Turtle Watching in Costa Rica
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Turtles nest at beaches all along the Caribbean and Pacific shores. Here are the major venues:
Tortuguero: Loggerheads and hawksbills come ashore year-round but especially in August. Green turtles nest here June–November.
Barra de Matina/Parismina: Leatherbacks, greens, and hawksbills come ashore at this private sanctuary north of Puerto Limón.
Gandoca-Manzanillo National Wildlife Refuge: April and May are the best months to spot leatherbacks. By July, they are gone, replaced by greens, which can be seen in large numbers through September. Hawksbills also come ashore year-round, mostly March–August.
Curú Wildlife Refuge: Three species of turtles come ashore at this private refuge, on the eastern coast of the Nicoya Peninsula.
Las Baulas Marine National Park: Playa Grande is Costa Rica’s preeminent nesting site for leatherback turtles. Leatherbacks come ashore October–April. Olive ridley and green turtles can be seen here in small numbers May–August.
Ostional National Wildlife Refuge: This 248-hectare refuge, north of Playa Nosara, protects the major nesting site of olive ridleys (locally called lora). It is one of three sites in Costa Rica where synchronized mass nestings (arribadas) of the olive ridley occur, at two- to four-week intervals (generally between the third quarter and full moon) April–Dec., with a peak in July through September. During each arribada (which may last four to eight days), up to 120,000 turtles may nest at Ostional. Solitary nesters can be seen on most nights. Leatherbacks and Pacific greens also nest here.
Playa Camaronal: Located in south-central Nicoya, this beach experienced an arribada for the first time in 2006, although ridleys nest year-round, and leatherbacks nest March and April.
Volunteer Programs to Save the Turtles
If you’re interested in helping save endangered marine turtles, consider volunteering with the following organizations:
Sea Turtle Conservation (www.conserveturtles.org)
Earth Island Institute (www.earthisland.org)
Earthwatch Institute (www.earthwatch.org)
Save the Turtles of Parismina (www.costaricaturtles.com)
© Christopher P. Baker from Moon Costa Rica, 8th Edition