Sea Turtle Night Walk

It’s so dark the people with me are just blurry shadows. We’ve been told to wear dark clothes, keep quiet and turn off cameras and phones. We walk quickly. I try not to think about the possibility of tripping over driftwood or a ridge of broken shells since I can’t see the beach beneath my feet. Huge waves are pounding into shore right beside us. The sky is jam-packed with stars.

We are on Playa Pirata in Costa Rica with our guide Ivan trying to find one of the sea turtles that comes ashore here at night to dig deep holes and lay between fifty to a hundred eggs. Twenty- five years from now if things go as nature planned some of the turtles that hatch from those eggs will return to this same beach where they were born and lay eggs themselves.

It isn’t long before Ivan whispers he’s spotted a turtle on her way back out into the ocean. Ivan turns on an infra red light that won’t disturb the mother and we watch her slow steady progress across the beach. Her flippers and tail leave a distinct pattern in the sand like that of a tractor tire.

In many places beachside resort development and tourist traffic have discouraged sea turtles from coming ashore to lay eggs. All seven species of sea turtles are on the endangered list. A local man tells us that in the 1990s hundreds of turtles came ashore on this beach to lay eggs each night. Now you are lucky to see one or two.

In Costa Rica where eco-tourism is the backbone of the economy they are trying to save turtles. Beaches where turtles have traditionally nested are open only to small groups of visitors accompanied by trained conservationists. Resorts must be built far enough from the beach so that at night their lights won’t disturb the turtles. Recycling is a priority because plastic bags discarded in the sea, kill turtles that think they are jellyfish and eat them. Fishing is regulated since getting caught in fishing nests is another danger for turtles.

After our first turtle sighting Ivan takes us to a different beach where a conservationist thinks a turtle is about to lay eggs. We sit silently around the huge hole in the sand the mother has created. She is spraying sand out of the hole with her flippers. Just when our guide whispers he thinks she’ll start laying eggs she crawls to the edge of the hole and heads back out to sea. Sometimes turtles come on the beach but don’t lay eggs. This is called a false crawl and happens because they detect danger. Even though we have been very quiet I wonder if we spectators are responsible for the mother’s false crawl. We follow her as she moves back to the ocean. It’s a slow, difficult and awkward journey.

Our mother turtle has just swum away when Ivan our guide calls out excitedly,  “Stop! Look down and watch where you are walking.” He has spotted two tiny turtles who probably hatched just days ago making their way to the sea. They flutter like baby birds along the beach leaving tiny scratches in the sand. A few times they turn the wrong way and I hold my breath hoping they will make it to the ocean. I have tears in my eyes when those infant turtles finally reach the waves and are washed out to sea. I know only ten percent of hatchlings make it to adulthood but maybe these elfin ones will be survivors.

Watching sea turtles in Costa Rica and learning about their lives and history, is a moving experience and one that makes you very aware of how fragile the world’s natural creatures really are when faced with human encroachment on their habitat.

Public domain photo by Ralf Beck

Photo of a sea turtle by Ralf Beck 

I went on the sea turtle walk with my brother-in-law Paul, my sister-in-law Shirley and my husband Dave

I went on the sea turtle walk with my brother-in-law Paul, my sister-in-law Shirley and my husband Dave. Here we wait for our guide Ivan to begin our adventure.

Other posts…..

