Baby Sea Turtles Make a Run for the Ocean
Most tour packages end on the third day and groups head out of Tortuguero by 10am, returning to San Jose by 2pm. I am fortunate to not have to leave Tortuguero yet and I use my time to enjoy the sunrise, wander along the deserted beach and explore the CCC (Caribbean Conservation Corporation).
A short, 10 minute walk from Mawamba, south towards Town, the CCC focuses most of its energy and resources on marine turtle conservation and research. They offer a variety of biology classes and accept volunteers from March through April to assist in turtle research. At the visitor center there are educational displays adorning the walls and a short educational video on the turtle conservation. They also have the best prices on nature guidebooks and is the best way to quickly learn about Tortuguero's wildlife.
I have time to explore the grounds of Mawamba and hike along their nature trail to their still developing butterfly garden. Again, the mosquitoes are ravenous but its nice to be surrounded by forest. Noisy parrots fly above me and the songbirds are numerous. I really want to stop to identify some of the birds I hear, but the mosquitoes... Ahhhh, I've got to keep moving.
Whiptail lizards noisily scamper away into the leaf debris and several species of butterfly flicker by. The trail leads me back to the beach and I just cannot resist the sand between my toes. Must go to the beach! There are plenty of palm trees to sit under out of the heat of the sun to enjoy that soothing Caribbean Sea breeze.
Once the heat of the day has passed, I journey out to the beach (again!) with a small group and a naturalist guide from Laguna Lodge in search of hatching sea turtles. He gives an entertaining biology lesson on the nesting process of the sea turtles and we begin our search. Green Turtles hatch about 60 days after the eggs have been laid, so anytime from August to December you could find baby turtles making a run to the ocean. We were lucky and found a nest of turtles emerging about an hour before sunset.
It was overcast and therefore the sand had cooled to a acceptable temperature for the little guys to venture to the ocean. If they try to make the journey during the heat of the day, they will dry out and die before they reach the ocean.
From a small hole at the back of the giant depression the mother turtle made while nesting, the newly hatched turtles poke their heads out of the egg chamber. After exiting the egg chamber, they must crawl out of the huge depression (see photo bottom left). This can be difficult if your legs are only 1-2cm long and the sand keeps causing you slide backwards. They scamper and tumble over each other until they reach more level ground where they then begin their race to the ocean.
We observe from a distance and walk with them as their little legs flop, flop, flop towards the ocean.
I swear that when the little guys first get within sight of the ocean they start running faster. It is quite a site to see 75 baby turtles running to the ocean. I can only imagine how that first wave feels as they reach their new home.