Turtle Hatchlings to Warm Hearts in the Tropics
Sometimes, when you least expect it, Mother Nature puts on a spectacular show.
Here in the southern zone of Costa Rica, there are a fair amount of baby turtle hatchlings. While not the most popular destinations for viewing turtles in Costa Rica — that honor goes to Tortuguero or the “Region of Turtles” located on the North Caribbean Coast — the beaches of Dominical and Uvita are still excellent places to view these amazing events, especially in November and early December.
I’ve always wanted to witness sea turtles hatchlings, but have never been in the right place at the right time. There have been close calls and near misses, and a few “you should’ve been here yesterday” quips. But so far, no dice.
Well, that all changed one warm November morning.
It was a few hours after sunrise, following a splendid surfing session, when I walked back to my vehicle to rinse off and get dressed. I was parked in the middle of Dominical beach, just south of the Rio Baru. As I reached my car, feet covered in sand and face full of sunblock, there was a bit of strange movement on the sand. I stopped, squinted my eyes and spotted a pair of baby Olive Ridley sea turtles trying to make their way toward the ocean, which was about a hundred yards away on the low tide.
How cool, I thought.
When I got a little closer, I was amazed at what I saw. Between 50 and 75 baby turtles were furiously making their way out of two large holes in the sand. They were climbing over each other, attempting to navigate river rocks and wooden logs, items that were much larger than their bodies. Before I knew it I was completely surrounded by miniature turtles, none of which were more than 4 inches in length and all probably weighing only a few ounces.
What was I supposed to do?
Should I pick them up and move them? Should I stand down and let nature run its course? My mind was racing. I needed to focus on the baby turtles and make the right decision. This was my moment to shine.
I began by meticulously clearing paths through the thick sticks and rocks, picking up and moving each piece of debris like they were made of Faberge, so as to not injure any of the tiny turtles.
Then I saw a surfer exiting the water with a GoPro camera. I figured he could record this moment for all-time sake, so I waved him over. He was fired up, too, saying how awesome the experience was. After that, I flagged another friend over, and a few tourists joined us as well.
It wasn’t until a handful of locals showed up that we all realized we could just pick up the baby turtles and move them toward the ocean, rather than dig highways in the sand. But by that point, it didn’t matter. The turtles were safe, free from predators and marching into the sea. We were all stoked to be in the right place at the right time, with memories and pictures to last a lifetime!
And that’s pretty much how the story ends, with the people and turtles living happily ever after.