Monterrico - Festival de la Tortuga 2009

Monterrico Travel Blog

 › entry 5 of 21 › view all entries
Monterrico Turtle Festival.

We heard about the Turtle festival while in Antigua and decided we wanted to head down there, particularly as Maree and Al had tried to release turtles before and for various reasons had missed out.  I just love turtles and thought it would be quite something seeing them released in to the wild and being involved in some way. 

We left San Pedro and had to travel via Antigua to Monterrico.  When we arrived it was stinking hot... instant sweat running down your back and dripping off your face.  We had no accommodation booked and had travelled with 5 others from San Pedro making a group of 9 in total, which created difficulties not only in decision making but also in finding accommodation to house us all.

One of the more expensive hostels we checked out had a pet racoon... too cute!
  We stood there umming and aahing about where to go and what our options were, so much so that one of our options were taken by people coming from the beach side of the hostel and not the road side.  One guy - Alec suggested a place that we all went to check out... here is my impression... local gringo hell... it looked bed bug ridden, a mosquito feeding ground, biting ants galor with dogs and chickens.  Needless to say I had the view of ´hell no!´ Thankfully after much debate the others agreed. 

Prior to the hell hole, two of the guys - Nikki (the German with the Irish accent) and Dom had gone to check out a placed called ´Johnny´s Place´, which apparently had a private room and seven dorm beds - although the dorm beds had been reserved and the parties had not yet shown up.

Johnny´s Place.
  We were told if they did not show by 5pm we could have the beds.  So, we headed over to Johnny´s only to discover that one of the bookings was by Julian, who had requested 4 dorm beds, but hadn´t had a confirmation.  Luckily for everyone Johnny´s ended up having availability for all.  At first glance Johnny´s Place seemed amazing - right on the beach front, with several swimming pools dotted around the place and two bar-restaurants out the front on the beach.  I´ll come back to my comment regarding 'first glance'.

We were warned about the black sand and how it heats up during the day - thus foot wear is an essential, and we were warned about mosquitoes and sandflies - so drowned all exposed skin in repellent and wore long pants, sandals with socks.

Handing out baby turtles.
.. yes you read correctly... it is a new sexy and trendy look... trust me! :)

Once we were covered up and smelling pretty revolting, we headed down to the beach to catch the evenings release of baby turtles.  We arrived to a scene of mayhem - hundreds of people were milling about, many had bought tickets to collect baby turtles for release.  People came around with buckets filled with hundreds of baby turtles, which they were exchanging for tickets.  Some how - briefly - I ended up with a baby turtle, but I felt bad for it so released it straight away.  Many kids were given baby turtles to release and a lot of the younger ones couldn´t really understand that it was not a toy.  One little girl was encouraged to put it down, only to keep picking it up and dropping it on it´s head.

Hands full of baby turtles.
.. I was relieved when her mother finally made her leave it alone.  The little brat then proceeded to cover my sexy sock-sandals in black sand... there was temptation to throttle her.

We then watched the little baby turtles scuttle across the beach to the sea´s edge, which was quite some journey - I felt that the barrier was too far back from the sea´s edge.  As the turtles made their way we watched an amazing sunset across the sea, then headed back to Johnny´s for dinner.  Afterwards we went next door which was filled with locals dancing or should I say 'dirty dancing' to regeton - the most popular music across South and Central America.  There was one particular couple who provided us with much entertainment, the girl in a red bikini - barely able to hold herself up, and her partner bumping and grinding away - making sure she kept standing.

A baby turtle that had been released.
.. well... sort of.  Maree kept saying - 'her bikini did well to stay up'.

After a couple of drinks we decided that even with a couple of drinks under our belt we were not quite ready to dance to regeton, so we headed back to Johnny´s which was playing more varied and western music.  The drinks kept flowing and we had a laugh... I even did a bit of table top dancing... lol... well they had long bench tables on the beach front and I just figured it was easier to dance on there than on the sand in my sexy sock sandals. 

We headed to bed around 1am, but the party on the beach front kept going all night long.  Not much sleep was had in our dorm, as it sounded like the party was right outside... and well... it was... plus people kept coming and going from the room and it was incredibly muggy - despite the fans.

