- Where to Go
- The Best of Nicaragua
- Nicaragua’s Best Surfing
- Hiking Nicaragua’s Ring of Fire
- Nicaraguan Arts & Crafts
- Nicaragua’s Great Green North
- Sportfishing in Nicaragua
- Down the Río San Juan
- Nicaragua’s Celebrations & Fiestas
- Volunteering in Nicaragua
- Diving & Snorkeling in Nicaragua
- Managua’s Revolutionary Driving Tour
The Olive Ridley (or Paslama) sea turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea) is an endangered species well known for its massive synchronous nesting emergences. These seasonal occurrences, called arribadas, occur several times during each lunar cycle in the July–February nesting season and, at their peak (Aug.–Oct.), result in as many as 20,000 females nesting and laying eggs on a single beach.
Playa La Flor, located about 15 kilometers north of the Costa Rican border and 18 kilometers southeast of San Juan del Sur, is a 1.6-kilometer-long beach that has been protected as part of a wildlife preserve. Hatchings have been less successful every year. Fly larvae, beetles, coyotes, opossums, raccoons, skunks, coatimundi, feral dogs, pigs, and humans all prey on Olive Ridley sea turtles in one form or another.
High tides and beach erosion sweep away other eggs, and once they emerge from their shells, they are pounced on by crabs, frigate birds, caracara, vultures, and coyotes before they can reach the sea. Once in the water, they must still battle a host of predatory fish.
In general, females lay two clutches of eggs per season and remain near shore for approximately one month. The mean clutch size of the females differs from beach to beach but averages about 100 eggs; incubation takes 45–55 days, depending on the temperature, humidity, and organic content of the sand.
The arribadas and hatching events both occur during the night and witnessing these phenomena is an unforgettable experience. Tourism can protect the turtles, as it provides an incentive to continue protection efforts, but it can just as easily be disastrous (since the first edition of this travel guide was published, the rangers have been permitting people to “swim with the turtles,” an injurious practice). It is too easy to harass, injure, or frighten the turtles if you’re not careful.
Don’t count on park rangers to tell you what’s acceptable; use your common sense to respect this inspiring natural process and please pay close attention to the following rules during your expedition to the beaches of La Flor or Chacocente.
• Do not use your camera’s flash when taking pictures of turtles coming out of the sea, digging a nest, or going back to the ocean — the light can scare them back into the ocean without laying their eggs. The only time that you can take a picture of them is when they are laying eggs; the flash will not disturb them as much, as they enter a semitrance state.
• Keep your flashlight use as minimal as possible; use a red filter over the lens or color it with a temporary red marker. If the moon is out, use its light instead.
Do not dig out any nests that are being laid or are hatching.
• Do not eat sea turtle eggs, whether on the beach or in a restaurant. Despite their undeserved reputation as an aphrodisiac, the raw eggs may carry harmful organisms and their consumption supports a black market that incentivizes poaching.
• Do not touch, attempt to lift, turn, or ride turtles.
• Do not interfere with any research being performed on the beach (i.e., freeing hatchlings from nest boxes).
• If camping, place your tents beyond the vegetation line so as not to disturb the nesting turtles.
(Shaya Honarvar, PhD, Department of Bioscience & Biotechnology, Drexel University, contributed to this piece.)
© Randall Wood & Joshua Berman from Moon Nicaragua, 4th Edition