During a routine early-morning walk on Playa Guiones during my recent trip to Costa Rica, my friend and I came upon a scene that was way more than we had bargained for. We had brought my friend’s dogs (two huge boxers) down from Coco, so we were on a section of the beach that was pretty much empty except for us. It had been a cloudy morning after some storms, so the air already had a moody feel, the still-ferocious waves lapping at the shore. The dogs started running after something, so we knew something was up. Then we saw the vultures — lots of them. And then… we came upon the first skeleton.
We had stumbled upon a turtle graveyard.
There were about a dozen shells, surrounded by eaten eggs picked apart by vultures.
The strip of beach we were walkking on is reasonably close to Ostional Wildlife Reserve, one of the two most famous turtle nesting sites in the world and now a huge sanctuary for sea turtle rescue. A refuge was built in the 1980s to collect and protect eggs, and volunteers from all over the world help out, often pulling overnight shifts. There had been major storms in the area, so it looked to us like these turtles just hadn’t made it all the way.
As we sadly looked out to sea, we saw something that caught our eye and had us leaping for joy. Was that a flipper? Of a live turtle? The little guy was struggling to get past the strong current and back out to sea. After about ten minutes, he started lagging big-time. The work was just too much. My friend couldn’t stand it one more second and dove out into the frigid ocean, swimming towards the turtle. She pushed the tired creature out as far as she could, past the current that was tripping him up. As she came back to shore, we cheered as we watched him finally disappear out to sea. We had achieved our own mini sea turtle rescue!
Sadly, I have no photos of our heroine, as she had to strip down to her skivvies to make her rescue.
Thousands of turtles lay their eggs in the area every year, but our one save was important to us.
Every little part helps!
For more information on Ostional and sea turtle rescue, here are two fascinating sites with loads of information. Who can resist pictures of baby turtles?