Playa Nancite

Students guard endangered Olive Ridley Sea Turtle hatchlings from birds as they crawl towards the Pacific

We packed our gear in Santa Rosa and hiked 10 miles through restored tropical dry forest and mangrove swamp to Playa Nancite, one of the few remaining arrebata beaches in the world.  Several times a year, thousands of endangered sea turtles lay their eggs in the black sand in the course of several nights.
A hatchling sea turtle scrambles toward the surf, Playa Nancite, Costa Rica
Most of the turtles hatch at night, and are drawn towards the reflected light of the surf.  In the morning the entire beach was covered by baby turtle tracks, with only an occasional patch of undisturbed sand.  Some turtles hatch too early or too late, and are vulnerable to daytime predators, especially birds.

Frigate birds eat turtles that hatch during daylight hours

We picked up turtles that hatched during the day and helped them make their way across the treacherous sand, shooing away dive bombing birds.  I carried about 30 in a punch in my shirt.  The turtles that make it to the surf still have a low chance of surival, hatching attracts numerous predators that wait just offshore.  At one point students wanted to go swimming, but one of the Costa Ricans who works with the turtles advised against it.  With my incomplete Spanish I understood that there was something in the water that could bite, and it was not a shark or other fish:
'Toasty' the crocodile doesn't care that his snacks are endangered and cute
Development of coastal areas has been catastrophic for sea turtles.  In developed areas, instead of crawling towards the ocean, hatchlings crawl towards electric lights to their death.  Seeing such uncommon and beautiful animals in huge numbers was a surreal experience.  Playa Nancite also had some pretty awesome insects, some welcome others not as much:
Tropical stink bug (Pentatomidae)
This stink bug (yes it is related to the brown marmorated stink bug) stands guard over its eggs - kicking its legs at my lens (or any would be predator).  Parental care is uncommon in insects and we were really excited to find this species here.

The kissing bug feeds on the blood of sleeping humans, and can transmit Chagas disease.  This one was in the student bungalow.

After an uphill hike from Nancite we all had a good night's rest before heading to the beautiful Monteverde cloud forest, which I will post about soon.


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