Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Weather is Here, I Wish You Were Beautiful.

Storm is brewing on the horizon.
Last night, we had one of the darkest sunsets I have ever seen, due to a storm brewing on the horizon. Knowing that patrol was going to be late, we hoped the rain would start soon so it would pass before we had to get out on the beach.

As we prepared dinner, we began to hear the rain. The rain continued as we ate dinner. It grew stronger as we washed the dishes and then the power went out. So without power there was no internet, which sent us to bed until midnight. As I laid in bed, I could hear the rain pouring down so hard that it was difficult to sleep.

When my alarm went off at midnight the rain was still coming down. We checked the hatchery and then made a very  rare decision and cancelled patrol until morning. This was decided because the rain had been so strong it was nearly impossible to see even a foot in front of you and had probably washed away any traces of a turtle.

At 4:30, just as the sun was rising, it was still pouring down rain, but we needed to at least check the beach. So Victor, Molly and Rachel walked to the north, while Kayla, Mama and I headed south. It was crazy the damage the rain had done to the beach. There was so much erosion caused by newly formed rivers flowing into the ocean, some were big enough that mama had to swim across.

Just as Kayla and I were thinking our patrol was in vane, we noticed Mama running towards a lump in the sand. Then we realized our lump of sand was actually a very pale sea turtle facing the ocean. Anything that pale had to be dead!  But when just as we were recording her as a dead turtle, she blinked.
Just a reminder, this is Mama, possibly the heroine of our patrol.

My attempts at drying my patrol clothes. YAY, October!
I reached into here nest only to find it was full of wet sand. Our turtle came to life and quickly returned to the sea. Meanwhile, I began digging around the very wet sand, only finding that every time I took a scoop of sand out the hole would fill faster, making it very hard to find the eggs. In total, we were able to relocate her very small nest of just 12 eggs into our hatchery and dry off, knowing our patrol was in fact worthwhile. I think I will spend the rest of the day enjoying listening to the rain and watching some Criminal Minds on Netflix.

* We later found out our huge storm was ultimately  what became hurricane Sandy.

Our backyard is flooded! The water reaches over my knees!

Since I don't have any pictures of our nesting turtle I have a few pictures from around the project these past few days...
A pretty sunset.

Rachel made a friend, he fell from the rafters onto the BBQ.

He bit his tongue 
Releasing turtles with the help of Santos, Ronni and the kids

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Horizon Has Been Defeated

The turtle first coming out if the water.
Last night, right as the sun was setting, one of the local girls came up to the house to tell us that there was a sea turtle on the beach. Since it was still light out and there had been a lot of shrimp trawler lately, I assumed it was a dead turtle. So we headed out to the beach to take data on the turtle before it washed away with the tide. However, we were surprised to see the town was beginning to gather at a safe distance as a turtle made her way onto the shore. She seemed to be moving at a very slow pace and there began talks that the turtle was missing a flipper. We waited as normal before we approached her, only to find that she did have all four flippers. The group of onlookers grew as the turtle began digging.

However, it became apparent that even though she had all her flippers something was wrong with the rear ones. As she dug one flipper tried to scoop the sand backwards and while the other was digging completely to the side. So even if she was able to make a deep enough nest the eggs would just be laid on the sand. The poor turtle made two failed attempts before I tried to help her out. By this point, our audience had dwindled due to being eaten alive by bugs and only Santos, Kayla, Molly, Rachel, the dogs and I were left on the beach.
Me trying to help the turtle dig her nest.

Unfortunately, this turtle was not happy with my helping her nest and she aborted another 2 nests. It became clear that she was not going to succeed at nesting this night and there were a ton of dogs sniffing around, so Molly and Rachel quickly picked up the turtle and returned her to sea.
Molly and Rachel helping the turtle back to sea.

