I was walking along the beach in Tamarindo, Costa Rica in January when I came upon baby turtles climbing on top of one another in a struggle to get out of a hole in the sand. Then they fell into line for a trek to the sea. Costa Rica is a nesting site for turtles but not this beach. This is Tamarindo, a beach for tourists and not for turtles. We had spent several days sitting almost on top of them without knowing they were nesting there.
I’m told a mother turtle rides the high tide in to shore and drags her body over the beach until she gets to the high tide line. Then she digs a nest with her flippers and deposits more than 100 white eggs that hatch 45 or so days later. It is not an easy task. The mother turtle is around six feet wide and weighs a ton.
Only a few of us were watching the turtles at first, but as news slowly trickled out along the strip others soon appeared. One was in pyjamas, another in her work uniform. Some offered advice in Spanish, others in English. Branches were placed to mark the trail and warn newcomers to tread carefully. A woman started to help the last of the turtles out of the hole but the turtles she lifted out looked stunned when placed on the sand. A boy picked one up and ran with it to the water but people said not to do that for the turtles need to do the trek to develop their lungs. Another said not to do it because the turtles need to know the way back on their own.
As each turtle finally reached the sea it paused for a moment before moving forward. And every turtle was swept back to shore by the first wave it encountered and the crowd roared its concern. But the next wave took the turtle out and it disappeared.
I’m told these turtles will return to the place of their birth in 10 to 15 years. That will be another special birthday for me. Perhaps I should make plans to return then.
© Riding the buses 2011
Revised August 2011