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Sea Turtle Conservation in Costa Rica

Updated: Sep 6, 2021

Costa Rica is very well known for its incredible biodiversity and protected areas, and is home to some of the most beautiful tropical animal species that you can imagine. One of the most iconic animals you may see around Costa Rica’s pristine coastlines are sea turtles, which come up on to the beaches to lay their eggs. Costa Rica has nesting activity of 5 of the 7 extant sea turtle species, thanks to its great nesting beach habitat on both the Pacific and Caribbean coasts. These species are the Olive Ridley, Hawksbill, Leatherback, Loggerhead and Green sea turtles. You will also find distinct populations of Green turtles on each side of the country – the Pacific and Atlantic variations.

In certain areas of Costa Rica, there is also the opportunity to see a phenomenon known as the “arribada” – a mass synchronized nesting of the Olive Ridley sea turtle species. This phenomenon occurs over just a few days of each month during the last quarter of the lunar cycle before the new moon, and can bring as many as 500,000 females in this short period. The most well-known beach for seeing this incredible event is in the Ostional Wildlife Refuge on the Nicoya Peninsula on the Pacific coast. The peak nesting months are usually between September and November, however smaller but equally impressive arribadas can still be seen during other months of the rainy season.

Watching sea turtles nesting at night is a deeply moving experience, as you see these prehistoric creatures emerge from the ocean and lay sometimes over a hundred pearly white eggs in the sand under a starry sky. Nesting occurs mainly at night due to lower temperatures and less visibility for predators, as is also the case when the nest begins to hatch some 6-8 weeks later. Witnessing the baby turtles reach the ocean is also something that must be seen at least once, and is hugely inspiring for anyone that loves nature and wants to see her thrive.

Luckily, due to the number of species and nesting locations across the country, it is probable that you will be able to find a spot to see sea turtles nesting at practically any time of the year, however the best time of year to give you the best chances and options would be between July and December during the rainy season.

So you want to see sea turtles? There are now a huge number of sea turtle conservation organizations that are protecting nesting beaches all around Costa Rica, and its easy to find a good one that will provide you with a memorable experience while maintaining good ethics. With Irth Tours you can also go on a ready-made trip to participate in sea turtle conservation with one of our partner projects COPROT Tortugas de Osa while staying in a beautiful beachfront eco-lodge in Playa Carate on the Osa Peninsula. Get more information on this awesome trip here!

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