This has been an incredible journey and I can’t believe we’re at our last port. WHAAAT??
I signed up for a program through semester at sea where we volunteered at a turtle conservation center. It was one the “IMPACT” programs that SAS does, and it was probably the most immersive program I did, largely because we stayed with local families in their homes. The conservation work consisted of taking down data about the Olive Riddley turtles that come in huge numbers to this particular beach to lay their eggs. We were incredibly lucky to get to Ostional Beach precisely on the day of the last “arribada”… and this was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. We saw 70,000 turtles in one night. 70,000! And they’re like 40 Kilos each so it was difficult to even walk through them at night. They’re extremely light-sensitive so we had to use these dinky red lights and I could not get any quality pictures that captures the sheer quantity of turtles, but trust me, it was insane. We walked for miles during our 8pm-12am patrol and I could barely get by without feeling like I was gonna step on a turtle or in one of their nest holes.
They are amazing creatures. They are so not built for land roving but they do it! These mama turtles do incredible things to make sure their 100 eggs are settled before they go back to the sea.
The great thing about this project is that the conservationists are trying a new program to help the community of Ostional get involved. Since turtle eggs are commonly eaten, to prevent them being sold in the black market the municipality has created an official group of people that get to harvest a certain quantity of eggs to sell. They make a fair amount of money from it and their community makes sure that there is no need for smuggled eggs anymore. Since they have the education to do it correctly, they do not harm any other nests in the process. And the most amazing thing- the reason we were here- is that it is actually good to take some eggs out of this beach. There is so little coastline suitable for these turtles anymore that they’re all cramped on top of each other and there’s actually too many eggs cramped in. This lowers the rate of survival as the eggs get smashed and cause infections that kill them all. The data we helped collect is going to destined to reinforce previous studies that back this claim.
These are the type of conservation projects that really make a difference in the world. Conservation isn’t about the environment, it’s about society. The world is gonna keep on turning one way or another and nature will outlive the human race in one way or another, but we are the ones that have to decide how much destruction we want to stop inflicting.
On the very last day in port I spent in great company doing an action-packed tour of a volcano and a waterfall and a mud-bath and a horse ride. One of my favorite days overall!!
I feel like I really did some amazing things here though, and I’m ready to do finals and head home!!