Our last morning at Ostional we saw the arribada! It was incredible. We had planned on taking the 5:30am bus back to San Jose but got up and saw all the turtles on the beach, so decided to take the 7:30am bus and see the turtles. There were HUNDREDS on the beach as the sun came up, it was beautiful. They expect around 30,000 turtles to nest over the next 3-4 days. The largest arribadas are in the rainy season and last up to a week with as many as 500,000 turtles.
The bus ride back to San Jose was eventful, we broke down about an hour from Ostional and were told we would have to wait until 2:30 (broke down about 9:00am) for another bus- which would make us miss our last connection and have to stay in Santa Cruz for the night, causing us all to miss our flights on Saturday. Luckily they got it fixed and we bounced our way to San Jose.
We checked out with Maximo Nivel and said goodbye to the friends we made on the trip. Tomorrow is a starts a day and a half of travel back home!
21 March 2017
Tuesday night was incredible. After a beach sunset soccer match we had night patrol.
Normally on night patrols we see one or two turtles and get to help assist the researchers with measuring, tagging and recording the turtle. We normally walk a few miles up and down the beach.
On Tuesday, we hardly got out of the station and were pretty much falling on top of turtles. A few people stayed home with foot injuries so there were only 4 in our group plus our leader. We had to split into groups and two of us did everything for one turtle. It was stressful but incredible! We wet the sand to help her dig, counted the eggs, measured the turtle, recorded all her information and then our leader Manuel tagged her flipper.
This could mean the olive ridley arribada is coming soon, so hopefully we see it before we leave Friday morning! Ostional is one of only 3 beaches in the world where this occurs, a mass nesting over a few days with up to 500,000 turtles over that period. 🤞🏼🤞🏼
One week left! Monday was an other brutal schedule, with morning census, room cleaning, beach cleanup and then night patrol. Luckily we were all free until 3:30 on Tuesday, so a small group of us decided to check out San Juanillo, which is the beach town next to us. There's better swimming, white sand and a few more restaurants.
Hitchhiking is the usual mode of transportation for short distances, but after the Nosara debacle we decided to play it safe and take a bus. We grabbed a bus at 7:30 and got into San Juanillo by 8:00. We waited for restaurants to open up and then had an amazing breakfast! The rice and beans at the station are getting really tiresome...
We sat on the beach for a few hours before catching the 2:30 bus back to Ostional. It was a nice little day of relation after our hectic Monday.
18 March 2017
Sámara was a great little break from Ostional! There were delicious restaurants, a gorgeous white sand beach with calm water, an ATM,and plenty of shops to buy little trinkets and things for back home.
We spent most of our time on the beach, swimming and hanging out and getting to know each other. The official beer of Costa Rica is Imperial, so of course we had to check that out 😉
There was a fire show at one of the beach bars on Saturday night, with fireworks in the distance. It was an amazing time and we really got to know the rest of the group better, it's the people you travel with that make the trip!
On Sunday we took the buses back to Nosara, and tried to hitchhike back into Ostional around 5:30. We weren't getting picked up, and it was getting dark. To hitchhike usually you need to split up into smaller groups so you get picked up, so we did that. Just as it was getting dark enough to make us nervous, around 6:30, a really nice surfer brought us to Ostional! 🙌🏻🏄🏼
We have the weekends free, so a group of 7 of us decided to make the trip to Sámara for Saturday and come back on Sunday.
The buses here run on "tico time" so our 5:30am bus from Ostional didn't show up until right before 6:30, causing us to miss our connection in Nosara. From Nosara, we all hitchhiked to Guiones in the back of a truck. We thought we could rent ourselves a big golf cart/street legal buggy to take to Sámara, but they wouldn't rent it to us because Sámara is too far away and the roads here are less than ideal. We ended up calling a big van to take us the rest of the way. It had AC ❤️ and we crossed a river with crocodiles, so we were all kind of glad we didn't rent that buggy 😅
15 March 2017
Costa Rica has an astounding percentage of protected lands, both private and government run. Ostional is a National wildlife refuge, and the only one in CR that has a community within the borders.
