A bug just flew into my face. As I’m sitting by the pool, typing up my experiences, planning my blog in my head, the thing smacked me. It went for my stomach, and I’m just glad I had my flip-flops on me. Ah, there’s a beetle on my sleeve. This is an exciting writing session.
Anyway, more than anything, these bugs remind me where I am. Like the animals, plants, and culture demonstrate, I’m far away from home. For the time I am here, the best thing I can do is appreciate the differences between here and the US, even if it means dealing with a few large, green, flying guys. Besides, I can always move seats.
Today was largely a travel day. We spent a few hours in the bus before we took a boat to Tortuguero. To get here we needed to start our journey at 5:00 a.m. driving three hours, stopping for breakfast, driving yet another hour and then riding on a motor boat down the Sarapiqui and Tortuguero Rivers for another two and a half hours until reaching the Caribbean Sea. I immediately noticed how isolated the area was, with the trip down the river being the only way of reaching it. Soon after settling in our lodge, we visited the nearby Sea Turtle Conservancy Center.
Started in 1956, the conservancy works to protect turtles from illegal hunting while researching them and their movement patterns throughout their lives. When Archie Carr came to Tortuguero, he noticed the turtles were being killed, and their eggs and shells were often sold. After going to the Costa Rican government and asked for help in preserving the turtles of Tortuguero, he and his organization shifted the area’s economic focus away from selling shells and eggs, and towards the tourism that the turtles’ presence brought. Carr managed to convince the Tico government to set aside 20 miles of Caribbean beach to protect the Green and Leatherhead nesting sites. The organization has been extremely successful, not only with the formation of the National Park, but in changing the local practices of harvesting eggs and turtle meat. Today, a total of 35 miles of black sand Tortuguero beach is protected. The turtle population has been growing (last year they counted 46,000 nests), and Archie Carr’s vision is still an inspiration to the world. Many dangers are posed to turtles today, such as plastic trash that they mistake for jellyfish and beach renovation that removes the land where turtle eggs are hatching, and where turtle’s need to return to lay their own eggs. After 20 years, female sea turtles always return to their birthplace to nest. Tortuguero has the largest Green Sea Turtle nesting colony in the hemisphere. The conservancy has been tracking turtles born on its beaches since the 50s, and continues to learn from them today. The STC has been protecting sea turtles longer than any other organization worldwide.
Here’s where I noticed a difference. Living up to its “Pura Vida” motto, Costa Rica was one of the first countries to use the amount of clean energy that it does. Everywhere I go, there are signs asking me to turn off the lights, or save water. Sure, there’s plenty of similar speech in the US, but what is a hotly debated issue at home is the standard way of life here in Costa Rica. It is pretty cool. I imagine it is one of the reasons that draw so many people to Costa Rica. Not only does it have such a huge biodiversity, it actively works to protect it so that we can appreciate it. Over 28 percent of its territory is set aside for national parks, nature preserves, and wildlife refuges.
From a foggy volcanoes to gigantic beetles, I have been noticing the differences and appreciating them as much as possible. I am especially interested in the way Costa Rica approaches its environment. Maybe it takes a beautiful mountain view for people to want to protect the environment that sustains its flora and fauna.