White Tailed Deer Keep Delicate Their Counsels Wild

Animals of Australia

Nature in the City


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Costa Rica Photo Album

Morning flight of pelicans

Morning flight of pelicans near Isla del Capitan

House seen from the bus on the way to Santa Cruz

House seen from the bus on the way to Santa Cruz

Insect in our front yard

Insect in our front yard Green Village Tamarindo

Rock shaped like a bird's head and beak Playa Longasta

Rock shaped like a bird’s head and beak Playa Longosta

Surf board art

Surf board art in The Surf Shack Tamarindo

Flower in bloom Playa Grande

Flower in bloom Playa Grande

Pieta in the Iglesia de Santa Maria in Tamarindo

Pieta in the Iglesia de Santa Maria in Tamarindo

Kite flyer on beach in Tamarindo

Kite flyer on the beach in Tamarindo

Tree marking the entry to our beach area in Playa Grande

Tree marking the entry to the estuary in Playa Grande

Brothers on the shore at Playa Longosta

Brothers on the shore at Playa Longosta

Rock shaped like a turtle

Rock shaped like a turtle Playa Longosta

Super Bowl Chili Supper Green Village Tamarindo

Super Bowl chili supper Green Village Tamarindo

Sunset Playa Grande

Sunset Playa Grande

Other posts…….
A Photograph in the Mennonite
 One of my Photos is in a Book of Saints

One of My Photographs is in a Cinematography Textbook

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church santa cruz costa ricaA church we visited in Santa Cruz Costa Rica had many stained glass windows each featuring a different pair of hands.  I wish I had taken photos of them all. 

hands 2 santa cruz costa ricaAs you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself, the other for helping others.- Audrey Hepburn

hands 3 costa rica

In joined hands there is still some token of hope, in the clinched fist none- Victor Hugo in The Toilers of the Seahand stained glass 1

Hands, touching hands, reaching out, touching me, touching you. – Neal Diamond 

Other posts…….

The Beauty of Surgery- Dancing Hands

We Put Our Lives in our Hands

The Handmaid’s Tale

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A Night to Remember- Stars, Crocodiles And Flaminco Fusion

dave and shirleyFlaminco fusion music and the promise of good barbecued seafood and pork had taken us to a restaurant called Seven in Playa Grande during our first week in Costa Rica.  The music by a very talented guitarist who called himself a flaminco fusionist had been great so we decided to return last night taking Paul and Shirley our newly arrived guests. After a day spent in the wind and sun on the beach and a couple of lively competitive euchre games we were ready for a relaxing evening. dave and paul walkingBut first we had to walk the two kilometers to the beach to catch a water taxi. 

waiting for the taxiDave discovered the restaurant would pay for the water taxi to take us across the estuary that lies between Tamarindo where we are staying now and Playa Grande where the restaurant is located. We arrived early for the boat taxi and waited in the setting sun for our ride. shirley and horse manWhile we waited this very fit horseback rider came along and wanted to take us for a ride along the beach. Shirley immediately engaged him in conversation and it wasn’t long before we’d heard his life story. His father was an American linguistics professor who fell in love with his mother a prostitute from Panama. Sounded like it all had an almost fairy tale like ending.shirley costa ricaOur new acquaintance, who Shirley and I agreed later looked like one of those long-haired, bare-chested, bronzed men you see on the covers of Harlequin Romance novels, was a devotee of Charles Darwin. His father had taught him all about the pioneering evolutionist. We might have learned more but at that moment……….crocodile

Dave spotted the crocodile. Earlier in the day when Shirley and I had gone for a walk along the beach we had seen a large crocodile near the shore by the water taxi stand. Our husbands were just a little skeptical about our crocodile sighting and later Dave went to take a look and couldn’t see the crocodile. Now here he was! While we chatted with other restaurant patrons who would be joining us in the taxi we kept our eye on the croc. We’d heard crocodiles move fast and this one was pretty close to the shore. 

paul in the boatThe first part of our boat ride was uneventful but then suddenly our water taxi came to an abrupt halt. The lights of the restaurant weren’t that far away but our boat was stuck on the estuary bottom. It was low tide and no matter what Reuben our boat driver did he couldn’t move the boat. We could easily have taken off our shoes and waded to shore at that point but after the crocodile sighting there was no way any of us were putting a toe in that water. We sat there for a long time. Would we be there all night? Finally brave Reuben himself jumped into the water and pushed the boat to shore. don juanOur waiter’s name at the restaurant was Don Juan and it seemed like it might be one of his first nights on the job. Paul tried to order a martini and gave very detailed instructions for how it should be made. I felt a little sorry for Don Juan whose English skills obviously weren’t great as he tried to repeat Paul’s martini recipe.  After about ten minutes Don Juan returned with the sad news that the bar didn’t make martinis. Paul had to be happy with a beer.singer at sevenBefore the flaminco guitarist took to the stage a singer from Boston entertained us. She had been a fellow passenger in the boat taxi and she told the crowd about our exciting ride, the stalled boat, the crocodile and the brave boat driver. Then she dedicated the song The House of the Rising Sun to us, which Paul had mentioned as a favorite of his on the boat ride. She came right over to our table and invited us to sing along with her. meal at sevenOur meals arrived and were good. Shirley had ordered red wine and although there were wine glasses on the table Don Juan insisted on serving it in a ‘cup’ which he did. guitarist