The view from el Basco.
  Needless to say we decided to leave Johnny´s - at first glance it seemed like a really cool place to stay, however it was just too crazy with people partying to all hours and not respecting the place at all i.e. we saw people peeing in the showers, in the swimming pools, being sick, sharing beds and pretty much sleeping where they fell.

Thankfully we moved to a place down the road - Hotel el Basco, it was more of a family place - quieter and cleaner.  They also had a decent sized pool.  So after sorting out our rooms we headed straight for a swim... the water was warm but still very refreshing.  There were a lot of festivities about including a couple of low flying show planes, which were flying along the beach front.  Maree, me and Al watched them for a while occasionally stepping in to waves, which I soon decided against due to the strength of the current.

Sky show on the beach front.
  I totally understood why they said it was not really a swimming beach, because I nearly lost the shoes off  my feet and undoubtedly I would have been swept out to sea if I had attempted to swim.

That eve we headed back to the beach for the baby turtle release.  I decided to wear a dress and flip flops this time as it was just too damn hot, but I made sure to cover myself in repellent.  Well, as we walked along the beach I soon became covered in black beach sand as it stuck to the repellent... I think I gave a new image for the term 'dirty backpacker'.  Unfortunately when we got to the place for the turtle release they had sold out of tickets, so we could only ask locals if we could pose with their baby turtles before they released them.

Me holding a baby turtle.
  The one I held was geared and ready to go as it kept trying to climb off my hands.

We then headed to the main square for some more local music, we had watched a band play for an hour the night before.  Everyone ate street food except for me, as street food isn´t always veg friendly.  We were entertained by a rather drunk local who kept trying to dance and involve us.  I have to say that some of the guys were great sports, including Alan who brought out his infamous ´gibber chick´ - which can only really be described as a headless chicken on one leg... awesome entertainment for all!  I however am not a fan of dancing with drunk smelly men, so declined the offer to get up there and boogie.

The following morning we went on a tour of the mangroves with a local guide at 5.

At the river for the mangroves tour - lots of rickety little boats.
30am.  We were a little sceptical as we walked along in the early hours to river and were told to get on this rickety looking boat.  Needless to say it was amazing, it was early enough that we were the only people heading in to the mangroves and as such it was so tranquil.  The water was shallow and our guide moved us through the mangroves using a pole, pointing out wildlife and plants as we moved along.  We eventually came out in to a clearing where a small village was located.  It was stunning being in the mangroves for the sunrise, something I previously would have only dreamed of doing.

We left later that morning to head back to Antigua to get a bus to La Ceba in Honduras, so that we could get the ferry across to Utila in the Bay Islands to do our PADI course.

On the mangroves tour.
  We decided to go to Honduras despite the political troubles as it was showing up less and less in news searches, and we were hearing of other travellers who had just come back from the Bay Islands without any issues.  We also kept hearing very positive things about doing your PADI course at Alton´s on Utila, and word of mouth is usually the best way to go.

