This is my Journal. After having worked in Sénégal for 8 months, then 1.5 years in the Democratic Republic of Congo; I have now returned to Washington D.C.

September 27, 2014

Watching Turtles Nest

The village of Tortugero is renowned for its 22 km of beach where turtles from Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama come to give birth every year. The season for birthing is nearly over, but we took a tour and managed to see a few of them "doing their thing."

The village has become really good at ensuring that humans don't disrupt the process too much.  Groups of 8 to 10 people follow a guide to the beach, and a spotter will show them various turtles at different stages:
  • Walking from the sea to the beach (we are not allowed during this process as humans can easily spook out turtles who will rush back to the sea without laying their eggs)
  • Digging a deep hole in the sand (same restriction as above)
  • When the turtle is ready to lay, she will go into a sort of trance and concentrate on nothing else but pushing her eggs out (that's where we can start observing the process.)  A turtle can lay up to 150 eggs, depending on her age. Our guide Gina, mentioned that at times, she'd observe a turtle that would only lay 2 eggs: "plop plop it goes -- and it's a bit disappointing to witness" she said
  • Then the turtle will cover the hole with her back flippers, dipping her tail in the nest to check for completeness.  When that's done, she will use her powerful front flippers to throw sand over her head and to land behind her, forming a soft mound of sand.  This is to camouflage the nest, and misdirect predators (humans, dogs, jaguars, birds) away from the real source of eggs
  • Exhausted, the turtle will then go back to sea
She will do this 7 to 8 times in the season, laying upwards of 1,200 eggs -- which is actually an evolutionary mechanism to insure that at least a few baby turtles make it to adulthood.  In fact, only1% of eggs will survive to be full grown adults.

Here's a great video about the whole arduous process of making baby turtles, from Brad Nahill:





Turtle watching starts at around 8:00 pm and can go until midnight depending on the recommendations of the guides and turtle spotters




We weren't allowed to use cameras (even the flashlights emitted a soft red light to be less invasive to turtles), but in the morning, I could see hundreds of turtle tracks from the sea to the vegetation along the beach.  Sadly, many of the nests seemed dug out, the turtles shells were either split open or surrounded by flies. 

September 26, 2014

Tortugero - Between Canals and the Sea

Tortugero is a small village, renowned for its beaches where 3 different kinds of turtle lay their eggs from the May to August period.  At this time, some of the baby turtles have hatched and are moving between the sea and their nests daily.

Tortugero is fairly isolated, so to get there, we took a bus from our last place to the Port of Moin in Limon for 1.5 hours.  Then we hopped on a small boat and rode along the canals of the National Park for 4 hours to the village.  Here are some of the scenes we saw along the way...



We got stuck in a shallow bed of the canals.  This cow made us feel a bit silly sitting in 6 inches of water.


 A rather large crocodile

 A small and less aggressive caimen


Our lil' boat
Our hotel room contained a much nicer type of crocodile


In a mix of capital and lower case letters, this nicely penned sign says "Free information about tours.  My name is Caster Hunter Thomas this name is onto the Lonely Planet I ofer canoe tour tortle walk in the trail going to Moin Cawita E.X"

The road to the National Park.  There are no cars in this town.  This is the only paved road there, and it's less than 1 mile long

A vinegar solution of carrots, cucumbers and a hot, sweet pepper from Panama.  Great for spooning over rice!

September 24, 2014

Day 5 - Jaguar Rescue Center


Here's a review of the highlight of our day (left on Trip Advisor):

5 out of 5 stars

You should first know that it is unlikely you will see Jaguars at the Rescue Center. It is owned by a Spanish couple who are Biologists, settled in the area, and began to take in sick and injured animals. One of their first was a jaguar, who has since been rehabilitated and released into nature.

Depending on the month, you might see toucans, birds of prey, owls, ocelots, anteaters, snakes (bred in captivity to repopulate dwindling species in the wild), caimans, deer, frogs and you'll get to interact with young monkeys. The tour is delivered by volunteers (ours spoke wonderful English) for 1.5 hour, who give you a history of the animal, how it came to reside in the Center and what the specific plans for reintegrating it into the wild are. Some are unable to leave the Center due to life-long disabilities. A fun time overall, and allows you to connect to the specific animals there.

I recommend renting bikes to get there from Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, but beware, there is no sign to indicate where this is, so we missed it a couple of times (ended up riding for 6 or so miles more than we had to.) If you have a phone with gps, turn it on :) It is about 4 miles from Talamanca. The GPS coordinates are listed on their website. (Note to owners: the website is difficult to read on a smartphone, most of the text on the directions page is in light lime green with a white background. We had to select the text to be able to read it!). 







Caution: 04:00 a.m. - 07:00 a.m.
Free running wild cats in reintroduction process

And for a bonus: these are the salt shakers they use everywhere here.  Don't they look just kind of like Daleks?



September 23, 2014

Day 4 - Puerto Viejo de Talamanca

Aaaaand it's another early morning start to get a bus to Puerto Viejo de Talamanca.  Evidently, the 6:15 a.m. bus ride is not a terribly popular time (as evidenced by the absence of people at the stop).

Upon our arrival to the hotel, we embark immediately on a dolphin watching tour along to Coast, and come quite close to the very tip of Costa Rica -- as a matter of fact, my phone cheeringly welcomes me to Panama!


Well this is a rather awkward bus stop.  Life is like a box o' chocolates...

Our hotel!

 Monkey Island close to Manzanillo

Trying to avoid the sun at all cost, on a two-hour dolphin spotting tour.  Sadly, the dolphins were so fleeting, our cameras didn't catch pictures of them

Our guide kindly stops to prepare Pipa (a kind of coconut from which coconut water comes -- but not the coconut milk), which we drink and eat


We must be close to Panama 'cause my phone says so

For the rest of the day, we chill in our hotel, revealing in the fact that the next day won't be another early rise.  And of course, find the only French place in town for a crepe au Nutella.


Day 3 - Cahuita

We wake again at dawn to take a 4-hour ride to the Caribbean Coast to the small beach town of Cahuita.  After a heart-stopping mistake in bus terminals, and rushing through the streets of San Jose, we get to the right place, board the bus, and experience a plush ride through a National Park, and on to the Coast.



 Cahuita at Dawn

 With a serious backpack, a lady's umbrella and a little hipster hat

With two smaller backpacks, a child's umbrella and a little hipster hat



The small National Park along the Beach.  We saw two sloths!






September 21, 2014

Day Two - Ziplining near Miramar

The next day, we got picked up bright and early (again, sigh) for a two hour ride to Adventure Park near Miramar for a day of ziplining. 

After a zigzagging road, we embark on the adventure.  It's best left to what's said on the lodge's description:

There is no fun participating in zip line and canopy tours in artificial conditions. At Adventure Park Canopy Tour you enjoy your zip line flights inside real forests, over real waterfalls. And not just a couple of waterfalls, you will cross 11 waterfalls in Costa Rica during your canopy tour. While travelling from one zip line to another, you cross the famous Costa Rican mountains and water falls that adorn the ancient rain forests.