Costa RicaCosta Rica

Day 7: Sea Turtles Doing the Dirty

Destination: Flamingo

Today I was able to dive the legendary Catalina Islands for the second time with Aquacenter Dive Company. Our first immersion was at Roca Sucia, presumably named "Dirty Rock" because it is covered in bird droppings. Visibility was between 30 and 40 feet and in addition to the tropical species we spotted yesterday, we also observed an unbelievably large school of bigeye jack along with blunthead triggerfish, guinea fowl pufferfish, spotted porcupine fish and blennies.

However, the most amazing sighting of the day was not what we discovered underwater, but what we spotted from the boat on the way back. Motoring along, the captain suddenly changed course; he had noticed something in the water and approached it so that everyone could see. Upon closer inspection, we marveled at two Olive Ridley sea turtles mating in the ocean.

catalinas - roca sucia

This was quite a spectacular sight. These stunning creatures typically weigh around 100 pounds with shells ranging from two to two and a half feet long. No matter how close the boat inched to these lovebirds, nothing was going to stop them from their task at hand. As Olive Ridleys typically mate just offshore from where they lay their eggs, it was no surprise we discovered them close to Playa Grande's turtle haven: Las Baulas National Marine Park.

Like clockwork, Olive Ridleys return each year to lay their eggs in the same exact sands where they were born. During the summer and early fall, members of this species simultaneously migrate to the northern shores of Playa Ostional in colossal numbers of up to 300,000 (over a time span of just 8-10 days). My family and I had witnessed a few females digging nests and burying eggs in Ostional last June, and it was amazing to see the first step in the reproduction process.

After a while, we noticed that the female kept flapping her fin as if she were trying to smack the male in the face. Being incredibly mature, we spent a good five minutes laughing at this -- and the fact that a third turtle kept circling and surfacing from below, trying to get in on the action. Apparently, it is not uncommon to have up to three animals stuck together at one time.

frijoles locos surf truck

After everyone had their fill of cracking sea turtle sex jokes, we returned to shore. Along the way, the captain saw a whale breaching in the distance. We were too far away to see anything but its foamy splash, but it was interesting nonetheless. Seeing a whale this time of year was no surprise, as September is the beginning of their six-month migratory period.

After lunch, I packed up my things and took a taxi about 15 minutes to Playa Grande's Rip Jack Inn. The friendly owners, originally from San Francisco, greeted me with a cold bottle of water and a delicious Thai chicken salad from the cafe, Upstairs @ Ripjack.

A bit later, I departed for my massage at Frijoles Locos, owned by a young family by the last name of Bean. My masseuse Corynne gave me one the best massages of my life. She intuitively knew my trouble spots without even asking, and worked her hands and forearms like rolling pins over my muscles. Her scalp massage focused on pressure points I didn't even know existed, and the result was pure heaven. I felt 15 pounds lighter when I walked out the studio.

playa grande

Afterward, my body refused to cooperate with my mind -- I wanted to stay awake to explore the town some more, but my body just wanted sleep. Corryne must have released some major toxins in my muscles, because en route to the hotel (no more than a five minute walk), I was physically incapable of moving my body another inch. I had to stop for a power nap on the beach -- and then had another doze afterward in my hotel room. Around 4:00 p.m., I finally dragged myself out of bed and changed my clothes for yoga -- only to fall asleep yet again on the hammock just outside my door. I finally woke just in time to watch the sunset, enjoy some sushi at Sushiko Restaurant, and pass out like a light for the rest of the night.

Day 7: Sea Turtles Doing the Dirty in Pictures