Join TravBuddy to leave comments, meet new friends and share travel tips!
Monterrico Turtle Festival.
Monterrico Turtle Festival.
One of the more expensive hostels …
One of the more expensive hostels…
Johnny´s Place.
Johnny´s Place.
Handing out baby turtles.
Handing out baby turtles.
Hands full of baby turtles.
Hands full of baby turtles.
A baby turtle that had been releas…
A baby turtle that had been relea…
The view from el Basco.
The view from el Basco.
Sky show on the beach front.
Sky show on the beach front.
Me holding a baby turtle.
Me holding a baby turtle.
At the river for the mangroves tou…
At the river for the mangroves to…
On the mangroves tour.
On the mangroves tour.
People congregating for the turtle…
People congregating for the turtl…
Swapping tickets for turtles.
Swapping tickets for turtles.
Swapping tickets for turtles.
Swapping tickets for turtles.
Swapping tickets for turtles.
Swapping tickets for turtles.
Hands full of baby turtles.
Hands full of baby turtles.
One lady let me take a pic of her …
One lady let me take a pic of her…
A baby turtle that had been releas…
A baby turtle that had been relea…
Baby turtles that had been release…
Baby turtles that had been releas…
Making their way to the sea.
Making their way to the sea.
Making their way to the sea.
Making their way to the sea.
One baby turtle at the sea´s edge.
One baby turtle at the sea´s edge.
Baby turtles on their way to sea -…
Baby turtles on their way to sea …
The sun setting over the sea.
The sun setting over the sea.
Dinner at Johnny´s Place - Jules,…
Dinner at Johnny´s Place - Jules…
Dinner at Johnny´s place - Al, Ma…
Dinner at Johnny´s place - Al, M…
Monterrico Turtle Festival.
Monterrico Turtle Festival.
Maree watching the planes on the b…
Maree watching the planes on the …
Me watching the planes on the beac…
Me watching the planes on the bea…
A dog playing in the sea.
A dog playing in the sea.
People on the beach.
People on the beach.
Sky show on the beach front.
Sky show on the beach front.
Sky show on the beach front - they…
Sky show on the beach front - the…
Sky show on the beach front - look…
Sky show on the beach front - loo…
A little cafe we stopped for lunch…
A little cafe we stopped for lunc…
A close up of the light cover - ma…
A close up of the light cover - m…
The gang at el Basco - you can see…
The gang at el Basco - you can se…
Me drinking my ice tea in a hammoc…
Me drinking my ice tea in a hammo…
My ice tea at el Basco.
My ice tea at el Basco.
Maree took a photo of all my mossi…
Maree took a photo of all my moss…
One of my bites close up - massive.
One of my bites close up - massive.
The sun setting over the sea.
The sun setting over the sea.
The sun setting over the sea.
The sun setting over the sea.
The sun setting over the sea and a…
The sun setting over the sea and …
Me looking at the sun setting over…
Me looking at the sun setting ove…
Me the dirty backpacker.
Me the 'dirty backpacker'.
At the river for the mangroves tou…
At the river for the mangroves to…
A local boat on the river.
A local boat on the river.
Starting the mangroves tour.
Starting the mangroves tour.
The mangroves
The mangroves
The mangroves.  I have to say I lo…
The mangroves. I have to say I l…
Going through the mangroves.
Going through the mangroves.
Maree, me and Jules - On the mangr…
Maree, me and Jules - On the mang…
Sunrise in the mangroves.
Sunrise in the mangroves.
Sunrise in the mangroves.
Sunrise in the mangroves.
Dawn in the mangroves.
Dawn in the mangroves.
So tranquil in the mangroves.
So tranquil in the mangroves.
A herron in the mangroves.
A herron in the mangroves.
These plants close up when you tou…
These plants close up when you to…
A lilly in the mangroves.
A lilly in the mangroves.
A lilly in the mangroves.
A lilly in the mangroves.
Our guide made a necklace out of a…
Our guide made a necklace out of …
The necklace the guide made.
The necklace the guide made.
An anteater nest.
An anteater nest.
Going through the mangroves.
Going through the mangroves.
Coming through to the clearing in …
Coming through to the clearing in…
The villiage in the clearing in th…
The villiage in the clearing in t…
A couple of herrons in the clearin…
A couple of herrons in the cleari…
Stunning reflection of the sky in …
Stunning reflection of the sky in…
Not sure what birds these are.
Not sure what birds these are.
Same unknown birds.
Same unknown birds.
Not sure what bird this little guy…
Not sure what bird this little gu…
This is a little king fisher I thi…
This is a little king fisher I th…
Leaving the mangroves.
Leaving the mangroves.
Leaving the mangroves.
Leaving the mangroves.
Another little king fisher I think.
Another little king fisher I think.
We had breakfast at Johnny´s plac…
We had breakfast at Johnny´s pla…
There was what looked like a triat…
There was what looked like a tria…
That would be the rescue boat...
That would be the rescue boat...
Nikki, Jules and Al with their fre…
Nikki, Jules and Al with their fr…
Heading back to Antigua - look at …
Heading back to Antigua - look at…
Can you see the volcano on the lef…
Can you see the volcano on the le…
A definite smokey volcano!
A definite smokey volcano!
Monterrico
photo by: SaffaAussie