Traveling with Stephy

Releasing baby sea turtles into the ocean in Costa Rica

As animal lovers, releasing baby turtles into the ocean has always been a dream of ours. During our time in Costa Rica, Damien and I were lucky enough to cross this adventure off our bucket list! This is why, through this blog post, I give you all the info you need to live this once-in-a-lifetime experience as well!

Located in Central America, Costa Rica is well-known for its unique wildlife. Indeed, Costa Rica’s coasts are home to five different species of turtles. The most common turtles are the Olive Ridley Sea turtles and the Green Sea turtles, but there are also the Loggerhead turtles, the leatherback turtles, and the Hawksbill turtles.
Due to its geography, Costa Rica is bordered by the Pacific Ocean on one side and the Caribbean sea on the other side. For instance, Olive Ridley Sea turtles are easily found on the Pacific coast, while Green Sea turtles are primarily found in the Caribbean side around Tortuguero National Park. 
Of course, if you want to have the chance to release baby sea turtles into the ocean, you need to come to visit Costa Rica during the nesting and hatchling season. Therefore, what is great is that each species has its nesting season. So, you will have a good chance to see either one of them during your time in Costa Rica. Lucky you!

Where to volunteer with sea turtles in Costa Rica?

There are different turtles projects conservation around Costa Rica. During our time on Costa Ballena (read my complete guide here), we decided to volunteer for two days at Reserva Playa Tortuga, located in Ojochal. 

The place is a non-profit organization and an educational center. People over there are passionate about their work and animals. This is why we loved our time at the center and learned so much! I can recommend you enough to visit Reserva Playa Tortuga and give them a hand if you have time. 

As part of your support to the organization, they will ask you to pay a fee of $ 15 US dollars per day if you join them only for the day. Otherwise, you can volunteer for a minimum of one week and stay with them in their lodging and get food three times a day. You still need to pay $ 340 US dollars per week as support. 

Our experience of releasing baby sea turtles into the ocean

Our two days at Reserva Playa Tortuga were full of surprises! We honestly didn’t expect to release any baby sea turtles as we knew we were maybe a little too late on the calendar for the hatchling season. But chances were on our side, and the day we visited them, one nest was currently hatchling and ready to be dug out. 
Frankly, our first visit was just more like a courtesy visit to say hi, and told them that we would come by the day after to start the work. Oscar, one of the responsible for the project, told us that today was maybe the day one nest was going to be ready. We and three others volunteers headed up to the nursery, located 10 minutes away from the center. Adrien, the person in charge of the release that day, started checking the nest to see if it was ready to be dug off. Lucky us, it was time! He started digging and then the magic happened: dozens of baby Olive Ridley Sea turtles appeared in front of us. 
I had never seen so small sea creatures before. My heart was melting and by the look of all of the others, I can easily say that we were all so emotional to be here with them.
During the digging, Adrien quickly checked the health of the babies to see if they were ready to head to the ocean. Some of them were unfortunately still in development, so he put them in a box to take care of them later at the center until they are ready to go! The sad side of the story is that some of the baby turtles didn’t even make it through, meaning there were still eggs dying…
Hopefully, on a total of 56 baby turtles for this nest (the organization counted the number of eggs before putting them in the nursery), there were 35 turtles healthy and ready to go. I had the chance to count those 35, one by one, from my hand to the box. I was a little bit scared at first to hurt them while I was keeping them in my hand, but the emotions were real and I needed to pitch myself later to realize what I just did. 
Afterward, once Adrien finished writing down the numbers of healthy turtles, we needed to weigh and measure them for statistics. It was my turn Damien to take action! I could feel that I was a bit anxious to take care of those tiny fragile creatures and excited at the same time. What a great moment we shared all!
Now was the time to head to Playa Tortuga to release the baby sea turtles into the ocean. The tide was low so we had to walk for a moment (and crossed a river) before reaching the ocean. It was finally the big time for those little ones. Adrien explained to us how important it is to put the baby turtles at least 10-12 meters away from the ocean so that they can remember to come here next time to nest. Nature is amazing!
Adrien got our 35-baby Olive Ridley Sea turtles out of the box and put them on the sand. Immediately, they started crawling to the ocean. Some were faster than others. We were there to check that all turtles get into the ocean and if needed, we were there to help them out (the least the better for them). Witnessing this magical moment in life was a dream come true. My smile couldn’t quit my face and my eyes were wet with emotions. 
Thank you Costa Rica for this amazing gift!

In conclusion

To sum up, spending time around turtles and having the privilege to release baby sea turtles into the ocean was a dream come true for us! I sincerely wish you can live this once-in-a-lifetime experience someday too. I can’t recommend you enough to visit this non-profit organization called Reserva Playa Tortuga while you are on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica. 
In the meantime, don’t forget to check out all my posts related to Costa Rica here. From detailed travel guides to tips and tricks, you will have all the resources you need to enjoy Costa Rica to the fullest. 
Sending you lots of love, 
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