After an adventurous day horseback riding, hiking and rappelling down a 100 foot waterfall in the Costa Rican jungle, I was looking forward to nothing more than lounging around Blue Osa Yoga Retreat’s Pool with a fruity cocktail. That thought lasted a mere ten minutes, until someone mentioned baby turtles.
Who needs cocktails and a pool when there’s baby turtles?
Osa Conservation was willing to take a few of us yogis to their hatchery on the Osa Peninsula to help them release baby turtles into the ocean. I immediately took off my bikini and put on my water shoes. This girl isn’t missing this unexpected bucket list activity for nothing.
The driver picked up about a dozen of us and drove us a half hour on the gravel roads of Puerto Jimenez to the Osa Conservation center. Manuel greeted us and immediately gave us plastic bags for our cameras, “it’s gonna rain” he said.
I can tackle a little bit of rain to assist in saving the lives of baby turtles.
We started a half hour, 1.2 kilometer hike through the rainforest toward the hatchery that was located along the beach. The center moves turtle eggs from where they have been laid in the sand to a small conservation location in order to protect them from human and environmental predators.
All species of sea turtles are considered endangered.
But, today we would be helping the Olive Ridley species to beat the statistics.
The nests were placed on a grid pattern that indicated the age of the babies, so they knew when they should hatch and be released into the ocean.
We were each give plastic gloves in order to not get the oils from our fingers onto the babies. Then we removed the turtles from their cozy nest and placed them into a blue plastic tub.
There were 26 tiny Olive Ridley’s in total, half of a nest.
We then carefully carried the bin of babies back to the spot where the mom had laid the eggs, which was indicated by a stake in the sand.
Each one of us volunteers carefully lifted the turtles out of the tub one by one and placed them on the sand about ten feet from the waters edge. For a moment they were in shock as they accessed this new environment they were place in.
Then they started to walk towards the ocean’s edge, some getting sidetracked along the way.
At times the waves washed along our feet and we were instructed to stand completely still as not to accidentally step on a baby. When the couple inch long animals got near the oceans edge, a wave swept them up and pulled them under. It seemed impossible that these tiny creatures could actually survive the depths of the oceans at such a young age.
In fact, an estimated 1 out of every 1,000 do.
Once all the turtles had found their way tho their forever home we collected our things, headed back to the hatchery and wished our babies the best.
You too can visit the Osa Conservation, read about their sea turtle volunteer opportunities here.
. . . Check it Off Your Bucket List . . .
Costa Rica is a Central American country bordered by Panama and Nicaragua, plus the coasts of the Caribbean and Pacific. The Osa Peninsula is the rugged southwestern headland that has the Pacific Ocean to the west and Golfo Dulce to the east. It is a primitive haven of about five thousand where the rain forests are pristine, many of the streets are unnamed and white-faced capuchins swing in the trees.
The Osa Peninsula can be reached by plane via Costa Rica’s capital city of San José, The daily flights to Puerto Jimenez airport takes roughly 45 minutes. My flight was with Nature Air (www.natureair.com) who is known as the world’s first carbon neutral airline, reducing their carbon footprint to zero. Alternatively, you can fly with Sansa Air (www.flysansa.com). It is also possible to drive from San Jose, by renting a car with Solid Car Rental (www.solidcarrental.com), the trip would take about 6-8 hours. Taking a bus can be tricky if you speak absolutely no Spanish and are not an experienced traveler, but it can be done. Transportes Blanco Lobo offers a daily bus service from San Jose to Puerto Jimenez, the main town in the Osa Peninsula. The cost is currently $13 and departs from the intersection of Calle 12 and Avenidas 7/9 Blanco Lobo Station at 8:00am and 12:00pm (tel. 2257-4121).
How to Visit:
Spanish is the official language, though English is widely understood.
Costa Rican colón, US dollars are widely accepted.
Plug Type A/B, 120v. Most outlets are the same as the two-prong American-style, though some will not include a spot for the third prong. So your 3-prong devices may need an adapter, though you shouldn’t need a converter.
