I'm confident that you will get to see the turtles in Panama!
Love ya!

  Gay Oct 6, 2010 3:21 AM

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