FX Excursions

FX Excursions offers the chance for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in destinations around the world.

Witness Sea Turtle Migration in Costa Rica

by Susan Barnes

Mar 1, 2017
March 2017

UNDER A CLEAR, DARK SKY, lit with a bright moon and what seems to be millions of twinkling stars, she pulls herself out of the ocean and onto the beach. Over the course of the next few hours, she’ll crawl up the beach until she finds her spot, dig a nest a few yards deep, lay about 100 eggs, work tirelessly to cover and camouflage the nest from waiting predators and finally turn around and crawl back into her ocean home, caressed by the cool waters that wash over her tired muscles, teary eyes and smooth shell.

Sea turtle crawling from the beach to the sea in Tortuguero National Park

Sea turtle crawling from the beach to the sea in Tortuguero National Park © JARNOGZ | DREAMSTIME.COM

This scene plays out time and time again by endangered green sea turtles on the beaches of Tortuguero (“Region of Turtles”) on the northeastern Caribbean coast of Costa Rica. The 22 miles of beaches in this region, part of the Tortuguero National Park, are considered the most important nesting beaches in the Western Hemisphere for the green sea turtles; they share the beach with leatherback, hawksbill and loggerhead turtles that lay nests here as well.

According to the Sea Turtle Conservancy, a not-for-profit organization that monitors sea turtle nesting within Tortuguero National Park, 45,748 green sea turtle nests were laid in 2016, and 794 tagged green sea turtles returned to the beaches to lay their eggs. Add to that the 89 nests laid by leatherbacks (11 tagged turtles returned) and 43 hawksbill nests (13 tagged turtles returned), and the total number of nests laid in 2016 reaches 45,880.

Sea turtle conservation is not new in Costa Rica and, in fact, has been relevant for nearly 60 years. In 1956 Dr. Archie Carr published The Windward Road: Adventures of a Naturalist on Remote Caribbean Shores, detailing sea turtles in Costa Rica and the challenges they faced in that era. According to the STC, “Through his research, teaching and writing, Dr. Carr is responsible for accumulating and distributing much of what is known about the biology and life cycle of sea turtles. He is credited by many for bringing the first international attention to the plight of marine turtles.”

In response to Dr. Carr’s book, Joshua Powers founded the STC (originally the Caribbean Conservation Corp.) in 1959; Dr. Carr served as scientific director until his death in 1987 and was known as the world’s leading authority on sea turtles. Today the STC continues Dr. Carr’s legacy by protecting sea turtles along Costa Rica’s Caribbean coastline through monitoring nesting trends, growth rates and reproductive success.

Recognizing it takes a village — literally, in this case — the STC works in tandem with Tortuguero villagers by hiring them to monitor the beaches and help protect Costa Rica’s sea turtles. Through an STC training program, villagers are issued government permits authorizing them to lead nightly turtle-watching excursions during the nesting high season (July through October) and are the only guides authorized to do so.

Research assistants and volunteers excavate a nest

Research assistants and volunteers excavate a nest © RALPH PACE

During the nesting season, an estimated 100,000 to 150,000 visitors trek through the jungles of Costa Rica annually to visit Tortuguero National Park to witness the sea turtles make their pilgrimage to lay eggs. Though the park’s beaches stretch for 22 miles, just five miles are accessible to the public for authorized nest viewing; the other 17 miles remain off limits — except for the sea turtles, of course.

When darkness falls, small groups of people quietly walk along the beach looking for signs of tracks leading out of the ocean and onto the sand. The only lights shining on the beach are the red flashlights used by the guides; the red lights don’t interfere with the turtles’ navigation. If the timing is right and the stars align for these groups, a sea turtle (or two, or 10) will be nesting, and the natural cycle continues. The luckiest visitors will not only see a sea turtle lay her nest but perhaps even watch a bale of baby sea turtles hatch and make their way to the ocean to begin their life journeys.