When to Go:
The Osa Peninsula consistently sees average daytime temperatures between the high 70s to low 80s throughout the year, though there are two seasons; dry and wet. The ideal time to visit is during the dry season (mid-November to late April) when the rainfall is very limited. Though this time is also the peak tourist season, the Osa Peninsula doesn’t draw the same crowds as the mainland, so you will still be able to enjoy lounging on the nearly empty beaches and hiking barren rain forests. Wet season is from May to mid-November, and during the peak months (September and October) the rainfall may prevent you from traveling to the more remote parts of the area, especially when the potholed dirt roads become challenging even for the most rugged sports utility vehicle. If you are looking for a bit of a bargain, traveling off-season in early May or November may be your best bet. The rains will have just started or ended during these months and retreats may offer discounted rates.
The Osa Peninsula is a remote location and has very limited transportation choices while there. Some hotels will provide shuttle service from the Puerto Jimenez airstrip to the lodging and excursion operators will offer pick-up/drop-off services (fees may apply). Between spending time at the retreat and the extra tours your time should be pretty well filled up. But, if you have an interest in exploring on your own it will require either renting a car, hiring a driver or catching a ride in one of the few taxis.
Where to Stay:
If you’re visiting the Osa Peninsula on a very special ocassion spend the night in Drakes Bay stay at the luxury eco-resort Copa de Arbol Beach and Rainforest Resort set amongst the tropical rainforest (from $633). For something a little more reasonably priced and still very nice try Iguana Lodge (from $92). If you need a night in San Jose before catching your early flight home, try Adventure Inn (from $94) who includes an all-you-can-eat breakfast and a free shuttle to the SJO International airport. If you want to do a little exploring in the city, enjoy a night at the historic Grano del Oro (from $167) or Aranjuez Hotel (from $46), just a short walk from the city center.
Where to Eat:
Head to the coastal town of Puerto Jimenez and indulge in the ceviche at the oceanfront Marisqueria Corcovado (www.marisqueriacorcovado.com). Or opt for a taste of Italy with a thin-crust, wood-fired pie at PizzaMail.it (piazza central; 506 2735 5483). For a special treat head north to Drake’s Bay for a meal of fish tacos and tuna at Gringo Curt’s Seafood (Agujitas de Drake;506 6198 5899). If you spend extra days in San Jose try Ram Luna (www.restauranteramluna.com) for Tierra Tica (Typical Night) where every Wednesday and Thursday evening you can not only eat traditional casado, but also listen to marimba music and see authentic Costa Rican folk dancing.
- Spend a few hours meeting the inhabitants at the Osa Wildlife Sanctuary (osawildlife.org), a center focused on rehabilitation. There will be opportunities for have contact with the animals, whether it be feeding a sloth playing with a monkey or petting a porcupine.
- Take a tour through a traditional cacao plantation at Finca Kobo (fincakobo.com; $32). See the different species and taste the fresh fruit from a chocolate tree.
- Hike amongst the monkeys and toucans at Corcovado National Park (corcovadoguide.com). With over 100,000 acres of tropical rain forest there are many picturesque trails to choose from.
- Take a guided kayaking tour through the Mangroves with Aventuras Tropicales (aventurastropicales.com; $45). The paddle will take you through the Preciosa Platanares Wildlife Refuge to learn about the ecosystem through your experiences with nature.
- Americans are not required to get a visa to enter Costa Rica, though they do need one upon exit. It can be purchased at the airport and the cost is $26 per traveler.
- If you only learn a few Spanish words before you go, make sure that two of them are “pura vida”, as it is worked into almost every paragraph, if not sentence. This literally translates to “pure life”, but it goes beyond this definition. It is really a way of life in the Costa Rican culture, encompassing a mindset of not sweating the small stuff, letting go of what you cannot control and understanding there are many people in worse positions than yourself.
- The Osa Peninsula is a rural area, so don’t expect to be able to get your morning triple shot latte at Starbucks — this is part of the charm.
- If you rent a car, be cautious while driving because the dirt roads can be filled with potholes and there are virtually no street signs.
- If you forget anything, make sure it is not bug repellant! The tropical, humid climate attracts many little pesky bugs that would love to eat you for dinner.
- Costa Rica is another country where the strength of the sun can be deceiving, so bring lots of sunscreen.