Back to the beach

Trip Start Apr 20, 2008
Trip End May 20, 2008

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Flag of Costa Rica  ,
Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Another couple days on the beach in Costa Rica before heading off to Panama. I've decided to do rappelling down a waterfall one day, plus going on a turtle watch at night. Other day still up for grabs.

Went to the world's only sloth rescue and recovery center today. Got to see some sloths up close and personal, and even pet and feed them. They're really remarkable creatures. Rappelling may be out for tomorrow--not enough interest. But turtle watching is definitely a go tonight. Getting to see thousand pound turtles lay eggs on a dark beach should really be something.

Update from home:

Didn't get to do rappelling, but did go at night to see a leatherback turtle lay her eggs on the beach. Incredible! Those of us who went piled into a rickety van around eight o'clock. We were subjected to an hour and a half of blaring reggae music while bouncing along what passes for roads in this part of Costa Rica. We finally make it to the beach, which is nearly pitch black, a necessity to allow the turtles to lay their eggs. So we park a few hundred feet away and carefully walk to the beach guided by a single pale red flashlight.

We meet our guide, who tells us the history of Costa Rica's conservation efforts with the leatherbacks, and shows us the nursery on the beach. The nursery is where volunteers put the eggs that the turtles have layed in bad spots on the beach (too much foot traffic, too likely to be found by predators, etc.). We then walk down the beach, in two columns, taking care to follow our guide's footsteps so as not to either injure ourselves or disturb a turtle egg pit. After a bit of walking, we sit on the beach and wait. The rain drizzles slowly, punctuated by occasional flashes of lighting and cracks of thunder. After a half hour or so, we get our chance.

A leatherback slides up the beach to lay her eggs about 75 feet away. From that distance she's only visible during the brief flashes of lightning illumnating the beach. We get to walk up in groups of two and see her digging and laying her eggs up close. Volunteers take measurements, see if she's tagged, and collect the eggs for the nursery. The egg laying process takes an hour or so. Then the leatherback attempts to cover and disguise the pit. When she does this, we all gather around in a semi-circle behind her, watching while she flips sand over the hole. I'm so close I can feel the sand land on my shins. When she's done, the turtle slithers her way back to the ocean. Only about 1% of her eggs will survive. We walk back to the van. Janita stubs and breaks her toe in the darkness :(. We pile back into the van, ready for another hour and a half of reggae music on the way back. We get back to the hotel past 1 in the morning.
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