The Costa Rica Diaries: The Great Turtle Sighting

Let’s paint a picture first. With words. On a website. With no paint or pictures involved (actually I lie, there’s one on the header).

It’s 7 in the evening. You’re already hot from Ostional in general, you probably haven’t packed enough clothes and there’s so many insects you could repopulate the universe with just mosquitos. It’s heat like you’ve never felt before, but here you are- clad in black (and probably sweat) ready for your first shift volunteering at the turtle conservation centre.

You get assigned a group and off you trot, trying to power walk down a beach when you’ve done very few gym sessions beforehand and you’re continuing to regret it. You feel the burn in your calves and your thighs, as you also regret having legs the size of a T-Rex’s arm. You continue speeding along anyway, constantly on edge in fear of birds, animals you haven’t seen before and just things in general appearing from nowhere, especially since you’re only permitted to use dim red lights to protect the turtles.

Morale was low, some people were feeling ill, others had a really grim homestay to deal with (but that is not my story to tell) and we were dreading the next ten days.

But then we saw a turtle.

Excitement escalated faster than my sprint to the kitchen when food has been cooked. The more experienced volunteers immediately set to work handing out books to record data, tape measurements to… measure, I guess, and a stop watch along with various other gadgets- all while we stood around flustered, excited, and unsure about what to do.

Everything fell into place. We counted eggs, measured her shell, tagged her and recorded data from the climate outside to the area that we were in. It was incredible to witness. It reminded me of being in Monteverde on the night walk with the animals and the tour guide saying “It’s okay to take photos, but you must first take a photo with your eyes”. 

We saw a second turtle, a more cheeky one this time who decided after ten minutes of digging that it didn’t want to lay any eggs and dashed off down the beach away from us before we had the chance to take measurements. A chase ensued, but there was a chase to come that would make that seem like Baby Park on the DS Version (and maybe the Wii?) of Mario Kart.

Next thing we knew, a guy had legged it over to inform us that there was a leatherback turtle on the beach. However, it was right at the other end of the beach. Many kilometres away. If we didn’t move quickly we would miss it. We legged it like the guy before us.

We powerwalked, we tried to jog, and at this point I was definitely more swear than human. Half an hour later we made it, and we were just in time to see a LEATHERBACK TURTLE LAY SOME EGGS.

She was about my entire height in length and much wider than me, and it reminded me how I’ve been able to experience more things this month than most people get to see in a lifetime. She took a long time to lay, which gave me a chance to recover from the trek down the beach, and then took even longer to turn around and return to her true home: the ocean.

I feel so fortunate to have experienced this on my first day, and I’m very much ready for the next week or so, even if my limbs will disagree.

Pura Vida ❤

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