More Wild, Magical Happenings in Tortuguero

It’s been difficult to come up with the words to describe this magical event that occurred while I was in Tortuguero a few weeks ago.  It started with my alarm going off at 4:15 a.m. for a 4:45 a.m. tour.  I’ve gone on 5:30 a.m. birdwatching tours but 4:45 is incredibly early.  The sun isn’t even awake yet!

But we all quickly downed some coffee and grabbed umbrellas.  Unlike where I live on the Pacific, it’s now the start of winter on the Caribbean side and from what I quickly learned, they have some wild weather over there!

We set off from Tortuga Lodge on the boat and crossed the channel to get to the beach side.  Walking about 100 meters east through the dark jungle and arriving at Tortuguero’s black sand beach…hoping to see one of nature’s most beautiful miracles…hatching baby turtles.

Baby turtles hatching in Tortuguero Costa Rica

The palm tree lined beach is 22 kilometers long but we would only walk a short stretch of it over the course of the next two hours.Our guide, Juan, began by checking the sand with his flashlight to find baby turtle tracks, of which he found many.  Which meant that we missed those hatchings.  As he was walking away from one of the nest sites however, his flashlight moved over a section of sand and I saw the sweetest little baby turtle crawling just inches from my feet.  It was too dark to take photos (remember, I don’t use flash – and neither should you) but I’ll never forget that moment as we watched this lone turtle make its way into the crashing waves.

We continued to walk north along the beach and saw more turtle tracks.  We also found a lot of turtle nests that looked like an animal had gotten to them (lots of broken eggs on the sand as well as paw prints that Juan told us were probably raccoons).

We came across one baby who was desperately trying to get to the water but kept flipping himself over.  It didn’t seem like he was going to make it.  And another turtle who died near its nest, which also had signs of being broken into by wildlife.

Walking further, we came across two women who had found a wet baby turtle high up on the shore.  Juan told us that he had probably gone into the ocean but then couldn’t breathe and made his way back to the beach.  We watched the little turtle and could see that he was still breathing but sitting there in the sand meant that one of the nearby hawks or vultures could potentially make him their next meal.  Juan told us however that he had a better chance of survival if we left him there and not put him back in the ocean.  There was obviously a reason why he came back to shore.  And disturbing the natural rhythms of nature is never a good thing.

Baby turtles hatching in Tortuguero, Costa Rica

We were almost to the beach exit for the Lodge when it started to torrentially pour down rain.  Everyone quickly threw their cameras into their backpacks and opened up their umbrellas. And as we continued to walk north just meters from where we needed to cross, that’s when the magic happened.  The rain was letting up a bit, the sun peeked out from the dark clouds and that’s when Juan spotted turtles running into the water.  Just writing that now brings an uncontrollable smile to my face.  We quickly (but cautiously as there were turtles everywhere) ran over to see about 50 turtles making their way into the water.  And then more magic happened as Juan noticed, just a few meters away, the sand cracking open with dozens more turtles trying to dig their way out of another nest.  He said he had never seen two nests hatch simultaneously in the same location.

A moving experience to say the least.  So totally special.  To read more on this experience and the life lessons learned, check out next Tuesday’s post on my business site: Social {media} Wellness.  Enjoy the video…

[wpvideo dY5IOri5]

One of the World’s Wild, Magical Places: Tortuguero, Costa Rica

There is something about wild places.  Maybe it’s that there aren’t too many left in the world.  Or that there’s a sense of adventure and exploration when you visit them (especially when you travel there in a 2 seater plane and you’re flying in a tropical storm).  Or maybe it’s just a magical piece of the world that is so untouched that it takes your breath away.

Tortuguero, Costa Rica

My breath was taken away.  And magic happened.  My 2 day experience in Tortuguero was unlike any other.  I’ve been to other places that seem untouched.  Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula is one of those places.  But Osa doesn’t have anything on Tortuguero.

The day before my chartered flight, I arrived in San Jose and had a prep conversation with my client/friend.

Here’s how part of the conversation went:

Her: Did you bring shoes?

Me: Of course!

Her: Something other than flipflops?

Me: Oh…no. Do I need something other than flipflops?  We’re not going hiking!

Her: No, but you’ll be taking a boat everywhere and probably have to walk through mud to get to the school.

There are no roads in Tortuguero.  None.  And no cars.  Just a small village that is literally in the middle of a National Park.  Like many other areas of the world, it has seen its share of turmoil. In the 1800’s, explorers killed the turtles that came onto shore (like Ostional on the Nicoya Peninsula, thousands of turtles visit this 22km Caribbean beach each year) for their meat and oil.  Also during this period, slaves were used in cacao plantations. In the mid-1950’s, lumber mills came in to the area.  And while it brought in jobs and more income for the local people, it also took down much of the pristine primary forest.

But things have shifted.  Since 1972, the local area has been a protected National Park (which technically people are not supposed to live there but the local residents would have no other place to go).  In 2006, the community handed out the first high school diplomas. They have an amazingly clean potable water system, a recycling center and even internet (the speed of which is debatable as is the case everywhere in Costa Rica).  That’s pretty incredible considering this small village has no cell phone reception, no pharmacy and very little in the way of what most would consider “basic needs”.

So you may ask…what was I doing there?  Well hop on over to this blog post to read about my experiences with this little Caribbean village and a small nonprofit who is bringing about big change for local people and our planet.

