Giant Leatherback Turtle !!!!

Trip Start Dec 17, 2007
Trip End Dec 27, 2007

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Flag of Costa Rica  ,
Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Hi Everyone,

    I am kind of behind on my travel log due to the lack of internet access.

    Day 9 of our travel, we took a ride to Playa Tamarindo on the northwestern part of Costa Rica on the Pacific coast. Apparently the Costa Rican have heavily invested on their Pacific Coast in terms of tourist developement. Playa Tamarindo has changed from its once isolated beach to Acapulco style beach full of boutique shops, nail salons and shopping areas. The beach is full of American tourists baking under the sun to get their perfect tan. Some of the elder gringos acutally start buying beach front properties and driving the housing price so high that the locals had to move away because they can no longer affort it. To giv you an idea, the 3 bed 2 bath property would have cost about 20-40K USD. Not bad still by American terms, but astronomical by Costa Rican terms.

   Our purpose of coming here is not really for the beach but to see the endangered Leatherback turtle nest and lay eggs. These turtles are the most endangered of 4 species of turtles that come to nest here in Costa Rica. Only 58 turtles came back last year to nest while we were told by our guide that 50  came this year while its only midseason. I guess the conservation effort is finally working. The turtles only nest during high tide in the middle of the night. They are extremely sensitive to light so any beach front developement or light will prevent them from returning here to nest. So the beach north of Playa Tamarindo was sectioned off as protected National Park area to prevent any developement. There are teams of biologists and volunteers working here to help conserve and study the turtles. These Leatherback turtle weight about 600 to 1000 kg and measuring from 1 meter to 2 meter by 1 1/2 meter across. They lay about 60-70 eggs in the sand and the ambien temperature of the sand is responsible for their hatching in 60 days. Only about 50 % of the eggs eventually hatch and 1% of the eggs laid will eventually made it to adulthood. and return to its original nesting site. According to our guide, the scientists are still not sure where the turtles went once they return to the ocean, they are speculating Galapagos Island near Ecuador to feed and jelly fish. They return to Costa Rica and nest every 3-4 years.They can live to up to 100-200 years and they start laying eggs at the age to 9-10. We came to Playa Grande and waited from 1130 pm til 130 am until the first turtle showed up. This turtle is HUGE !!! Seeing it digging a hole on the sand is just incredible sight. Its flipper is the size of tennis raquet. After digging a hole, the turtle wiggled and start laying eggs. These eggs are roundwith soft shell so as they drop in the hole, they won´t break. Once the turtle is done, it uses its hind flipper to cover up the hole and finally using its front flippers to move the sand in a snow-angel-like fashion. The turtle also uses its buttock to compress the sand to make sure its nice and tight before it heads back into the ocean. Our guide told us to gather around behind the turtle so it doesn´t see us and using only the infared light to show us the hole with eggs. Unfortunately photography is stricted forbidden as it will confuse the turtle from nest here in the future. This is got to be the highlight of my trip !!! We were so lucky that this night 3 turtles came ashore to nest while most night no turtle came ashore. As the price of admission is non-refundable, we are given the option of returning on a different night. My dad later told me he prayed really hard so the turtles came, I think praying really makes magic happen.
      The man who took us here is the owner of a company called Tamarindo Tour and I would recommand anyone who comes down here not to do the tour with him. He dropped us off at Playa Grande without telling us that he is not coming back to pick us up and someone else is. So when we are done with the turtle tour, we waited around like a bunch of fools until the staff at the National Park took pity and drove us back to our hotel. This man also initially promise to take us back to San Jose the next day try to rip us off by charging us more than the average company. He kept changing the time he promised to pick us up from 12pm  to 1 pm and to 2 pm. We decided to take the first bus out of town at 545am instead of risking him left us behind by doing a no show the following day. The lesson of the day is to book through a reputable company probably on site where you are going instead of trusting these shady companies.
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