However, when Molly, Kayla and Rachel went out on their patrol the turtle was back on the beach and had walked almost 1/2 km parallel to shore and had aborted another 4 nests. They also tried their hand at helping her nest, but came up empty. My only hope is that this determined turtle is able to nest in the next couple nights.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Trouble on the Horizon

While I was on my visa run with my dad, I began getting emails from the station house saying that a dog had been breaking into the hatchery destroying the hatching nests. My first thought was we need to keep the hatchery safe and figure out what dog was responsible, but it wasn't until last night did I truly witness the wrath of the dogs. Since I wasn't there for the first 3 attacks, I only had Kayla and Victor's account of the destruction, which was the dog was breaking the side of the hatchery and going for the nests that were currently hatching.

Around 8:30 people who had second patrol went to bed, while I went out on patrol with our 3 newest volunteers, who were Costa Rican locals. They had been there for 3 nights and were leaving in the morning and had yet to see a turtle nesting. We walked for almost 2 hours without seeing anything, but just as we were walking up to the hatchery, we saw a sea turtle just coming to shore. The volunteers collected all 98 eggs, while I measured and tagged her.

I was feeling quite satisfied as we carried the eggs up to the hatchery. However, when we got to there that feeling rapidly disappeared. We had another break in! The dog did not just take one nest, but dug out three nests! Filled with the feeling of defeat,I placed the new nest into the hatchery and the volunteers dug around in the attacked nest looking for survivors. We were excited to see that we were able to save close to 50 babies from two nests and the other was barely touched.

The entrance.

The exit.
Luckily when we woke up this morning the dogs hadn't returned, but with the daylight we were able to find dog tracks. Kayla and I went out and decided to participate in CSI: Dog Edition. We measured the paw print and then took each suspect, aka our local dogs, onto the beach and watched them gait and measured their paw size. In a bitter sweet conclusion, we found that the 3 sisters, mama and all 6 of the childrens' dogs were innocent due to paw size. But this meant that the culprit was still at large and was also HUGE!!!!
Culprit's paw print.

Natilla= INNOCENT!

We then decided to create a redneck alarm system by tying tin cans and bottles to the hatchery wall in hopes that maybe we would hear the dog breaking in. So if all goes well, we will be catching our culprit before anymore damage is done.

Saturday, October 13, 2012


There is not much to say about today, except it was long. We spend the better part of the day driving from San Jose to Costa de Oro. Since my dad had already driven to and from San Jose many times in the past week and a half, we decided to take a different route. As with most drives in Costa Rica, the views were beautiful and well worth the extra 20 minutes to see a different part of the country.

Coffee plant

Boats in Puntarenas

Howler Monkey 
During the drive however, we ran into traffic due to road construction and a funeral procession which both completely stopped us. We finally made it back to the Laguna Mar hotel where Drew and Micheal had both a room and a drink ready for us. We hung out at the hotel and enjoyed the sunset before heading back to the beach for dinner and patrol. It feels so good to be back at the beach and I can't wait to see some turtles tonight.


When we woke up today, we decided we should get back to Costa Rica, which in some ways was a gamble since I had only been out of the country for 48 hours and not 72. But we decided it was a risk we were willing to take. We started our morning by grabbing breakfast at the neighboring restaurant, Bibi's on the Beach. We were privileged to have table-side entertainment since the thatched roof was being repaired. It was really cool to watch. There were three men standing on a makeshift scaffold, while a fourth guy was in the water handing up palm fronds. One by one the palms were placed onto the roof to hopefully repair the leak.

Once breakfast was finished, we walked around Bocas Town one more time and picked up some presents for the family. Then we were back on the water taxi and on our way to mainland panama again. It is really hard to tell the beautiful Caribbean goodbye, but I had to get back to Costa de Oro since there had been rumors of dogs getting into the hatchery. I will catch everyone up on the dogs once I get back to the beach and see what is going on.

