Costa Rica,  Nature encounters,  Pura Vida,  Wandering

Arribada in Ostional

I adore sea turtles! If reïncarnation exists, I’m pretty sure I must have been a sea turtle in a previous life. I can relate to so many characteristics associated with sea turtles. I even carry a sea turtle with me everywhere I go in the form of a tattoo on my back. That sea turtle is carrying the tree of life, grown from two hearts formed in the roots. In the top of the tree our three little monkeys are playing, guarded over by the ever wakefull lioness. That turtle represents me.

So if we have a chance of meeting with these magical sea creatures, no way we will let that pass. We already saw quite a few sea turtles before, while snorkeling during our previous wanderings. Last year we got to see a turtle coming to land to hatch while we were in Panama. It took us two tries and two night wanderings on the beach before we actually saw one. But it was great. In the pale moonlight, on a deserted beach, we watched her crawling up the beach, laying her 100+ eggs, closing her nest and going back into the sea. We were in complete admiration for the whole process. That evening our guide told us that sometimes at some place thousands of turtles would come to the shore in one night, something called an arribada (the arrival). We talked about how magical it would be to be able to be at the right time at the right place! We could only dream about that.

turtles at ostional

Until now. When planning this year, Lieve read about this natural reserve in Costa Rica, Ostional, where sea turtles hatch in very large groups every month around the new moon. It was the Arribada our guide had told us about. We planned our trip accordingly so that we would be near that very beach around the new moon of October. We also heard that it was worth checking out the official facebook group of the guides to the national park, because they always inform you when the arribada starts. That’s what we did. To our surprise, two days ago we read that the arribada of October had just started. Way to early in our schedule… It’s still mid september! We were still a four and a half hour drive away from Ostional! And we had two days to get there before the arribada would come to an end again. So, time for plan B: booked a room in Ostional for one night, packed our stuff and off we went. A round trip of 400 kilometers, given the road conditions in the Peninsula de Nicoya, that meant more than 9 hours of driving.

We got to Ostional without any problems, checked in and immeditely arranged for a guide to take us to the beach. When we got to the beach, we were instantly silent. The beach was covered in turtles. Everywhere you looked hundreds of turtles were coming to shore, laying eggs or returning to the sea. This was beyond any expectations we had. We walked and watched in awe. Everywhere we went, we had to make sure not to step on a turtle, when we stood still, we constantly had to move over because a turtle would bump right into us. It was like a busy city crossroad during rush hour. Turtles were coming in and out of the sea all the time, bumping into each other every now and then and making their way up and down the beach as fast as possible. In the midst of all that turtle movement, black vultures were everywhere. Waiting for a turtle to open the nest of a previous turtle and accidently digging the delicious eggs out. That is nature as it is. It was bliss. There hasn’t been much I have seen that was more magical then this. The one hour we were allowed on the beach (there are very strict regulations because it is a nature reserve) felt way too short. But the guide told us we could come to his house overlooking the beach by nightfall so we could see them again from his porch.

After dinner, when we showed up at his house, he was just getting ready to take another group to the beach and he allowed us to join them on another tour. Our second hour on the beach was not planned, but oh so fulfilling. When we thought we had seen it all we were so wrong. It is impossible to say just how many turtles were on the beach, but there were thousands and thousands. Incredibly magical. The sun had just set, the world was slowly getting ready for the night and the turtles saw that as a sign to come ashore. Unfortunately, as said earlier, pictures cannot do this justice, but the vision will be forever in our heads and the experience in our hearts. They say hundreds of thousands of turtles come to shore during one Arribada over a stretch of seven kilometers. Only now we can believe these figures to be true.

Next morning, we woke up at 4:45 AM and at 5AM we were back on the beach, this time to see the turtles during sunrise. The beach was still crawling with turtles. We loved having the time on the beach to see the sun rise and watch the turtles all going about. Since we were so early and we were about the only human beings on the beach, we even could stay a lot longer than an hour this time.  We had the time to imprint this firmly in our memory one last time. It was the perfect ending to this perfect trip. Some nice breakfast at the local eatery strenghtened the body and with a completely fulfilled body and mind, we could head back home.

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