My family recently visited my new home in Nosara, Costa Rica. Aside from the usual holiday antics, beach days and exploration of the jungle, we found ourselves in the right place at exactly the right time. Ever since I posted photographs of Olive Ridley turtles in March of 2013 nesting and laying eggs, my parents have waited to see the site where it all happened.
We drove North, navigating rivers and collapsed roads to reach our destination: Ostional beach.
Miles of volcanic black sand stretch in either direction, with small interludes for reef and rock. A fifteen minute walk South brought us to the spot where I saw the arribada years ago. Little bits of broken turtle egg shells dotted the beach, the vultures waiting for their next scavenge, you can tell easily where the turtles arrive every year.
We did not expect anything magical or grandiose, just a simple visit to the beach with a small hope for nesting turtles. Not in the cards. We didn’t see any of the massive Olive Ridleys coming on to shore and digging their holes. A few other local families were there, also looking out for turtles. One woman mentioned that someone pointed her in the direction and there were just surely turtles today. We looked for another ten minutes.
Just as I finished apologizing to my mom for not finding any turtles, a woman started shouting to us “Tortugitas!”.
Tiny, little, fragile baby turtles. A pair of local teenagers were digging up the nest, assisting the babies in their quest to emerge. While a few took on the task of keeping the preying vultures at bay, others shooed away stray dogs and kept watch for new predators.
Many did not make the first breath of oxygen, some were crushed by their siblings and a few died of dehydration and exposure before reaching the ocean. While it is heart breaking to know that a very small percentage of the little ones will live, it is amazing to witness these fragile creatures begin their journey.
With the low light and constant movement, it was difficult to get a solid close up shot.
Light pollution is one of the biggest threats to the newborns, they orient themselves towards the source of the greatest amount of light. Normally, the horizon produces the most light and leads the turtles on their way. However, if newborns hatch at dusk, dawn or at night, they will head towards developed shoreline areas, drawn to the light, and eventually die.
We each watched and shuffled behind a few baby turtles, ensuring a safe journey to the water, where they encountered the currents and incoming tide on their own. Here, my father looks on as one of “his” babies reaches the water.
Mother Nature is always the most interesting and unpredictable part of my life, and I doubt that will ever change.
To see the full circle of life, check out my first encounter with the turtles.