Turtle watching here in Costa Rica is one of the most awe-inspiring experiences. Witnessing sea turtles come ashore to nest is unbelievable.
Five out of the seven known sea turtles nest on Costa Rican beaches. On some nights, the beaches literally team with the huge female turtles all vying for a spot to excavate a nest. Thousands upon thousands of eggs will be deposited, but only 1 – 5,000 hatchlings will survive to adulthood. Those lucky few will grow from a four-inch baby into the largest reptiles on the planet and may live to be a hundred years old.
The Laying Process
The female turtle, responding to some internal signal only she can feel, returns to the beach of her birth and hauls her massive 1000+ pound body up the shore to her nesting site. With her huge hind flippers she’ll painstakingly excavate a deep hole in which she’ll deposit her many eggs – sometimes as many as a hundred or more. Once the precious bundle is in place, she’ll carefully cover the nest and ponderously return to the sea.
NOTE: Bright lights and loud noise may scare the turtles back into the sea before they have a chance to lay their eggs. PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE only view this amazing natural spectacle with a qualified guide. These ancient creatures need all the help they can get…
The Hatching Process
About eight weeks after the eggs were deposited, there occurs on of natures most endearing spectacles. The hatchlings, typically at night, wiggle their way free of their nest. First one, then two, then hundreds of these tiny creatures struggle free, take a look around, and then it’s a miniature stampede to the sea! As the head out into the surf it’s the last time we’ll sea the vast majority of the little turtles. Some, though, will return to this same beach and start this ancient process all over again…