PURA VIDA ! (Life is good/pure life!) Our day started leisurely with a wonderful Costa Rican breakfast at our hotel and then headed back to the airport to catch our tiny airplane to Tamarindo to meet up with our research team. After fretting for days and constantly weighing our luggage, Karen and Carol sailed through the check-in process and got their boarding passes. Dale was next and suddenly there was some confusion at the gate and a lot of unfamiliar Spanish being spoken. The bottom line was that Dale had a minor speed bump and hadn't purchasing a ticket for the flight. Not a big deal to Dale and she just said, "I'd like to purchase a ticket please" in her typically sweet voice. The ticket agent then informed her that the plane was full and that she could wait in the standby line to see if anything opened up. We were all a bit horrified but Dale took the chair assigned to her while Karen and Carol went to the gate. Carol then frantically started googling other options to get her to the research center and with Karen's help, found another flight out from a different location. After passing this onto Dale, we sat anxiously in our seats, staring at our watches, wondering if she would ever get a flight. We met up with the 4th team member of our team from London and after exchanging greetings, told her of the dire situation. As the flight was about to be boarded, Dale finally surfaced and we all took a needed cleansing breath! We boarded our tiny plane and took off for our scenic flight over a variety of stunning terrain to the beautiful Pacific coast of CR.
We were greeted at the airport by a few young members of the research team. We were quickly whisked away and off the the research center that would be our home for the next 9 days, The team let us get settled then gave us a brief overview of the plans for this expedition. We were then loaded back into the van for the 6 pm dinner at the local restaurant that we would be our dining arrangements for our 2 daily meals. We were told that we would be having a group breakfast at 11 am and then dinner at 6 pm (how was Carol going to survive with only 2 meals/ day and no morning coffee?)
After dinner, we quickly gathered everything we would need for the night and jumped into bed for a few quick hours of sleep. We arose at 10:15 pm and headed out to our assignments. The goal for the evening seemed
simple at first to Carol: a leisurely stroll on a moonlit beach and looking for leatherback turtles the size of a small VW Beetle. It didn't take long for the reality of the situation to sink in that we had miles of beach to cover in total darkness (because the moon was not out), plus we were instructed not to turn our red headlights unless instructed to do it. We also were working with the incoming high tide so it meant watching our every step in order not to trip over logs, step on new hatchlings, or get drenched by the incoming waves.
We we're divided into 3 teams and each took a section of the beach to monitor. We had to keep up with the youthful biologists so it certainly was an exhilarating and exhausting trip, carrying our backpacks with supplies and walking through wet sand. We each got our aerobic workout during those 6 hours, to say the least. At the end of each round trip, we got to rest in the hatchery while at the same time, keeping an eye out for hungry raccoons and skunks who were looking for tempting turtle eggs to snack on. It also gave us a chance to catch our breath, have a snack, and to gaze up at the beautiful sky over head. At the location, you have the rare opportunity to see both the Big Dipper and the Southern Cross at the same time, the Milky Way, besides a ton of shooting stars!
None of us got to see any leatherbacks, but we each had many over wonderful observations. Dale got to witness the phosphorescence sparkling effect on a log that she landed on, while Carol got to witness a Ridley turtle deposit her eggs and then help to relocate them due to the inappropriate area the mother had chosen. With the keen eye of her guide, they spotted a new leatherback hatchling that was left behind because he had landed on his back. With a little help, he was off the a new life In the ocean. Karen got to witness a green turtle covering her clutch of eggs with sand and also marveled at the luminescence of the waves.
There were many observations from our first all-nighter:
1) nature is amazing and should never be taken for granted
2) we all survived walking 6-8 miles in wet sand
3) the night sky is amazing so get out of the city and experience it
4) enjoy the silence of the night and appreciate the darkness and calm that is brings
We can't wait to see what tonight will bring.