Day 130 – Tortuga Adventure

As we have a couple of days off before the next team comes, Spencer wanted to take his family on a little excursion, so we decided to tag along. The destination was the Tortuga (turtle) Beach to see the Giant Sea Turtles lay their eggs…

After about 90 minutes in the van, we pulled into a hotel parking lot and Spencer / Molly went inside to work out the details while Bonnie and I stayed in the car with the four kids.  While sitting there, we noticed that the pool was the largest pool any of us had ever seen and there was a giant water slide too!  Needless to say, the kids were excited and I was also happy about the trip so far.  Then Spencer and Molly return and we start driving again..?  As we pull out of the parking lot, Spencer informs us that we are still three hours away from the turtles and we’ll need to find a hotel that is closer.  %&#*@!

So we drive for about 30 minutes through the coastal villages of Costa Rica, go the wrong way for about 5 miles, and then finally get on the right road to the turtles.  Unfortunately, it is a crappy dirt road with giant pot holes.  And we’re on it for an hour!  We’re now traveling through the banana plantations of Costa Rica with no civilization in sight.  Did I mention it was raining and the dirt road had turned to mud?  We occasionally pull over to ask one of the locals riding their bikes if we are on the right road to see “las tortugas”.  Each of them assures us we are.

After an hour of the dirt road, we pull up to an open air restaurant / bar in the middle of nowhere.  We park the van, and Miguel the “tour guide” with no front teeth and no shoes (raining, remember) takes charge…  The boat ride to see the turtles is $60.  Are you going to need a hotel?  $9 / person.  Will you need a guide for the turtles?  $15 / person.  Ready?  Let’s go.

Seeing as how we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into and Miguel did, we kind of just followed him to the boat.
“How long is the boat ride?”  I asked.
“Maximum, one hour.”  responds the captain.
Though the rain has let up, we are in the middle of no where, surrounded by banana plantations, boarding a boat for an hour long ride through what I always imagined the amazon jungle would look like.

And so, we ride.  The jungle was absolutely beautiful.  It was kind of like Jurassic Park in that the vegetation was gigantic!!  Huge, lush, green plants everywhere.  The water of the river was very muddy and there were crocodiles throughout.  After an hour, we pull into what appears to be a small island village…  Imagine Key West 100 years ago.  No cars, no scooters, sand paths, and small little motels everywhere.  The entire native population of the island was less than 1000.  Thus, Miguel showed us to our hotel, and we headed to the beach so the kids could play.

After dinner, and once nightfall hit, it was time to go find the turtles!  Our turtle guide took us on another boat ride about three miles up the river to Sector 1 of Tortugero National Park.  There it was only about 10 minutes until we were lead to our first sighting!  We were able to walk right up to a 300 lbs, 50-year-old female turtle laying 100 eggs and then burying them before returning to the ocean!  As the turtles are very sensitive to light, absolutely no photography is allowed (and the park rangers are Nazi’s about it.)  Even so, the sighting was awesome!  After that, we saw a couple more sightings (all within about 30 minutes).

The next morning, Bonnie and I went for a walk on the beach and saw about 30 tracks to different nests in a span of about 1/4 mile!  Apparently, there are over 2000 turtles that hit this beach (14-miles long) on a regular night during nesting season!  Absolutely wild.  To think that people come from all over the world to see this is neat.  There were a lot of European tourists there while we were there.  And to think, all in, this excursion only cost us about $50 / person (boat rides, hotel, & guides)!