The turtle nesting is an unforgettable experience… and in Costa Rica, you and your family will be able to enjoy this moment if you travel in the correct season. This map of Costa Rica points out the turtle nesting sites and the season, depending on the species.
Costa Rica is considered as a paradise for turtle nesting. If you want to be part of this amazing experience given by mother nature, then you should continue reading in order to know a little bit more about when and where you can see incredible creatures nesting or hatching.
Without doubt, Costa Rica is one of the most beautiful countries in the world and the privileged position it has makes it a truly magical place to travel. While traveling to Costa Rica you can see and enjoy different miracles of nature; in this case, we are going to talk about one of our preferred: the turtle nesting.
Each year the Costa Rica beaches are chosen as arrival point for thousands of sea turtles, which travel thousands of miles in order to lay their eggs in the same place they were born. Some of the species of turtles that visit the beaches in Costa Rica are the Hawksbill, the Green Turtle, the Leatherback, the Olive Ridley, the Hawksbill, and the Loggerhead Turtle.
The Costa Rican communities that live in the coasts expect and are prepared for this event every year. It is very important to say that they do not seek to hunt or harm them in any way; conversely, the aim is to protect them from those who want to harm them and steal their eggs. Each region has its severe measures to prevent those crimes.
The people living in the Caribbean region of Tortuguero and in the town of Ostional (a beach area located in the Pacific region of Costa Rica which is the place with the highest number of turtles’ arrivals in the country) organize vigils of protection, with the support of biologists and the government. It is important to mention that Tortuguero is the region with the second highest number of “arribadas”. Due to this, the region is very focused in their preservation and the maintenance of its habitat.
In Costa Rica the protection and conservation of the environment are paramount. For this reason, there are legal instruments to prevent the abuse of both flora and fauna. In the case of the turtles’ nesting in Costa Rica there is a specific law related to the protection, conservation and recovery of the sea turtles. This law we are talking about is composed of nine articles that seek to protect turtles from the harm that anyone or anything could do to them in any way, including eggs.
There are other laws in Costa Rica that support and oversee the care of the sea turtles, both residents and those who visit the country’s shore. In addition to the current protected areas there are different organizations concerned with the welfare of the turtles that come to nest on Costa Rica beaches.
One of this organizations is the ADIO (for its acronym in Spanish), the Development Association of Ostional. This Association has developed a program of legal and rational use of eggs in the early hours of the Ridley turtle arrivals.
The program developed has the approval, supervision, and support of the Ministry of Environment and Energy (the MINAE, for its acronym in Spanish). It is an important measure because Ostional is world’s second-largest nesting ground for the Olive Ridley sea turtle. The mass arrival of turtles is called “arribadas.” Depending on the season (mainly from July to December), innumerable olive-colored turtles arrive on the beach.
Other of the protected areas where you could be able to enjoy this natural and majestic spectacle are the Leatherback Marine National Park and the Tamarindo Wildlife Refuge. Both places are located on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica, and the possibility to see the process is higher during the months of October to March.
Other coastal regions of Costa Rica where there are also some protected areas featuring this sweet and wonderful miracle are the Marino Las Baulas National Park in the northern Pacific side, during the months of August and October; and the Corcovado National Park, in the southern area of the country, during the months of August and September.
Another remarkable project held by a local community is the Leatherback Conservation Project in the Pacific coast, specifically located in Junquillal Beach in the province of Guanacaste. The ultimate goal of this conservational project is the fact that the community value more the turtles when they are alive than dead, as they have seen the benefits derived from their own conservation efforts. This project is pioneer in working to mitigate the climate change impacts in the sea turtles, helping them to adapt to these changes, adapting their nesting sites and the local population.
Besides, the turtles visit Tortuguero National Park (as mentioned before) and the Colorado Wildlife Refuge during the months of December to April. In the southern Caribbean side of the country they visit the beautiful Cahuita National Park from December to April as well, and the Gandoca-Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge during the months of March to May.
Knowing this… would you like to enjoy this magical experience during your Costa Rica holidays?
First of all, you need to know that a turtle nesting observation tour can be included in almost all your Costa Rica vacation packages. The thing is that each one of the packages has obviously its specific features such as the seasons to visit the places, for example. But don’t worry, we can arrange everything perfectly!
And… what to expect in a turtle nesting tour? During the nesting tours you can see the females arriving at the beach to start the spawn process – this occurs approximately two to three weeks after mating, when eggs are formed-. This process is known as the “arribada”.
After leaving the water, the female crawls through the sand and look for a place to dig a hole and deposit there. The chosen place must be one with no vegetation and distanced from the shore, in order to protect the eggs from the high tide the sea drag.
Next, the turtles dig a hole the size of their body with the help of their hind flippers; then, the mothers take slowly the sand to make a deep and elongated-shape hole, and that is where the eggs are dropped. In most species, the females come to spawn at night as they think it is safer due to the darkness. It is believed that years after, some of them -the majority- return to the beach where they were born in order to lay their own eggs.
Having started the construction of its nest, the female enters into a kind of trance that extends to when they finish the eggs laying process. This trance takes about 15 minutes in total. During this time, the mothers don’t hear or see, so they are very vulnerable.
Some biologists and scientists take advantage of this state to take action and collect eggs that are then incubated for its preservation and study. The turtle eggs have a diameter of 4 cm to 7 cm and are made from a virtually unbreakable shell that protects breeding.
On average, there are between 50 and 150 eggs deposited in each nest, but this varies depending on the species. Even a single female can lay eggs 1000 eggs in one season, making 3-8 nests. Sea turtles can reach nest every 2 to 4 years. Finally, the female covers the eggs with sand and with their hinds compresses to camouflage the nest, seeking to confuse the possible predators. Sadly, sometimes this is not very effective and different species of animals end up eating the eggs.
As an interesting fact about turtles, you may know that the temperature of the nest will determine the sex of the baby turtles: so, if it is high all the eggs will born being females; and on the contrary, if it is low, they will be males.
After approximately 40 to 70 days of incubation, the little turtles move about 5 cm from the sand to the top of the nest with their little flippers. They come to the surface when the temperature has dropped, usually at night, as a way to evade predators and the hot burning sun. The baby turtles wait for all of their relatives join the group to go to sea for the first time.
When taking one of these tours it is important to consider that if the female feels uncomfortable due to bright lights, noises, or different objects in the sand that obstruct their way, they will return back to the ocean without laying their eggs. If she feels threatened or uncomfortable she won’t risk her nest and babies and she will come another day to complete the process.
That is why it is extremely important to follow the instructions of your naturalist guide in terms of the ideal clothing to wear (dark clothes are excellent), the ideal shoes to walk, the kind of “lamps” and lights you are allowed to carry (they will provide red lights you can turn on when they indicate in order to not disturb them), the volume of your voice and noise, and the distance you need to keep from the turtle when watching her.
Definitely this is a spectacle to enjoy in this small piece of land during your family vacation in Costa Rica. We have here some of the best places to enjoy nature in different unbelievable ways and you should be part of this if you want to come back home with life time memories.
There are a lot of options to stay near the places where you can take turtle nesting tours. The Costa Rica hotels are very varied and you will surely find one that fits into what you are looking for your vacation, budget and preferences. You don’t have to worry about it, from small luxury hotels to big chain all-inclusive resorts, we will look for the best place for you to stay in Costa Rica.
Contact us if you don’t want to miss this unique opportunity of being very close to a nature’s miracle!
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