About an hour and a half along the Costa Rican border, the Sixaola river ends and the Caribbean Sea begins. The beach isn’t much to look at. Strewn with driftwood and riddled with mosquitoes and chiggers, the sun warming dirt stirred water with waves crashing one over the other, inaccessible by nothing but boat. Why would anyone want to come to this beach? One simple thing. The sea turtles.
Every year, around March-August, leatherback sea turtles come to this beach to lay their eggs and return to the sea until the next year. Up until recently, the locals would steal the eggs, selling them for a dollar a piece and capturing the turtles which are worth upwards to $20 a pound.
In recent years, thanks to conservation groups, the few locals that live along the beach are able to supplement their income by being watchdogs over the turtles and nests. Because of its close proximity to Costa Rica, Ticos are able to hop across the border, poach the eggs and return to where they came from before anyone finds out. With the patrol, it’s less likely.
For a week, another Peace Corps volunteer and I lived in a small house that we shared with a conservationist named Huascar. Either from 9 pm-midnight or Midnight-3 am, we would walk 4 km down the beach and back on the lookout for leatherbacks. If we found one, we noted it’s location, size, and checked for tags on the fins, which actually came from UF in Gainesville, FL (where I once lived).
The one (poorly) pictured above measured 147 cm from the top to bottom of its shell.-(picture quality due to the inability to use a flash around them)- Even though most of our time through out the day was spent sitting around sweating, the smallest glimpse at these prehistoric beasts made it all worthwhile. it’s almost like looking back in time as the turtle beats sand aside, grunting as it awkwardly flops its massive fins and then, before you know it, she’s back in the water until the next year.