Costa Rica is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful countries in the world. It’s a magical place where you can see myriad miracles of nature, and one of them is witnessing the nesting of turtles on the pristine beaches. Our partners in Costa Rica, Travel Excellence are passionate about turtle conservation and sharing the experience of being in the presence of these incredible animals with those who visit, so we asked the director, Carlos Blanco to tell us more.
Every year the beaches of Costa Rica the gathering point for thousands of sea turtles who travel thousands of miles in order to lay their eggs here. It is an incredible spectacle to behold.
Costa Rica is very privileged to have a variety of turtles nest on its coast, with different species favoring each of its coasts. Species include Leatherback, Hawksbill, Loggerhead, Green and Olive Ridley turtles, but the number of the Hawksbill and Leatherback turtles are the greatest.
When visiting, you can witness the females arriving at the beach two to three weeks after mating, when eggs are formed. The female crawls out of the water and through the sand before choosing a place to dig a hole and lay her eggs. She’s careful to choose a place with no vegetation and far enough from the sea to avoid being washed away at high tide. In most species, females only come to lay their eggs at night and it is believed that some always return to the beach where they were born to lay their eggs.
One of the most impressive biological phenomena is the formation of massive nesting aggregations or ‘arribadas’ of Olive Ridley (Lepidochelys olivacea) sea turtles. Thousands of females congregate offshore during the nesting season and then come ashore to nest on the short 1,3 km Ostional Beach on a single night during the July to December breeding season. As many as 1 million individuals will nest during a four to eight-day period and this usually happens every two to four weeks. Smaller arribadas occur from April to June and even smaller mass nestings from January to March.
Costa Rican coastal communities expect this event every year and the turtles are fiercely guarded and protected from anyone who might want to hunt them, steal their eggs or harm them in any way. The people in the town of Tortuguero, which is located in the Caribbean region, and the town of Ostional in the Pacific region, very close to Nosara, organize vigils to protect these precious creatures and the importance of this nesting ground, with the support of biologists.
Due mostly to the great density of nests on this beach during arribadas, the percentage of eggs that produce hatchling turtles is only around 10% and this percentage is close to zero for the first nests of the arribada. Because of this, and backed by decades of intense ongoing biological research, the community is allowed to collect some of the first eggs laid during the arribada, which would not produce hatchlings anyway, for consumption in the community and selling throughout Costa Rica. It is a local delicacy. This is the only legal trade of sea turtle eggs in Costa Rica and it provides prosperity to the community of Ostional, which is then invested back into protecting the turtles by and constantly patrolling the beach and keeping it in pristine condition. It’s part of an initiative that aims to educate the community on the value of these precious creatures and encourage a community-wide conservation project.
There are also strict laws to prevent the abuse of both flora and fauna in Costa Rica, including a specific law related to the protection, conservation, and recovery of sea turtles’ numbers.
Perfectly located for you to experience this phenomenon for yourself is the spectacular Lagarta Lodge and, aside from the turtles, you’ll enjoy the tropical jungle surrounding the hotel, which is rich in wildlife, the beautiful facilities, plush rooms, the friendliest staff and spectacular sunsets from the hotel’s panorama deck or infinity pool.
To find out more about experiencing this unique Costa Rican phenomenon, call 020 8246 5300 or click here.