Tortuguero Town Walk Tour
So not all tours turn out to be what you expect. Such was the case with the Turtle Conservatory Tour I signed up for through Tortuga Lodge. Since I was travelling in March I knew that it wasn't turtle season so I figured a tour of the conservatory was the next best thing. I expected to see turtles -- perhaps those injured and unable to survive in the wild. Unfortunately, the entire conservatory tour consisted of viewing a 15 minute video that, while good, didn't quite cut it.
After the video, our guide, Fernando, took us on a tour of the town of Tortuguero. There wasn't much for me to do except to go with the flow. Fernando began with providing a little history about the community and how for many years turtles and their eggs were harvested for food and commerce. It's only been fairly recently that conservationists managed to convince the town people and the Costa Rican government that preserving and protecting the turtles could actually be more lucrative for the populace if they also created an environment that catered to eco-tourists. A rare win-win for people and the environment.
Fernando also described how they keep the number of people on the beach to a minimum by using just a few spotters to comb the beach for turtles. Guides and tourists would wait in designated areas behind trees and await to be signaled by radio that they should approach the beach. In this way the turtles aren't scared before they lay their eggs and the lights don't confuse the hatchlings.
We then entered the town proper and walked down the main street. This street, where all the tourists go, was full of shops mostly with trinkets, but there was also a higher-end place or two. At the far end of town is the Tortuguero National Park ranger station which is also where the town line ends.
Our guide also took us deeper into town where the locals actual live, go to school, and play. No concrete sidewalks or roads here – no cars at all for that matter. All of the buildings were single level and simply built.
After our walk through the less-visited parts of town, we headed back to the main street. Here we entered the local recycling facility where metal, plastic, and glass are cut into pieces for recycling. It was pretty cool to see this sort of facility in such a small town.
As we continued down main street, a local called out to our guide to come over. Apparently he had seen a Tamandua (Collared) Anteater. I assume that we were called over because we're tourists and the town folk know we want to see such things – some good evidence that the town has truly embraced and wants to ensure that tourists enjoy their visits.
Our tour ended with heavy rain. Yes, it rains in Costa Rica. In Tortuguero there really isn't a dry season; just a less wet season. No matter, I was prepared for it and didn't mind. When the rain tapered off, I hoped back into the boat and headed back to Tortuga Lodge.