In addition to nighttime viewings, the organization offers eco-volunteer adventures. For one, two or three weeks between March and October, eco-volunteers 18 years and older are invited to assist the STC field team with research and monitoring, as well as enjoy free time to explore the area. Three levels of accommodations range from dorm-style living to eco-lodges, such as the all-inclusive Pachira Lodge across the river from the village of Tortuguero.

For generations to come, sea turtles will continue to make their migration back to the beaches of Tortuguero National Park, back to where they themselves hatched, and will continue to lay their nests there just as their ancestors have for generations past — under clear, dark skies, lit with a bright moon and seemingly millions of twinkling stars overhead.

Info to Go

Visitors can reach Tortuguero via a 30-minute charter flight from Juan Santamaría International Airport or a canal boat ride (90 minutes to two hours) through the jungles of Costa Rica, a terrific introduction to the area. Be on the lookout for crocodiles, water-walking lizards and myriad birds during the boat ride.

Introducing

FX Excursions

FX Excursions offers the chance for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in destinations around the world.

#globility

Insta Feed
Daily
Sep 30, 2022

Where to Go in 2023: International

It’s never too early to plan that next big trip. Look ahead to 2023 with travel inspiration from these international destinations.

United Debuts New United Club, Its Largest in the Country, at EWR

At nearly 30,000 square feet, United Airlines’ newest United ClubSM now welcomes Newark Liberty International Airport travelers with its modern design, enhanced amenities, culinary offerings, locally sourced art and furniture and Manhattan skyline views. Seek airport solace at the new location in Terminal C3, near Gate C123.

Daily
Sep 30, 2022

10th Annual South Beach Seafood Festival

Tickets are now available for the 10th annual South Beach Seafood Festival, taking place this fall, Oct. 19–22. The region’s best seafood and South Florida’s top chefs and restaurants will be the focal point.

Daily
Sep 30, 2022

New Luxury Glamping Accommodations and More from Lovango Resort

Lovango Resort + Beach Club is the first newly built resort in the U.S. Virgin Islands in more than 30 years and prepares to return for its second season. Welcoming guests back Dec. 20, the resort will sport some new accommodations and guest experiences.

Celebrity Cruises’ Spring Sale

There’s no better time to plan the vacation you’ve been missing. Step aboard with your better half, your friends or the whole family and reconnect, reunite and rejoice with 25 percent off cruise fares for all guests. We’ll also help everyone get there with 25 percent off airfare from 20 major gateways across the country or $100 savings per person on flights from all other gateways when you book your air travel using Flights by Celebrity.*

Daily
Sep 29, 2022

Michelin-Star Da Vittorio Launches Reverie Saigon in Vietnam

The world-renowned Italian fine-dining group with eight Michelin stars to its name, Da Vittorio debuts its new two-story restaurant, The Reverie Saigon. The new restaurant reshapes Vietnam’s high-end culinary industry through its blending of contemporary and sophisticated design with traditional Italian food.

eFlyer News
Sep 28, 2022

More than 20 New Hyatt Hotels Coming to Latin America, Caribbean in 2024

Hyatt recently announced plans to open more than 20 luxury and lifestyle hotels and resorts in Latin America and the Caribbean through 2024. Some of these new openings include expansion of Hyatt brands into new markets.

Los Cabos Sets Your Vacation Apart
from the Rest

Whether you prefer a villa on the beach or an ultra-luxe suite downtown, you’ll find everything you’re looking for in Los Cabos.

eFlyer News
Sep 28, 2022

Ulysses, a New Hotel by Ash, Opens in Baltimore

Hotelier Ash welcomes its fourth hotel, Ulysses, to its collection. Situated in Mount Vernon, Baltimore, the 116-room hotel features an all-day café and late-night drinking parlor. The new hotel lies within the historic, nine-story Latrobe Building, a former 1912 apartment building with an early Italian Renaissance design. The hotel earns its name, Ulysses, from a ship that brought Bavarian immigrants to Baltimore at the turn of the century. The name also pays homage to James Joyce’s legendary and revolutionary novel and to the Greek hero, Odysseus.