Tortuguero for the Eco Traveler
Welcome to a place where luxuriant rainforest tumbles onto protected beaches, and national parkland encircles the entire town. Tortuguero is a unique eco-destination, home to four species of endangered sea turtle, and respected for its wildlife conservation and responsible tourism. Schedule a visit to this Caribbean village, where your tourism dollar supports not only local communities, but also important initiatives to safeguard threatened species and their habitats.
Tortuguero’s guided boat and wildlife tours highlight the natural beauty and biodiversity within its wetlands. Canal tours depart daily within the national park, where you’ll observe blue herons, spider monkeys, egrets, basilisk lizards, caimans, iguanas and sloths. Less common inhabitants include the endangered West Indies manatee and great green macaw. Your $10 entrance fee to Tortuguero National Park benefits local conservation efforts and Costa Rica’s national park system.
Choose one of Tortuguero’s rustic ecolodges, which offer comfortable rooms and three delicious meals a day. Many hotel employees and tour guides grew up in Tortuguero, and their expertise helps bolster the local economy – an important tenet of sustainable tourism. Each lodge has developed its own list of environmental practices, from growing produce to creating animal habitats for wildlife education. Since Tortuguero is only accessible via boat or plane, all public trash is removed by barge, so local businesses reduce, reuse and recycle on a regular basis.
Tortuguero village works closely with the Sea Turtle Conservancy (STC) to protect nesting populations of leatherback, Olive Ridley, hawksbill and green sea turtles. The STC’s conservation projects have helped prevent the immediate extinction of the green sea turtle, and ongoing research and monitoring continues to educate scientists about migratory and nesting habits of the area’s marine turtles. Thanks to the efforts of the STC and the local community, your tourism dollar for turtle tours ($30), goes directly into future turtle preservation projects.
Most trips to Tortuguero include a brief tour of the STC, and you can always return for an extended visit. There are many ways to get involved, from donating a few dollars, to becoming a member. Even the most basic STC membership allows you to adopt a sea turtle, and you’ll have a chance to “meet” the organization’s most recently tagged turtles through photos and biographies. You can follow their migration marathon online, as part of the STC’s annual Tour of Turtles.
For those interested in a longer commitment, the STC sponsors a volunteer program with hands-on opportunities to help save Tortuguero’s turtle populations. There are several volunteer adventures available, and each depends on the season: volunteer with leatherbacks (March-June), green sea turtles (June-November), neotropical birds (March-June and August-November), or a combination of turtles and birds (March-June and August-November). Duties may include assisting marine biologists on their nightly beach patrols, surveying new turtle nests each morning, or aiding in bird migration counts. Volunteers must be 18 years or older, or 16 and older if accompanied by an adult. Please contact the Sea Turtle Conservancy for additional information.