While making my bucket list all those years ago, seeing nesting turtles was always a part of it. As I did my research on CR, I realized that I could strike one more off the list. Neil and I have been reading about Olive ridleys for over 6 months now, and I was happy as a puppy that he would get to witness what we were reading all along. When we called to book the expedition, the customer service person refused to let our children go on the tour. So we cancelled plans. When we reached Playa Carrillo, Vinod got hold of a man who was more than happy to let our children go along . Vinod knew how much I wanted to do this.
That very morning while we lounged on the crescent shaped, white sand beach of Playa Carrillo, we had no idea that the same coast stands witness to such an exceptional natural phenomenon—nesting of Olive ridley turtles.
Rene, our guide, took us out to Playa Camaronal, a nesting ground for Olive ridley sea turtles at 7 in the night. CR plummets into darkness at 5:30 PM. He picked us up at the hotel and drove through winding tar roads, then over some gravel roads, and then we drove where there were no roads. It took us an hour and half to get to the beach. Once we were there, he gave us instructions on the do’s and the dont’s (flash photography and talking) and we were off in the thick of the night to find the turtles. The kids were so afraid of the darkness and the sound of the roaring ocean that they refused to get down. So we carried them and walked. Led by Rene’s voice and the light of the moon, we walked up and down a 3 km. beach to find these puzzling reptiles.
Every once in a while he would flash an l.e.d light to show us giant pieces of drift wood to avoid. There was so much drift wood washed over from the nearby forest that it was hard not to trip on them. There was chatter in the distance and we walked over to see about 8 people huddled together digging in the sand. They were digging through a hole to collect the eggs that a turtle had just laid. The eggs were the size of ping pong balls leathery, slimy, soft, and white. They counted a 104 of them. The turtle had left the “building.”
Rene made us sit on a giant tree stump next to the waves and went out to look for more turtles that might be making their way toward the shore. We sat there in absolute darkness and watched the frothy waves crash just steps away from us. After what seemed like 30 mins. we could see a silhouette rushing towards us. We knew it was time to walk towards what would be one a story moment; the kind that will get passed on for generations. About a mile ahead, we saw tracks left by the turtle as she hauled her huge body over to what he said was her birth place. She has returned 20 years later to the very same place to lay her eggs. We saw her heave sand away with her back flippers to make a hole to drop her eggs. Slowly but steadily she dug a hole about a feet deep. We stood silently and watched till she began dropping her eggs. Her eyes watered right through and she went into what Rene called a trance. He told us that this was the perfect time to ask questions since she pretty much didn’t care what else was happening around her. She was big. At 20 years old, she was a young mother. She dropped her eggs, roughly about 100 of them. Then she packed them down with her flippers just the way a gardener would pack a pot of soil. She used her front flippers to camouflage her nest and tracks, and made her way back to the ocean. The entire process took about 45 min. She knew we were watching her, but this did not dither her determination. She had to lay her eggs. This was meant to be. A destiny of sorts. I am groggy, sleepy and tired, but this one post I definitely had to jot down. Tonight is a very special night.
P.S. No photographs for this one since photography wasn’t allowed!