Costa Rica on a Shoestring - Day 2: Tortuguero

Tortuguero Travel Blog

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Banana plantations along the road
We all met at 7:30AM in the lobby for our 5 hour journey to Tortuguero.  We took a private van and then a canal boat to get there.  The van ride was super bumpy, I was sitting in the back of the van and flew out of my seat at least 2-3 times.  The scenery was beautiful with the lush green forest and white clouds hovering above it.  There were even a few mini waterfalls along the mountainside.  We hit a little bit of traffic due to the mud slide.  Along the way, we also passed several banana plantations.  We were stopped by a banana conveyor belt that was transporting bananas across the road to the other side.  It was pretty cool to see the bananas gliding across the road.
Banana conveyor belt
 

When we reached the canal channels we switched over a small 15 seat boat.  The water was pretty murky, making it difficult to spot water snakes and alligators.  It was fun riding through the canals.  The boat ride took about an hour before we reached Tortuguero.  We docked and walked over to the Princesa Hotel where we were staying.  We checked in and had some lunch at the hotel. 

After lunch, we headed into town to check out the Turtle Conservation Center.  We each paid $1 (donation) to go into the small center and learn about the turtles that mate along the beaches of Tortuguero.  The lady at the center showed us skulls of the different types of turtles that mate here.  Then she showed up a few preserved baby turtles in jars.
Our bus
  There was a jar with a deformed baby turtles with two heads.  She then showed us a preserved baby howler monkey and coral snake crammed into a jar.  After looking through all the displays, she played us a video that went over more details about the Conservation Center and the turtles.  It was a pretty interesting video and got us ready for some turtle watching tonight. 

After exploring the Turtle Center, we walked back into town.  On the way there was a coconut shack that was selling Coco Loco, which were fresh coconuts with a bit of alcohol.  The guy selling the coconuts cut them open with a machete and filled it with a bit of liquor, it was delicious. It was a nice refreshing drink to have in the hot Caribbean sun.  Then I walked around town for a little bit, exploring the souvenir shops.
Canal Boat
  It was a tiny town with tons and tons of turtle souvenirs. 

Our hotel was literally within steps of the beach.  We all relaxed on the beach before meeting for happy hour and dinner.  After dinner, we met our guide for turtle watching.  Each group consisted of one guide and 10 people.  Then each group is assigned to a different section of the beach.  We were group 1 in section 3.  They use to let groups walk along the beach in search of turtles laying eggs, but this scared the turtles away.  Now they set up pavillions away from the beach and have groups wait there until the spotters see a turtle.  You sit in the dark and wait patiently for the spotters to radio in a sighting to the guides.  The spotters wait until the female turtle starts to dig the egg chamber.
 

We were all getting pretty anxious because we weren't sure how long we would have to wait or if we would even be able to see a turtle tonight.  We waited in the dark pavilion for about 30 minutes before we received the good news.  There was a turtle laying her eggs between section 29 and 30.  I was so excited that we were lucky enough to get a chance to see a turtle lay her eggs.  We headed onto the beach and waited for the turtle to finish digging the egg chamber.  While we were waiting, our guide showed us the turtle tracks along the sand.  They looked like tracker wheel prints.  He also went over some turtle mating facts and statistics.  Apparently, only about 10% of the baby turtles actually make it to maturity.
Lovely canal
  There are so many predators on land and sea that kill them.  They finally called us over when she began to lay her eggs in a trance like state.  We were Group 1 so we were the first group in the rotation.  The egg chamber was about a meter deep and right up in the vegetation along the beach.  The huge green sea turtle managed to get herself under a small tree.  We saw the first few eggs drop down and it was absolutely amazing.  The eggs looked like slimy ping pong balls sliding out of a tube.  We rotated about 4-5 times within the egg laying process.  We saw her lay more eggs and then start to bury the eggs with her fins.  She was using her back two flippers to cover up the egg chamber.  It looked like she was mixing the sand together, it looked like a lot of hard work.
  After she finished burying the chamber, she would try to cover other sections to throw off the track.  There was one point where she was throwing the sand up really far.  If you weren't careful, you could get sand in your eyes.  We didn't have enough time to see the turtle finish and trek back to the water because we ran out of time.  The experience of watching the turtle lay her eggs was an amazing experience. 


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Banana plantations along the road
Banana plantations along the road
Banana conveyor belt
Banana conveyor belt
Our bus
Our bus
Canal Boat
Canal Boat
Lovely canal
Lovely canal
Pescado Casado
Pescado Casado
Howler monkey
Howler monkey
Coco Loco
Coco Loco
Coconut shack
Coconut shack
Tortuguero
photo by: Paulovic