The months of September, October, and early November see a fascinating yearly ritual when female sea turtles swim hundreds of miles to return to the Costa Rican beaches that once saw them head out to the ocean as hatchlings.
Hotel Punta Islita in Costa Rica’s northwestern Guanacaste province celebrates this 150-million-year-old event with a travel offer that includes a guided, evening turtle-watching adventure in nearby Camaronal Wildlife Refuge.
Globally endangered sea turtles are the quiet heroes of marine and beach environments. Some species are sea-grass grazers (like manatees), helping to optimize the living habitats of key food chain populations. Egg-laying and hatching on the beach provide essential nutrients for the sand dune vegetation that helps prevent erosion.
These functions, essential to the health of coastal ecosystems, have prompted aggressive conservation and recovery efforts. Hotel Punta Islita in Costa Rica has fully supported such initiatives as led by the Camaronal Foundation. Thanks to these efforts, Leatherbacks, Kemp Ridley, Green, Hawksbill, and Black turtles have once again returned in robust numbers.
A guided nighttime adventure lets travelers observe the sea turtle’s entire egg-laying ritual, from the moment a female sea turtle is spotted reaching the shore. Graceful and acrobatic in the water, their girth transforms sea-turtles once on land. Very slow, but determined, they inch their massive weight (up to 700 pounds) up the beach to find the perfect nesting spot.
Muscular hind flippers dig the nest by gently wiping away the sand. After positioning themselves over the holes they dig, the mother sea turtles begin the egg-laying process. Usually a sea turtle deposits between 50 and 200 eggs. Perfectly round and white, the eggs glisten in the Costa Rican night like moist ping-pong balls. Once the last egg drops, the sea turtle carefully refills her nest with sand, tapping and sculpting the upper layer to disguise the site from poachers and predators. Finally, the sea turtle retraces its steps, slowly returning to the surf line and enters the sea again.
“I have seen the most rambunctious children, the most jaded teens, and the most business-minded adults be transformed, in quiet broad smiles that recognize just witnessing something primal and special,” says Alonso Bermudez, Hotel Punta Islita’s general manager. “Perhaps every spectator will eventually tweet or post about the experience, but they will have enjoyed a few hours of undisturbed connection with Mother Nature. Hopefully, their musings will also help to raise awareness to foster the protection and recovery of global sea turtle populations.”
[Editor’s Note: From personal experience, the Editor can attest that the experience of watching a giant sea-turtle laying her eggs on a Guanacaste beach, and seeing baby sea turtles hatch and make their way down to the water, is an extremely memorable adventure.]
Hotel Punta Islita’s Turtle Time package lets travelers experience this awe-inspiring event at one of Costa Rica’s most secluded beaches. Starting at $89 per person, per night, the hotel’s travel package includes lodging, daily breakfast, a guided cultural tour and a sea turtle expedition. Minimum occupancy rules apply. For more details, contact reserve(at)hotelpuntaislita(dot)com or visit www.hotelpuntaislita.com/packages/turtle-time.