I’ve been trying to think about how to explain my experience two weekends ago. I don’t think I have enough words to describe it, but there is no doubt that it was one of the best experiences of my life – ever!
During my first two weeks, I’d seen how beautiful and amazing Costa Rica is: rich in flora and fauna. But…have you ever been inside? When i say inside I mean entering where roads have not introduced yet; where there are still indigenous people who love their lives, based on their own farming and fishing; where you can see animals living in pure freedom; where you can listen to the sound of the tropical jungle and especially where you can breath fresh air – where massive residual contamination has not yet arrived.
At this moment I arrived, I felt like one of the luckiest people on Earth. And best of all, it was just the beginning.
Our main goal was to get to know our new project at Playa Pacuare, to learn and to participate in the activities that the volunteers usually do. And out of sheer luck, to help the biggest turtle ever: the LEATHERBACK.
Here below is a little information about the leatherback (as written by the University of Maryland).
- The majestic leatherback turtle is the largest sea turtle in the world, growing to more than 6 feetin length. It is also one of the most threatened. A major new study of migration patterns has identified high-use areas, potential danger zones, in the Pacific Ocean for this critically endangered species. This new understanding could help inform decisions about fishing practices to help reduce further deaths of this fragile species, said researchers.
- “The study shows that leatherbacks can be found throughout the Pacific Ocean and identifies high-use areas that are of particular importance to their survival, ”This information on their movements is essential for identifying hot spots and assessing where limiting fishing at particular times of year may be effective for protecting leatherbacks.
- “Leatherback turtles are long-lived animals that take a long time to reach maturity, so when they are killed in fishing gear, it has a huge impact on the population,”
- Leatherbacks are the widest-ranging marine turtle species and are known to migrate across entire ocean basins. Female leatherbacks lay their eggs on tropical nesting beaches, but then migrate to foraging areas to feed on jellyfish.
- “Their numbers are declining so rapidly it is critical that measures are taken quickly to ensure these animals don’t go extinct.”
We have to assess how important these foundations are for helping endangered species. At the camp, I was surprised to see how incredible this turtle looks like. I could really appreciate the important investment has been made to improve the comfort and operations for the volunteers and staff.
When night was falling, the moment that we were looking so forward to was nearing. We crossed our fingers as we all hoped to see a leatherback laying eggs on the beach. The possibilities were few as peak nesting time had yet to start. Some of our volunteers had been there several weeks working very hard – and yet had still not seen a single turtle.
After a long walk (10 km / 6 miles) on the beach in the pitch dark (so as not to do damage to the turtles who are sensitive to light), we were all pretty bummed out because we hadn’t had any turtle sightings. Though it was certainly still a great pleasure to go on such a peaceful walk underneath the stars.
Then all of a sudden, just as we nearly arrived back at the project location after 2 hours walking, our guide stopped us with a “sssshhhhh.” We were all wondering what had happened and… yeeees! Here we were, with a leatherback in front us.
My first impression was that it looked like a huge, black rock trying to move in the sand. It was moving forward ever so slowly and throwing up sand with these legs which looked pretty small compared to her big body. I was just standing there with an open mouth, watching what she was doing. She seemed to be zig-zagging the whole time.
After we all stayed there staring at her 20 minutes, suddenly, she changed her course. She turned around and heading back into the sea. I understand that if they don’t lay their eggs during the first attempt, it’s because they didn’t feel like they were in a safe place. Their pure instinct is beautiful!!!
Even though I didn’t get a chance to see her lay her eggs, I had a huge smile on my face, revealing my big moment of happiness. It’s an experience I’ll never forget!
Written by marketing intern Óscar Carratalá Climent