Unfortunately, when we got to the border we were reminded of how unorganized the immigration office is in Panama. It was crazy because there was only one line for the coming and going people. We waited for almost 3 hours to get our stamp saying we were leaving Panama, but once we got to the front it took just about 1 minute for them to stamp and send us on our way. Luckily, Costa Rica was much faster to let us in and we were on our way back to Costa de Oro.
Banana workers' houses

Bananas as far as the eye can see

Chiquitia banana processing plant

Truck ready to be shipped to the USA

At around 8pm, we decided we weren't going to make it back to Costa de Oro today and began looking for somewhere to stay. We reached San Jose just before 10 and found a hotel to stay at for the night. I am so tired I can barely keep my eyes open, so I better get some shut eye because we have another 5 hours of driving before we get back to the beach tomorrow.

We stopped for a minute at a chocolate plantation.

The Chocolate was yummy

Friday, October 12, 2012


This morning, our local friend, Alex, returned with a boat and moved us to a different hotel on Isla Canero. We wanted to check out as much as we could in our short time on the islands. About 20 minutes after we checked in, our tour boat arrived. My dad and I were surprised to see how full the locals fill the 20ft panga boat, but we got to met really great people during our adventure.

The first stop of the day was at dolphin  bay, where it is rumored that dolphins follow the boats. However, we were not that lucky because there were no dolphins this morning. So we were onto our next location which was lunch at a little restaurant in the middle of the Bocas. It was pretty yummy, but obviously a tourist trap because it was quite expensive and there was nothing else around.

Once everyone had grabbed lunch, we were given masks and snorkels and had the chance to snorkel for the next hour. It was amazing! There were so many brittle stars, sea cucumbers, tropical fish and tons of different corals. After we had all gotten sufficiently prune-y, we loaded back into the boat.

Sea Cucumber


This fish kept biting my dad's camera.

Our final stop of the day was at Red Frog Beach on Isla Bastimentos. The white sand beach was beautiful and was named for the threatened red frogs found there. My dad and I spent a little time in the water before we decided to go search for the little red frogs. It was interesting because despite them being very bright red they were very difficult to see. However, once one was pointed out, it was easy to find more.
Dad and me at Red Frog beach

Red frog

Sloth in the tree.

As we all loaded back into the boat, we got lucky and saw a sloth right above the dock. It even moved for us which I think is kind of rare since they are such lazy animals.

We arrived back at our hotel just in time for happy hour. I got to try a passion fruit daiquiri while my dad had the local beer. While sitting at the bar we met a very interesting local who lived on the next island over and recommended a very local seafood place (which Alvaro had also mentioned). So with two great recommendations we figured we had to go.

We made it to the recommended restaurant, Alvin's, just as the sun was setting. We were treated like family by the local lady and her family, not to mention her food was amazing!!! After a great meal of shrimp and lobster, we wandered around the town's center where a group of locals were playing basketball while the kids were playing a competitive of tag.

The bocas are amazing!!! It is so beautiful and mellow here. Plus I think its really cool to hear Spanish spoken with a Rasta  accent.


Yesterday, when my dad and I got off the water taxi we were greeted by a local man who was eager to take us to a hotel and sell us a tour of the island.  Since we hadn't been there before and didn't know where to stay, we went ahead and followed him to the Las Brisas hotel which was located right on the water. The hotel was a great price and we got the best room in the whole place because it was connected to the dock.

After we settled in my dad and I decided to explore Isla Colon and grab some lunch at locally famous restaurant called The Reef. Looking at the menu, we realized we weren't in Costa Rica anymore; it was so cheap. My dad and I were each able to order great seafood and beer for less than a typical meal in Costa Rica. When the food arrived to the table it was amazing!!!
My dad getting ready to eat some great seafood.
Local catch off the restaurant's dock

Once we finished lunch, we wandered around checking out what the street venders were selling. Panama has some of the coolest local art, one of my favorites is all the mole. Mole is the handmade tapestries which often times have colorful fish and birds on them.
Just a few of the mole artwork.

Afterward we took a quick siesta at the hotel and around 8 we headed back out to town to enjoy local music and drink. I was able to find a passion fruit margarita and it was fabulous! As we were on our way back to the hotel we stopped by a meat cart and each got an incredible beef skewer for only $1. I could get used to this great food at an even better price.