The beach is about 7km long, black sand, with hardly any shade or trees. For this reason, we mostly stay out of the sun from 11:00-2:00, and rarely swim because of the really strong rip currents in the area. There's also a lagoon next to the station with big crocodiles! 🐊I swear I'm not complaining, the area is beautiful- it's just not really a "vacation destination" at this particular beach.
Ostional itself is a sleepy little town, it's really nice. I think the population is about 200, and the town consists of a soccer field, a few tiendas, few sodas and restaurants, and lots and lots of dogs! If we want an ATM, clothes or souvenirs or anything touristy we have to take a bus to a bigger town. The little supermarket here has all sorts of snacks so we are all pretty content.
The first week was pretty tough! We were all told we would have 4-6 hours of work a day split between night patrols for turtles, beach cleanup, and chores around the station. In reality a typical day went like this:
6:00-8:30am (Monday's only)
🔹Morning census: we walk the beach looking for turtle tracks and nests that were laid and/or poached over the weekend
🔹cleaning of some sort, either dorms or the station or yard work
🔹beach cleanup, either moving branches and driftwood into piles to make it easier on the turtles or picking up garbage and plastic
8:00-midnight or midnight-4:00
🔹night patrol, where we look for turtles coming onto the beach. This is the most fun part!! We watch them dig, lay their eggs, and we record their length, width, number of eggs, how long it takes, what area of the beach, and then they are tagged with a metal clamp on their flipper
We got into the station but didn't have any "work" the first night since we traveled all day. We settled into our rooms and had dinner around 5:30.
The 2 rooms are hostel-style, with 3 bunk beds each, two bathroom stalls and two shower stalls. There is AC but it's only on during the night so it gets HOT. We're in the hottest part of the dry season right now. Also for this reason, the eggs the turtles are laying are just going to cook because of the heat, so we were told not to expect to see any hatchlings.
We all realized later on that that the snacks we all brought had to be eaten, the ants here are RELENTLESS and will chew through packaging to get to the food. And then you have a biting ant infestation in your room- not fun.
So we all brought out our food and sat around the big dinner table after it got dark. It was a really great opportunity to get to know all of the other volunteers and we stayed up later than we should have!
14 March 2017
Tuesday morning we were picked up from Marita's house at 5:30 am. Our driver took us to the bus station in downtown San Jose and gave us our bus tickets for the first leg of the trip. Our bus was nicely air conditioned and had wifi! So surprising. We traveled from San Jose to the Diria bus station in Santa Cruz, which took about 4 hours.
In Santa Cruz, we purchased tickets and caught a connecting bus to Ostional, about a 3 hour very bumpy, dusty ride. The scenery was incredible, very Jurassic Park-ish and green.
13 March 2017
We arrived in San Jose on the morning of Sunday, March 12. It was beautiful and warm, we were picked up from the airport by Maximo Nivel and taken back to their office for orientation. Once at Maximo, we had a quick intro to Costa Rica and what to expect for the time that we were there. Seth and I were placed in a home stay with Marita, whose kids -Chino and Tatiana- worked at Maximo. We went to the house and met Mary, who was on a language exchange from Germany. We had dinner that evening with her.
Monday morning we had another orientation at Maximo specifically for the turtle program, where we learned we would be placed in Ostional, what to expect, and directions for the buses on Tuesday. We were free to explore the city, exchange money, and purchase any last minute items for the rest of the day, with dinner again at Marita's Monday night with Kelvin who was on a spring break medical volunteer trip.
11 March 2017
In Los Angeles, we took an Uber to the Santa Monica Pier. Traffic was insane. Little did we know, Downtown LA (their version of farmers market) just so happened to be at the Pier the same Saturday we were there. There were tons of food trucks, tons of people. It was hectic and exciting- the fog over the water and breeze made it a little chilly. I wish I would've appreciated the cool weather a little more!
We were fortunate enough to be able to upgrade to first class on the last leg of the journey from LA to Costa Rica! We got to spend the rest of the evening in the Delta Sky Club, which was fantastic. I wish I we would've gone there sooner to enjoy it a little longer. Note- the bartender was VERY heavy handed!
We left Missoula MT at 6:00am, then flew to SLC with a short layover, and then to LAX with an 11 hour layover from around one in the afternoon until midnight, then finished off with a 5ish hour flight to San Jose, Costa Rica.