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Costa Rica Nature Guide: Turtles

Considered one of the most bio-diverse regions in the world, Costa Rica is divided in 20 natural parks, 8 biological reserves, and a series of protected areas that captivate ecotourism lovers. It’s also home to key nesting grounds for many species of turtles with no less than 4 different kinds laying their eggs on the beaches of Tortuguero on the Caribbean coast alone. A visit to Tortuguero National Park is a highlight on any of the best tours to Costa Rica.

Sea Turtles inhabit all of the world’s oceans and can live to be up to 80 years old. They only come on to land to bury their eggs in the sand at which point they are particularly vulnerable to predators with for many centuries us humans being the worst of those predators.

Luckily most countries that have large turtle populations of their coasts have transitioned from a tourism industry that made profits from selling sea turtle meat and shells to an ecotourism-based economy. The Costa Rican beach village of Tortuguero (literally Land of Turtles) is considered to be the founding location of sea turtle conservation. In the 1960s the cultural demand for sea turtle meat, shells, and eggs was quickly killing the once abundant sea turtle populations that nested on the beach.

The Caribbean Conservation Corporation began working with villagers to promote ecotourism as a permanent substitute to sea turtle hunting. Sea turtle nesting grounds became sustainable. Since the creation of a sea turtle, ecotourism-based economy, Tortugero annually houses thousands of tourists who visit the protected 22-mile beach that hosts sea turtle walks and nesting grounds.

Though Tortuguero National Park is especially famous for the sea turtle nesting that takes place every year, the natural canals that surround it are full of other protected species such as crocodiles, manatees, and otters. Various aquatic and hiking trails cross the park making for some of the best tours to Costa Rica and though Tortuguero can only be reached by plane or boat, it is more than worth the effort.