Tony the guitarist put on a terrific show although his partner percussionist Roy who performed on our last visit wasn’t there. dave shirleyAfter dinner we walked back down to the water.  We had a great chat with some fellow water taxi riders about movies we’d liked this past year and then Reuben arrived and we boarded the boat. The water had risen in the last two hours so the ride was smooth. The stars were utterly amazing. Without any electric lights to interfere (including none on the boat which was a little scary but Reuben obviously had gone this route so many times he could literally find his way in the dark) the pitch black sky was absolutely covered in brilliant stars. We arrived back on shore and then started our two kilometer hike home, part of it along the beach in the dark which was another adventure and then through the town of Tamarindo. marylou shirleyIt was a memorable night. 

Other posts about Paul and Shirley………

Heidelberg Project

Mexican Night

Breakfast in Florida


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I Think I’ve Found Another Maeve Binchy

the glass lakeI loved the novels of Maeve Binchy. In such a gentle way she invited us into the lives of her interesting characters and after finishing one of her books you felt you could walk into the Irish village or town where it was set, and feel completely at home with your surroundings. You would be able to recognize and know the people you met. My favorite novel of hers was The Glass Lake but I read them all and enjoyed them.

nora websterI’ve just read two books by Colm Tóibín and I feel like I’ve found another Maeve Binchy. Maeve died in 2012 so she won’t be writing anymore books.  Tóibín is the author of the very successful book Brooklyn which has been turned into an equally successful movie.  The second book of Tóibín’s I read is Nora Webster.  Both novels have woman at their centre who live in small Irish towns and whose lives undergo a major change. Like Binchy Tóibín  draws us into the Irish communities he writes about making us interested members of them. 

Other books I’ve read so far during our time in Costa Rica are …………

burial rites hannah kentBurial Rites by Hannah Kent- My friend Meena recommended this and I liked it immensely. It is story of a woman accused of murder  in Iceland in 1829 and is based partially on a true story. It is dark and stark much like the Icelandic landscape must be and transports you back in time. It draws you closer than you intially thought you might get to a troubled woman and her sad story. 

the nightingale kristin hannahThe Nightingale by Kristin Hannah- This is on the best seller list and was an okay read, but is a bit of a formulaic Holocaust story. I liked the way the female characters developed strength and independence working for the French resistance.  

i am malala book coverI Am Malala– by Malala Yousafzai- I have been meaning to read this for a long time and was inspired to finally get to this book when I saw Malala’s interview with Stephen Colbert. The two of them did card tricks together. She was such a down to earth, fun kid during that interview. It was refreshing to see her simple delight and wholesome attitude given her world wide recognition.  I wondered if North American society could produce a young woman so dedicated, innocent and true to her values. The book perhaps spends a little too much time on the history of the Swat Valley where Malala lives and the rise of the Taliban rather than on Malala’s story itself. But the two are intertwined and I learned many things I didn’t know about the history of Pakistan and the way it has changed.

One thing I love about being on vacation is I have so much time for reading.  I wonder how many more books I’ll read before we leave Costa Rica? 

Other posts……..

My Book Flood

A Flood of Books

Sometimes You Just Need a Dose of Precious

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Daily Life in Tamarindo Costa Rica

We have developed a flexible rhythm for our time here in Tamarindo. On any given day we might………..

Farewell breakfast for my brother as he sets off to travel to other Costa Rica destinations for a couple weeks.

Farewell breakfast for my brother on Monday as he set off to travel to other Costa Rica destinations for a couple of weeks.

