by Properties in Costa Rica
Ostional Wildlife Reserve is a biological wonder in Costa Rica. Founded in 1984 to protect one of the world’s most significant nesting sites of the Olive Ridley sea turtles. For over 30 years, the reserve has dutifully protected the wondrous creature protecting it from extinction. The turtles travel from all over the world to return to lay their eggs. Weeks before the nesting they congregate in the waters offshore. When the Arribada begins, a few hundred turtles come to the beach followed by a steady stream over the next three to seven days. While the turtles nest at Ostional year round, the peak time is during rainy season.
These arribadas occur during the darkest nights. A few days before the new moon, the majority of the turtles arrive between 8PM and 4AM. The largest arribadas on record occurred when 500,000 females came onshore. The turtles are use to life in the ocean and drag their bodies up onto the shores over the beach to lay between 80 to 100 soft shelled white eggs the size of a ping pong ball. Over the course of about five days, the turtles will leave about 10 million eggs.
The reserve is the only place where harvesting eggs is legal. Costa Rica allows the community to harvest doomed eggs on the first three days of an arribada. In return, villagers clean debris, protect turtles, patrol day and night for poachers. After the laying of the eggs, it takes the baby turtles anywhere from 45 to 54 days to hatch. As soon at the hatchlings have struggled out of the sand, they race back to the ocean struggling to avoid predators such as vultures. It’s a perilous journey. Women and children from the community protect the hatchlings, while they make their way to the sea by keeping away predators and even carrying them across parts of the hot sand.
Once they make it to the ocean they are still not safe from predators. It takes them 10 to 15 years to reach maturity and most turtles won’t make it. The wondrous part is that they never forget the place of their birth and while some will travel as far as the ocean’s of India, those that survive reaching maturity will travel back to the shores of Ostional to complete the cycle of life laying their own legs. It is another example of the wonders of nature.