tagged arriabada, Costa Rica, nesting, nicoya peninsula, olive ridley sea turtles, playa cameronal and sea turtles
In search of sea turtles nesting, Mike and I caught a bus to Samara from Nicoya. There are several nesting beaches on the Nicoya Peninsula where turtles come to lay their eggs. The best time is during the “arribadas” when thousands of olive ridley sea turtles make their way to the shore. So many turtles are nesting at the same time, it’s possible a turtle might dig up the nest of another turtle because the beach is full of eggs. The arriabadas occur between July and November, but it’s about being lucky, as no one can predict when this will happen.
On a typical night between July and November a few turtles may come to nest, not thousands. Our tour took us to Playa Camaronal beach where four species of sea turtles are known to nest: olive ridley, hawksbill, leatherback and black turtle. Any sort of bright light will keep the turtles from coming ashore, so from 8pm to 9pm we combed the beach in complete darkness with out finding even one turtle. Our group was starting to give up hope of seeing a turtle, but our guide persevered. Finally, at 10pm, a teardrop shaped olive ridley turtle came ashore, and began her nesting ritual.
All turtles instinctively know where to lay their eggs–returning thousands of miles to the exact beach where they were born. The olive ridley laboriously makes her way up the beach to lay her eggs. She then uses her hind flippers to scoop out an appropriate sized hole for her eggs. Once this is completed, any where from 100-130 ping pong-sized eggs are laid. Again using her hind legs, she covers and neatly buries the eggs. She then disappears back into the ocean. The entire process lasts about one hour, and it’s pretty amazing to watch.