Friday, 2 October 2015

Greetings from Drake Bay, Costa Rica!

It is ABSOLUTELY STUNNING here. There is life everywhere... monkeys, snakes, crocodiles, butterflies, birds, AND of course... sea turtles!

For the next couple of weeks, I will be volunteering with the Corcovado Foundation in Drake Bay. The foundation has a few programs, but I am specifically volunteering with the Sea Turtle Conservation Program.

I am so happy to be in this place. It is so clear that Drake Bay is an incredibly special and life-altering corner of the world--hidden from the hustle and bustle of non-sustainable and urbanized societies.I think it´s best to explain how incredible Drake Bay is via a typical night on patrol...


I met Alberto, my local leader for the night, at the hostel at 7:30PM; we grabbed our gear, hopped on our bikes, and made our way to beach. The bike ride takes about 15 minutes and we have to cross the local airstrip, take a boat across the crocodile lagoon, and then we’re on our way.

Even with a pretty intense series of sea turtle conservation crash courses, I was a little nervous for my first patrol. The entire night, there was an unbelievable lightning storm that lit up the entire beach every minute or so… it was beautiful, but really disorienting. We don't use white lights on the beach so as to not disturb any turtles, so as soon as I would get somewhat used to trying to walk in a straight line in the dark, the lightning would throw me off again. My poor leader must have thought I was the most uncoordinated human… I had to grab onto him more than once to keep from falling over and even still I ended up in the sand more than five or six times; it was quite comical. We can use red lights (sea turtles cannot sense red light) every now and then, which is really helpful. It was quite an adventure.

As I mentioned before, on patrol we walk up and down Drake beach looking for turtles, tracks, nests, etc.

A picture of our beach that we patrol...

In total, we walked something like 5-6k last night. At this particular site, you’re lucky if you see one turtle if any on your patrol, so I didn’t get my hopes up just in case.

After about two or three falls in the sand and maybe three or four laps on the beach, Alberto looked at his watch and said it was just about time to check on some nests. None of the leaders speak English, so the four-hour patrol doubles as a four hour Spanish lesson… I can really feel my Spanish improving; it’s amazing.

So, we headed towards the nests not knowing what to expect. As soon as we came on the scene, we turned on our red lights and there they were!

¡TORTUGUITAS! Baby turtles all squirming about trying to escape the nest! It was amazing. So much new life… it was unbelievable.

We grabbed our relocation equipment and went to work. Overjoyed, I pulled on some latex gloves and carefully started counting the baby turtles by picking up each one and putting them carefully into a bin with some ocean water at the bottom. There were a whopping eighty-three, beautifully healthy baby turtles in the nest!

We then carried the bin closer to the ocean shore and gently tipped the bucket over. Immediately the baby turtles started squirming their way to the ocean. It took them all about 15 minutes to get to the ocean and even then I had to pick up some stragglers heading back towards the nest to point them in the right direction.

For most of the process though we just sat on the sand and watched as they made their way. I’d be lying if I said the entire process didn't cause me to tear up a bit… it’s impossible to describe witnessing and being a part of such a natural process.

I am so lucky.

I have censo duty tomorrow morning from 5AM-12PM and I am so excited. For censo, we wake up at around 4:30AM in order to be on the beach at 5AM. We walk up and down the beach once or twice to check and see if the patrols missed anything, and then go and watch over the hatchery for the rest of the day. Some nests are supposed to hatch pretty soon, so maybe I’ll see some more babies!

Looking forward to tomorrow and everyday after.

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