This August my advisor, her daughter and I traveled to Guanacaste, Costa Rica (the North Pacific coast). In ten days we visited twelve beaches, most are potential study sites for my dissertation research and others we just had to stop at along the way. I had been to Costa Rica before, ten years prior as part of my high school Spanish club, a time when turtles weren’t even on my radar. I remembered it being beautiful, but it outdid all of my memories. The greenest greens and the bluest blues (it sounds cheesy, but it’s true). The people we met there were wonderful, both the local ticos and the international residents – warm, friendly, helpful and all seemed happy to interact with us and find out what we were up to. We were thrilled at the reception by other biologists we met with and their enthusiasm towards my project. Special thanks to our funders, Texas A&M Graduate Interdisciplinary Program Summer Fellowship and Texas Sea Grant College Grants-in-Aid of Graduate Research who made this fieldwork possible!
Here’s an overview of our whirlwind adventure.
Day 1: arrive in Liberia:
Days 2-5:Turtle-trax beaches: Here we met with Lotti and Maddie, two rockin’ turtle girls who coordinate the various beach volunteer projects that turtle-trax offers. They were wonderful hostesses, giving us tours of their beaches, field stations and taking us on their nightly patrol and letting me practice my methods on some of the turtles we encountered.
We took Maddie to lunch for being such a great guide at this awesome beachside restaurant called Tanga’s. Plate of the day was delicious: freshly caught fish lightly friend in garlic, french fries and salad.
All and all a great first three days of our trips!
Here are some pictures to sum it up:
Days 4 & 5: Playa Ostional :
I couldn’t believe it, I was finally at Playa Ostional! For anyone who studies olive ridley sea turtles, Ostional is a beach you always read about since it is the second largest arribada beach in the world for these turtles. While I didn’t even see a single turtle while in Ostional, it was still amazing just acutally being on the beach. We enjoyed a beautiful sunset here and stayed at an awesome hotel. Disclaimer: I love sunsets over the pacific ocean, so you’ll see a ton of them.
Days 6 & 7: Playa Grande: At Playa Grande, an important Leatherback turtle nesting beach, we also didn’t see any turtles. However, we did get to spend two glorious days at the beach (or in the water, in my case). We had a blast, drinking fresh coconut juice, basking, bodysurfing, and just being at the beach. The beach, in general, is my favorite place to be and always makes me feel at home and Playa Grande (and all the beaches on our trip) were no exception.
Days 8 & 9: Santa Rosa National Park! This was our most anticipated part of the trip. Another famous beach for olive ridley arribadas, Nancite, is part of the Santa Rosa National Park. The main park hosts a small museum, offices, a cafeteria, and dorms for visiting researchers to stay in while at the park. We spent one night at the park and then, the next day, we got to hike to Nancite! I’ve heard stories of this hike, it involves a mountain reffered to as the f*&$%^* mountain so you can imagine. However, we lucked out and the roads were good enough that we could drive part of the way, which cuts off at least a few hours from the hike, but it still took about 2 hours to hike over. The views from the top of the f*&$%^* mountain are spectacular. You get a panoramic view of the park, including witch’s rock (a famous surf spot).
Nancite is a beautiful, secluded beach that boasts a completely natural ecosystem. The only human presence is in trash that washes up on the shore and the small field station that houses biologists. It is unique in that on the beach you can watch natural ecosystem interactions (like food webs) in action. The residents of the beach include jaguars, pumas, crocodiles (affectionately referred to as “toasty” after a Tican chip mascot), crabs, birds, turtles (of course!), etc. It truly is a magical place to be. I spent hours walking up and down the relatively small beach watching crabs get carried away by a wave and then running back up to their previous spot only to be carried away when the tide came back again. I, of course, had to go swimming and overcame my fear of “toastys” lingering in the water. Oh, right, turtles! While we weren’t there for an arribada, I did have a green turtle welcome me to Nancite, which is appropriate because they’re what I worked on in San Diego 🙂 I’m not sure any description of Nancite can really do it justice, so I’m going to give you some pictures instead. Hands down – my favorite part of the trip.
Day 10: Bahía Junquillal and back to Liberia: Junquillal was breathtaking, an amazing secluded bay with no development as far as you can see in any direction (except for the small camp grounds at Playa Junquillal). It is also part of the Santa Rosa National Park. Again, words won’t do it justice so:
Back in Liberia we took warm showers, ate a good meal and watched the last sunset of the trip from the same place where it had started ten days earlier.
It was a whirlwind – a magical, inspiring, wonderful whirlwind that reminded me why I do what I do and how lucky I am to get to do it. As I now sit at my desk in Aggieland working hard at my coursework, this trip is a reminder as to why I am working so hard here in College Station. I know, next year, I’ll get to return and be home at the beach, once again.