Wednesday, January 28, 2009

24 hours in Playa Tamarindo

Walking along the beach shortly after midnight, it's pitch black here, Tamarindo's few lights flicker in the distance across the estuary. The moon's not out tonight, but the sky is filled with a dazzling assortment of stars - brilliantly visible with precious few outside light sources around. Tina and I (and a group of other assorted tourists) are walking along Playa Grande in Costa Rica's Las Baulas National Park, where the horribly endangered leatherback turtles come to nest, and tourists can come see them October through March. Everyone else had gone to see the turtles in the first week of the trip, but since Tina and I hadn't been here then, and considering that Playa Grande is immediately adjacent to Tamarindo, we figured we needed to go. So, here we were, at around 12:30AM, walking along the beach towards the ranger station, where we'd have to wait for one of the rangers to sight a turtle.

And wait we did... At 2:30 (and still no turtles... and a bunch of others leaving), I was pretty much ready to go, but we decided to hang around for another 30 minutes. At 2:45, the word came that a turtle was on shore, so those of us still waiting, marched 500m along the shore to find a turtle (surrounded by rangers), dig a nest in the sand, getting ready to lay her eggs. The turtle is huge (150cm x 106cm). And she lays about 40 eggs. We weren't allowed to take photographs, but here's what the turtles look like:

After observing the turtle for about 40 minutes, we trooped back up the beach on the way back to all of our respective hotels. Five minutes later, our progress was interrupted by an even bigger leatherback crossing our path on her way up the beach. After letting her pass, we continued on our way - I don't think any of us were really up for spending another 40 minutes with this one considering it was after 3:30 in the morning by now... At 4:30AM, we were back at the house in Tamarindo, and off to bed.

My alarm promptly went off at 6:30AM... that's only two hours later. Lott came by and made sure I was awake at 6:29AM. I was a little mad for missing out on almost one percent of my two hours of sleep! Next on the Costa Rica agenda was scuba diving, so at 6:45 we were outside looking for our diving shuttle. It showed up around 7. I struggled to remain awake. Staying awake became a lot easier once we got out on a boat (and a lot easier still when we got under water).

Part of Catalina island, near which we were diving today

Lott, enjoying the view from the deck

The marine life was pretty spectacular: just on the surface, we saw a couple of dolphins, a manta ray jumping out of the water, birds hovering right around us (then dive bombing into the water to pick up a target), and a pair of green turtles 'getting romantic' on the surface next to us:

Turtles having sex...

The birds would just seemingly hover right in front of the ship

Under water, it was a little cold and a little mirky, but this didn't keep us from seeing a sting ray, a manta ray, a bunch of devil rays, a shark, a turtle, and a few eels, among other wild life. And I felt a lot more awake as a result of it all.

Back at the house around 12:30, where Lott headed off to his Spanish class, while I lazed around not doing a whole lot of anything until we went out surfing at 4:

Bailey making it look easy

Then learning the hard way that it really isn't all that easy

Drew, working on his balance

Tina taking it all in, while taking a break back on the beach

And for the finale, we were at the nearby 'Eat at Joe's' restaurant, enjoying $1.25 beers (Happy Hour till 9PM!?) and some delicious sea food. By about 10 that evening and after a couple of beers, I was all set to pass out - all in all, a good day in Costa Rica!

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