La Tortuga Feliz y mucho mas

Trip Start Feb 01, 2006
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Trip End May 01, 2006


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Flag of Costa Rica  ,
Sunday, April 9, 2006

Well, the turtles were ridiculously amazing!!

The unnamed island itself was awesome, although the living conditions were not so easy. No electricity to speak of other than a solar panel for a few selected lights for a few hours at night and the meals were not stellar to say the least!

Our main jobs for the week were patrolling the beach and guarding the hatchery. Neither could be considered fun, especially since both shifts were for four hours and even more if you came across a turtle. The main things affecting her laying are light, noise and smell...this meant walking in the pitch black...only the guide had a red light...it also meant no talking and no bug repellent!

We didn't know a thing about leatherbacks before, but we sure know a bit now.

There is an unwritten rule that whoever gets to the turtle first, "owns" the turtle. This means that it is like a race between us and the poachers to get to the laying turtle first.

This law prevents confrontations with the poachers...it is also the reason that the project needs volunteers to patrol the beach...so that we can get to the turtles first and save the eggs!

It would be great if a hatchery wasn't even required but until there are more volunteers it is sorely needed. There was even an incident while we were there where a poacher was bold enough to even try to steal eggs from the guarded hatchery.

When we did get to a turtle laying at night, sometimes the eggs were just moved elsewhere on the beach, and other times they were moved to the hatchery for protection.

Our guides were very knowledgeable and very helpful since we were so afraid of doing something wrong when we came upon the first turtle at about eleven of our second night on patrol.

We needed to measure the position of the nest, her size, get the numbers off her tags or tag her if she had not already been tagged, and count the eggs.

Once she lays, then the guide puts on a glove and gets the eggs, usually between 100 and 120...Fertile eggs are the size of a tennis ball, and the infertile eggs are about the size of a ping pong ball. They do not have hard shells, but rather a soft membrane so care needs to be taken. They also need to be buried again within two hours, at the right depth and right temperature.

It is hard to put into words what it was like to be on the beach in the pitch black and see this huge leatherback come up out of the water, dig her nest and lay about 100 eggs!

Primitive and cool and overwhelming! And definitely an experience we didn't ever imagine we would have, but it sure is something else!

So we are now back in San Jose, happy to have electricity and all that it entails. Of course we are also happy to have something other than rice and beans and beans and rice.

Check out some of the photos we have finally been able to upload. We'll be home soon!
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