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Reserva Playa Tortuga

This past weekend I got on a bus for four hours with no another Gringa. There was supposed to be a Tica with us but she got decided not to travel to San Jose with us, small panic attack, hope we make it to the right bus station. By the time she got to the bus station they were sold out of tickets, larger panic attack, hope we find the right stop to get off at. It was supposed to be a three and a half hour bus ride. Pouring rain caused delays, like the tree in the road that several muscled passengers eventually got up to drag out of the road. At last we made it to the stop. The other Tica, who we were meeting at Playa Tortuga, had arranged for a taxi to meet us at the bus stop. We found a taxi, only thing missing, a driver. But at long last we made it to the reserve, where we dropped our bags, were given 15 minutes to eat, then were marched off to begin turtle patrols.

You may be asking what lead to this arduous journey, a class. My general studies, ecological riches of Costa Rica class to be exact. We have to do an investigation as a group and part of that investigation includes going somewhere, taking photos, and interviewing an expert on you topic. We picked the threats faced by the Lora or Olive Ridely turtle. So off we went to walk beaches in the dark in hopes of seeing a turtle come to lay her eggs.

Night 1: no joy. We patrolled the early patrol, 7-10. Turtle arrives: 2:30 am, doesn’t lay eggs.

Morning: the reserve has a river clean up planned with the community. We learn about the water quality in the river as the reserve’s head biologist talks to the public about what he does and the things affecting their water. We then spend two hours walking in the river collecting trash. Catalog of finds: socks, shorts, grocery bags, glass bottles, hydraulic oil pump, hose, semi-tire, corrugated metal roofing material, and so much more.

Afternoon: daytime visit to the beach. All that rain means the road is a mess, giant puddles that are really lakes edged in four inch deep mud. I wore borrowed rubber boots after a warning from a reserve employee, the other two wore sandals. One decided she didn’t want to get her feet dirty a second time on the way back.

Sandals & Mud

That was when the car came around the bend.

Night 2: we will see a turtle, no other option exists. After last night we decide we will spend the night at the camp rather than leave to have a turtle arrive after us. We take the 10-1am patrol with the reserves biologist so we can interview him. 11 o’clock, tide is all the way up, no beach to walk on to patrol, half hour break back at camp. Walk for another hour. And then it happened, the biologist sees a turtle track up the beach! He turns around tells us to be quiet and wait here as he goes to check it out, he comes back and confirms, THERE IS A TURTLE!!!!!

Petting the Turtle

Turtle: we stand back as the turtle digs her hole, then the biologist sneaks up behind her and enlarges it so he can remove the eggs as she lays them. The eggs will then be moved to an easier to protect location as they are threatened by bother natural predators and poachers, eggs are big business in Costa Rica. We are then called over to watch as she lays her eggs. No lights are allowed except the staff’s red lights as turtles don’t like bright lights, darkness means security for there eggs, too much light and they wont come back to a beach.  She lays 117 eggs, 120 is the high end of their range. Then she must be measured…but she doesn’t want to be measure, she wants to leave. Turtle wrangling ensues.

Turtle Wrangling

It takes two people to hold her still, if just one tries they get dragged across the beach at a turtle’s pace. Man is she strong.

We head back to camp and the next patrol agrees to wake us if they find anything else. We wake at 4:15, no more turtles. Time to pack up and head out if we are going to make the 30 minute hike to the bus station and catch our 5:30 bus. Made it home to Heredia by 11, beat Mama Tica home from church.


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