After a long, four-hour bus ride, I had the pleasure of spending my afternoon with one of the most interesting people I’ve ever met. Michael Gutierrez, one of the co-owners of Tortuga Surf Camp, drove us along the beach, sharing life lessons, Costa Rican history and turtle facts along the way.
He first drove us to the part of the beach that his company owns to show us his garden. He grows a variety of trees along the edge of the beach to prevent turtles from walking into the road and to help protect the turtle nests both from people and other animals. Next, we traveled to the beach at Playa Hermosa and met with one of the park rangers to discuss their measures for finding and protecting turtle nests.
Police often call Gutierrez when they see a turtle laying eggs, so he can come to the beach and either relocate the eggs or take them to the reserve at Playa Hermosa. For eggs taken to Playa Hermosa, they are then reburied in the sand in front of the ranger’s station, and for eggs that are discovered along the beaches of Playa Hermosa, they are relocated to the protected nursery next to the ranger’s station.
He also told us that even though turtles are not an endangered species, they are still easily killed by a variety of predators. Rich Costa Ricans believe sea turtle eggs to have healing powers and it fuels a poaching trade. Additionally, they are also hunted by iguanas, birds, fish and a variety of other animals. Humans also destroy turtle nest just by not paying attention to where they are walking, they can harm an entire nest.
Though we did not see any actual turtles today, we learned a lot and came to understand the importance of protecting an animal that many often take for granted.