It’s often surprising how one special moment can instantly transport anybody involved to another time, and place where a similar, related experience occurred. Recently, on a beach in Costa Rica, I found myself thinking of a morning in Queensland, snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef.
Sat in almost total darkness on a beach at Tortuguera, Costa Rica, with several new friends, under a sky filled with twinkling stars. This included the spectacular Milky Way, which stretched out across the evening sky.
Breath-taking though this was, most of us were staring intently at the crashing waves, watching a large, dark ‘hump’ struggle to free itself from the surf.
A turtle was slowly making it’s way to the beach to dig a nest,, and lay her eggs before returning to the ocean. In true Blue Peter “here’s one I prepared earlier” style, our guide Henri showed us another turtle already laboriously laying her eggs, just a few feet behind us.
It’s a scene I’ve watched dozens of time on television, but nothing compares to witnessing it for real, under the starry sky, it was a truly magical, almost spiritual moment. Though probably not for the mother, as it seemed a genuinely arduous task, requiring her to rest exhausted many times throughout the process.
Her final job after laying her precious cargo is to cover them up with powerful scoops with her flippers, the front ones especially sending sand flying for several yards. At one point she almost started burying me, I was laid down, watching intently, as close as possible without disturbing her. In the meantime, our new arrival had decided this was not suitable birthing ground, and was scuttling back to the sea surprisingly quickly.
To prevent any unnecessary disturbance to these wonderful creatures, photography isn’t allowed, and the guide is the only one allowed to use a flashlight, which must be red filtered. The rangers will confiscate any electronic devices, which maybe used for photography, and the guides report transgressors, if they don’t it’s possible their licence can be rescinded for one year.
Henri had explained earlier they incredible odds against baby turtles reaching maturity. Mistakenly dug up by other egg laying turtles, predators digging up the nest, catching them on the evening they hatch, or in the ocean, their chances are slim. From the hundreds of eggs laid by an individual turtle, it’s likely less than one actually lives to adulthood.
It was while absorbing this mind-blowing statistic that I found myself thinking of Lady Elliot Island, swimming with a turtle on the Great Barrier Reef. It brought the full enormity of that experience to mind, how fortunate any of us are when we enjoy similar encounters. Considering the challenges that these creatures face, it’s almost a miracle they happen at all. They really need to be ninja turtles to survive, those blasé about meetings with turtles, should bear this in mind.
Therefore, I’m unable to share any pictures, but don’t take my word for it, if the opportunity arises to experience a turtle beach, grasp it eagerly with both hands. It’ll be one of the best two hours ever, and if it’s on a fully protected beach like at Tortuguera, even better.
Fortunately, there are a few images of the Queensland encounter to provide a little eye candy for this post, hope you enjoy.
Has a one travel experience brought another back to mind, if so please share it with us all in the comments below.