(Editor’s Note – This original post from January 2010 has been updated to reflect current Costa Rica tour details.)
The Caribbean Islands and the countries of Central America are known internationally as much for their efforts in the conservation of their natural resources as they are for their stunning beauty and unique biodiversity.
Two important key players in Central America’s efforts towards conservation are:
- Green Turtle Research Station (near Tortuguero Costa Rica)
- Caribbean Conservation Corporation (of which Archie Carr was a founding member)
Both owe their existence to the work of Carr and others who endeavored to save the green sea turtle, one of several endangered turtle species that nest near Tortuguero Costa Rica and in other Caribbean countries.
Much of the financial support for these efforts came from John H. Phipps. In fact, the research facility, established nearly two decades ago, is named in his honor: the John H. Phipps Green Turtle Research Station.
Sea Turtle Conservation at the Green Turtle Research Station
What’s happening in the sea turtle preservation and restoration world today?
The Green Turtle Research Station is ideally located for studying the natural turtle habitat and monitoring turtle migration, behaviour, nesting, and other activities.
At various times throughout the year, different turtle species arrive at the Tortuguero turtle nesting beaches to nest and lay their eggs including the giant leatherbacks, loggerheads, hawksbill turtles, and of course the Atlantic green sea turtles. Nesting turtles generally come ashore at night to lay their eggs and bury them in the volcanic sand, a process that has been repeated for centuries.
One of the greatest benefits of the Green Turtle Research Station is their program for assisting turtle hatchlings to avoid predators and make it to the ocean safely, thus ensuring the survival of turtle populations. The presence of researchers and volunteers on the turtle nesting beaches of Tortuguero Costa Rica has also greatly reduced turtle poaching.
Public education is another huge part of their conservation efforts and researchers often invite volunteers to be part of a “welcoming party,” as turtles come to the nesting beaches on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica.
Why Sea Turtle Conservation in Tortuguero?
Why is Costa Rica the choice site for studying and helping green sea turtles and other turtle species?
The nesting beaches near Tortuguero Costa Rica attract more nesting turtles than anywhere else in the western hemisphere. The intensive study and conservation efforts conducted by the Green Turtle Research Station (and others) have had an overwhelming positive effect on turtle populations.
Turtle researchers are able to monitor turtle populations and gather important information from their studies of turtles including turtle identification and survival facts.
The project is officially known as “Green Turtle Tagging” and is part of the Green Turtle Monitoring Program. More information is available at the Green Turtle Research Station website. In addition, interested persons may contact the Archie Carr Center for Sea Turtle Research at the University of Florida.
The Green Turtle Research Station always welcomes volunteers, many of whom help with the research at night, when the turtles are most active. International volunteers are able to keep in touch with the turtle preservation efforts through the Marine Turtle newsletter.
Caribbean Conservation Corporation
Each year, the Caribbean Conservation Corporation manages a variety of programs that require volunteers. The first takes place in March, April and May at the turtle nesting beaches near Tortuguero Costa Rica.
This effort is called The Leatherback Project and focuses on the study and protection of the giant leatherback turtles, which in some cases can weigh as much as a ton. Volunteers are involved in counting and identification, as well as tagging the leatherback turtles in order to help researchers track and monitor the giant leatherback turtle population.
In July, August and September, the Caribbean Conservation Corporation studies the green sea turtle, concentrating on their nesting behaviour and addressing their environmental needs in order to keep the species healthy and thriving. Green sea turtles are much smaller than leatherbacks and grow to a maximum length of four feet, and weigh no more than 350 pounds.
In the last decade, more and more travellers have chosen to participate in Costa Rica ecotourism travel, combining volunteer work in Costa Rica with vacation time near the Green Turtle Research Station. The village of Tortuguero has several excellent bed-and-breakfast options, as well as small hotels and guest houses.
Two other noteworthy organizations that actively take part in the effort to restore and preserve the populations of Atlantic sea turtles and other turtle species are the ANAI Leatherback Sea Turtle Conservation Program and EarthWatch.
Turtle Nesting Beaches Part of Caravan Costa Rica Tours
Caravan offers a fully guide Costa Rica Natural Paradise tour which currently includes a visit to Leatherback Turtles National Park on the Pacific Coast, which is less busy and every bit as fascinating as Tortuguero’s Green Turtle Research Station on the Atlantic Coast.
Affordably priced, these 9-day Costa Rica tours feature a number of other top attractions and experiences you can’t miss while visiting Costa Rica including volcanoes, cloud forests, hanging bridges, aerial tram tours.
Visit Caravan’s Costa Rica reviews page to read what others have said about their tour of the turtle nesting beaches of Costa Rica.
Call 1-800-CARAVAN (227-2826) to reserve your space today for a Caravan all inclusive Costa Rica tour!