Have coffee and toast on our patio or go for breakfast on the beach

dave on i padRead the newspaper, catch up with online scrabble games and check out the blog that tells us what our friends Rudy and Sue are doing in Capetown South Africa on their winter hiatus there

mary lou bikeGo for a bike ride

wave watchingWatch the waves and the surfers

brown pelican tamarindoWatch the birds

dave readsRead a book

fruit for smoothiesBuy fruit for our mid-day smoothies

beach tamarindoHang out at the beach

Screen Shot 2016-02-03 at 8.36.31 AMWork on a writing project like my newspaper column, blog, free-lance articles, or middle grade novel

pedicureGo for a pedicure

Skype, text or e-mail with family and friends

rummyPlay cards

Go grocery shopping for the next day

massage on the beachHave a massage

gin and tonicEnjoy four o-clock gin and tonics

sushi restaurant tamarindoMake supper at home or go out for supper

Sit on our patio looking at the night sky studded with stars and listening to the howler monkeys

Other February posts……..

February 2012- Visiting Uncle Herb

February 2013- Driedger Reunion in Arizona

February 2014-A Serendipitous Sail

February 2015- The Grand Canyon for Free

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Matadors, Holy Crosses and Tortillas

The art work in a park in Santa Cruz, Costa Rica introduced me to some key figures in the history of the city and country. The plaques on the statues were in Spanish so I had to try and figure out what they were all about. Here is my best guess using Google translate and my brother’s Spanish speaking skills. 

statue of chorotegas man in santa cruzThis man is a representative of the Chorotegas indigenous group that lived in the northwestern part of Costa Rica prior to the Spanish conquest in 1561. They spoke the Mangue language and were corn farmers. They worshiped a pantheon of gods in specially constructed temples. The  Chorotegas fought and hunted with bows and arrows and had a semi-democratic social structure in which chiefs were elected. woman in costa rica making tortillasThis statue pays tribute to the women of Costa Rica who through their hardwork and dedication have preserved the traditions of daily life in their culture.  The woman looks like she is making corn tortillas and using a hot stone to cook them. It reminds me of the way the woman on the Hopi reservation made piki bread when we lived there.bernabela ramos sequeiraBernabela Ramos Sequeira is the daughter of one of the original settlers of the city of Santa Cruz which was established in 1760.  Santa Cruz means ‘holy cross’ and the city was named after a huge cross Bernabela placed outside her home where people of the area came to pray. Bernabela bequeathed four parcels of land to the city at her death which were used among other things for the building of the church in Santa Cruz. matador and cowboyThis statue called Cowboy and Matador recognizes the bull riding festivals held each year in Santa Cruz. Matadors in Costa Rica treat the bulls with respect and dignity and it is never considered right to deliberately kill a bull in any bull ring in Costa Rica as is the case in Mexico or Spain. Bull riding can however be very dangerous and this statue pays tribute to the courage of the bull rider and matador.

jesus bonilla chavarriaDave poses in front of a statue of  Costa Rica’s most famous musician Jesus Bonilla Chavarria. His song Liberian Moon is recognized throughout the country and is one of more than 300 pieces he composed about the history and natural beauty of Costa Rica. Chavarria was the director of the national symphony for nearly twenty years. maria leal de nogueraMaria Leal de Noguera was an educator and writer of children’s literature. She established the first kindergarten in Santa Cruz and also created literacy programs  for adults. She wrote many children’s books and articles about the legends, fairytales and customs of Costa Rica. marcial arrieta gonzalezMarcial Arrieta Gonzalez was the owner of the Santa Cecilia Hacienda where he distinguished himself as a cattleman who raised the best animals for bull riding.mayan art santa cruz costa ricaThe main building in the park had carvings that looked Aztec or Mayan.  The indigenous people of Costa Rica, the Chorotegas, migrated to Costa Rica from Mexico in 500 and there is evidence of Mayan influence in their written language and use of a calendar, while their spoken language was distinctly Aztec in origin.  

Other posts……

Mayan Human Sacrifice- Just A Hollywood Myth?

Ten Things About Tulum

Adventure in Santa Cruz

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