Tortuguero turtles take two

In his post below published yesterday, Jake did a great job explaining the nesting process and how tourists are controlled to minimize impacts on nesting.  I wanted to make a few additional comments about how impressive conservation efforts are in Tortuguero.  Ecotourism at its best, in so many ways.  Everywhere you looked in Tortuguero you see signs and murals about turtle conservation.  The night turtle tour was jam packed with turtle ecology and conservation information … as an eco-tour should be.  Four species nest at Tortuguero.  Leatherbacks are classified as “vulnerable”.  Green (the ones we saw) and Loggerhead are endangered.  Hawksbill are critically endangered.  So this conservation work is pretty important.  Like salmon, turtles return … somehow! … to the very beach they were born on after about 20 years.  They nest on the beach 3 to 4 times over a one month period, but may go 2 to 3 years between nesting.  As Jake mentioned in his description of our encounter with little “Squirt”, light plays a critical role.  I think this is one area the town could be more vigilant.  We heard of some stories of villagers collecting up and reclocating hundreds of baby turtles that had walked right into town following bright lights.
There were research stations affiliated with the park, and many volunteers from abroad helping with the work.  I think this caught the interest of Kaia and Jake.
Tourist infrastructure in the town was very obvious but very scaled down.  Only 1 story buildings, no pools or sprawling hotel grounds with pools.  People come here for the turtles.
I guess the most important question is whether the money and awareness (leading to political pressure for stepped up conservation efforts) coming from tourists ultimately does more good for the turtles than the impacts we had.  I felt a little badly for the mom who nested late and then slid back to sea with an audience of about 20 people.  We were behind her more or less … but I can imagine she was pretty stressed.  But if we didn’t come … would the community still be eating the turtles?  I didn’t get a chance to try to find an answer for this question yet.  Any thoughts from readers?
I’ve also added a few more photos of the journey to and from and around Tortuguero.
Cam

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this is the loading area for the "launcha" (motorboats) heading down the canal to Tortuguero from Pavona

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the canal to Tortuguero. It starts in cleared ranch land but then transitions to old growth forest once inside the National Park
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this coconut had been in ice water ... it was SOOO refreshing!
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I'm lovin' the camouflage in Costa Rica!
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It's all about the turtles in Tortuguero. and the tours. There were probably a dozen other shop fronts like this.
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Everywhere you look there are murals about the importance of protecting the turtles, including a whole school wall full of them
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because in the future we won't have only silloutettes
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every tour had a $5 surcharge that went directly towards turtle conservation efforts. You might recall from my Rara Avis blog that this is one of the TIES ecotourism principles.
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The 6PM part was enforced. But it seemed that beach access was fair game any time after 1st light of the morning.
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A US college volunteer explains all things turtle to us at their interpretation center.
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here's where Tortuguero's leatherbacks migrate to
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This diarama at the interp. center shows a cross section of a turtle nest. The little guys are actually pretty far down and have a significant task just getting to the surface before their daunting crawl to the ocean.
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these turtle tracks are EVERYWHERE along the beach. But they only come ashore at night ... and only if there are no lights on shore.
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you can see how this track leads to the bushes and the nesting hole
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sunrise ... in the midst of turtle watching
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These happy "tortugueros" are among thousands who have redefined the meaning of the word (it means turtle hunter). Original settlement here was for hunting turtles and their eggs. But in the 1950s a US biologist set out to convince these tortugueros that alive turtles were worth much more to the community as tourist attractors than as meat. Boy, did he get that right! Our family spent $80 for our guided night turtle tour and $60 for our morning canal wildlife tour. Then add hotel, food, boat ride ... Anyone reminded of Amos Bien's vision for Rara Avis?
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these eggs likely dug up by coatamundi (racoon/dog/monkey)
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sad, but these eggs play a critical role in nutrition for so many coastal animals
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here is mom in her "camouflage" stage - she is digging the sand from in front of her to cover over where the egg cavity is. The eggs are NOT at the bottom of the final depression as would otherwise seem likely.
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there are many many swanky lodges around the town, but they are all water acess like this, and these folks cannot roam the great little village or see the beach/turtles without taking a water taxi. I'll take our little beachfront cabina for $32 thank you very much!
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look very closely .... click to enlarge ... what's here?
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Isn't that awesome camouflage?! I was so fascinated by this guy

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these old growth giants ... so magnificent
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the canal on the return trip
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EVERYTHING (except for a few wealthier tourists on planes) comes in by launcha. Including horses!
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2 thoughts on “Tortuguero turtles take two”

  1. Can you send me some info on where you stayed? We will have another border hop to do in early December, and the Caribbean side of Costa Rica is next on our list (having hopped over the other 2 borders!). 🙂 Gracias y buen viaje (mañana or miercoles??). Annie.

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