And you won’t want to miss next week’s post which could very well be the sweetest and cutest post of all time!

Enjoy the slideshow…

[slideshow]

Pura vida…Chrissy

Vegan Peanut Butter and Chocolate Ice Cream!

There’s a lot of things I miss here…including foods like:

  • Reese’s peanut butter cups
  • Skippy peanut butter
  • Reese’s pieces
  • Baskin Robbins Peanut Butter ‘n Chocolate ice cream (which I let go of in the late 2000’s)

See a theme developing?

Yes, well, the fact of the matter is that peanut butter and chocolate are two of the best combinations ever and they don’t exist here.  You may remember that I found one single small jar of Skippy last year (for $10) and that I quickly learned how to make my own peanut butter cups (which made my gringo neighbors drool while my Tico friends all made a strange face and asked, “Peanut butter and chocolate? Together?”).

Then just recently I came across a vegan recipe (as long as you use coconut milk, not heavy cream) for Peanut Butter and Chocolate Ice Cream!  And no ice cream maker is required!  Next to the yellow lemons, this was like the best birthday present from the universe EVER!

Raw vegan peanut butter and chocolate ice cream

Of course, it required “natural” peanut butter but all I could find at the store was Jif crunchy (no smooth option available).  While not all natural, the crunchy bits give it that little bit of texture just like the peanut butter ribbons in the ice cream version.  And really, I’m making vegan ice cream (I know John Robbins would be so proud)!  How cool is that?  So divinely and compassionately good.  Best present a girl could ask for!

Maybe someday I’ll make my own peanut butter…but then finding peanuts here is just as difficult as finding every other type of food product that I want so for now, I’ll enjoy it with my Jif crunchy and hope that someday, I’ll walk into a store here and see bulk bins of all the goodies that I so miss.  Oh what an exciting day that will be!

Click here for the recipe.  Buen provecho!

Oh, and if you were wondering what I did with those lemons, I made them into deliciously raw vegan coconut lemon balls!

raw vegan lemon coconut balls
Pura vida…Chrissy

A Wild Week of Animals

Costa Rica wetlandsAfter a very long stretch of working long days, I got a text on Tuesday morning from a wildlife guide/friend who wanted to know if I’d like to join him at El Rey Wetlands for an afternoon of birding.  While I was leaving the next day for Nosara and had to much to do, I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity.

Johan has his own guide business – Manuel Antonio Birding with Johan Chaves – and is sought after regularly by people coming down to Costa Rica who want to go birdwatching. He has seen over 500 birds in Costa Rica (there are about 850) and has a goal to reach 600 before the end of the year.   He even just spotted a bird never before seen in Costa Rica while at El Rey a few weeks ago!  I first met him when my friends from California were visiting and he took us on the Manuel Antonio National Park tour.

About 15 minutes south of Quepos, we turned off the main highway and traveled through an African Palm plantation, heading west towards the Pacific, eventually arriving at a marshland covered in rice fields.  Johan told me that he doesn’t go into the marshland – 1. because the water is often deep and 2. because there are crocodiles and caimans who like to hang out there.  Plus (3), it’s always best to stay on the trail.

El Rey is an easy short walk along an unpaved road with rice fields on both sides – we walked maybe 100 yards at most during the two hours we spent there.  And while the area is small, there is an abundance of birds to be seen.

It’s so amazing to me how easy it is for Johan to find birds.  I mean the trees are still thick with leaves from winter and yet he can spot a tiny little bird up in the canopy.  My favorites of the day were the caracara (Mexico’s National bird), anies (related to the roadrunner), storks and the jacanas.  Especially the baby jacanas.  There were a few that were juveniles but then Johan spotted the tiny little fuzzy babies. Oh, so cute!

Caracara in Costa Rica

Then…the next day I flew to Nosara and a friend and I headed north to Playa Ostional in hopes of seeing turtles.  Unfortunately, the turtles did not cooperate with my travel schedule and the arribada happened three days before but I was still hopeful that possibly a few might be coming onto shore at sunset.

There were about 10 either in the process of coming onto shore or already above the high tide mark and slowly and methodically digging their holes in the sand.  All the while the vultures hovered and watched.

Olive ridley turtle in Ostional

While I didn’t get to see the arribada with thousands of turtles coming to shore to lay their eggs, it is always a nice sight to see even a small number creating this miraculous event.  What is not nice to see are people who think it’s okay to approach the turtles.  In one instance, there was a guide nearby who told the people to move away.  Unfortunately, there was no guide when a family literally tried to put their 2 year old daughter on top of the turtle for a photo.  However the friend I was with saw it happening and ran over to the people telling them in Spanish that this was not appropriate and that turtles need space.  The family just looked at us with disgust and ignored what she was saying.  As we walked away, we knew that they would just do it again and sadly, the turtle who had just come out of the water, was turning around to go back in. It’s space had been violated and it obviously didn’t feel safe going further up the sandy shore.

I don’t know if the people don’t care or if they just don’t understand but it’s so disturbing to me, either way.  These are endangered species and we should feel so fortunate to be in their presence and do whatever we can to protect them.

Enjoy the slideshow.  Note: I have a very large zoom on my camera and any close-ups of turtles coming out of the water were taken at a far distance.  Once the turtles begin laying their eggs, the guides allow visitors to get closer.  Also, all of the soft white shells you see on the black sand are baby turtles that hatched (or that the vultures got to).

[slideshow]

Pura vida…Chrissy