Day 4: Tortuguero Conservation Tour
At 6:00 a.m., Elvin picked us up for our grand Tortuguero fishing excursion. It was raining, but the cool raindrops were a welcome respite from the Caribbean humidity. I put on a heavy-duty poncho and hopped into the boat.
We maneuvered out to the river mouth and, to my chagrin, found choppy seas and below-optimal boating conditions. Compared to the Pacific Ocean, the Caribbean doesn't kick up huge waves, but for this area, the sea was unsafe for our small boat. Elvin motored around for awhile, trying to find a break in the waves, but finally decided that today was not an ocean day.
We cast a few lines in the river mouth and trolled for thirty minutes, hoping for some luck. Jack, snook and snapper are common in the river canals, while tarpon are the ocean's big catch. Unfortunately, no fish were in the mood to cooperate, so we rescheduled our fishing trip for Saturday morning. I was heartened by the thought of spending our last morning in Tortuguero, trolling for fish.
Back at Pachira, the cool Caribbean showers continued. I spent the morning on my porch, feet dangling in the rain, reading a novel. For me, there is nothing more relaxing than listening to the forest song of chirping frogs and howling monkeys along with the pitter-patter of rain on the rooftop.
After lunch, I took a covered boat to Tortuguero village for the Caribbean Conservation Corporation (CCC) tour. Tortuguero village was founded in the 1930's, more than forty years before the creation of the area's national park. Back then, the town was a tiny hamlet, with just a handful of families; today, Tortuguero is home to about 800 residents and nearby San Francisco houses 700 more.
There are only 90,000 green sea turtles left in the world, but at one point, people believed that there was an unlimited supply. It was common practice to eat the turtles and their eggs.
However, when Dr. Archie Carr (the founder of the CCC) came to Tortuguero, he knew that sea turtles were endangered. Populations had already declined in other areas, and Carr was on a mission to prevent the same from happening in Tortuguero. He educated the residents of Tortuguero on the four different species -- leatherback, loggerhead, hawksbill, and green sea turtle -- and encouraged the townspeople to protect their natural resources.
Because of Carr's efforts, Tortuguero was named a national park in 1975 and its lands protected. Tortuguero's beachfront is now the world's second-most important nesting site for the green sea turtle. There are many theories as to why the turtles always come back, but the most accepted is that they have highly developed memories that imprint every detail of their home beach. Whatever the reason, more than 20,000 green sea turtles return to Tortuguero each year to nest from July through October.