I arrived at La Tortuga Feliz on the 10th of April with my girlfriend for a seven day stay. We both had high hopes for some intimate contact with the wildlife, specifically the turtles. My first night was spent protecting the hatchery, they wasted no time in putting us to good use. My girlfriend Jasmine returned from her patrol sweaty and exhilarated, but without seeing a turtle. The beach was incredible enough by itself that she had a pleasant experience, but ready for her next patrol with hopes of returning to camp with a bag full of turtle eggs, a modern day knight of the round table, holy grail in hand. The next day it was my turn to embark on the quest that could win me glory, or just further instil the passion for the hunt.
My guide Stephan, another volunteer named Morgan and I departed at 8 pm sharp for a southern patrol. After one full down and back to the hatchery without any turtles our drive was embarked. We continued on the quest and completed half a cycle with still no luck. We sat some time close to the river, Stephan telling us of many of the folk tales that live on the island, specifically of ‘las Brujas’ that tormented the locals. So now we were questing for not just turtles, but for witches. Our heads on a sword, eyes on constant alert, ready at any moment to see una bruja emerge from the forest, or una tortuga emerge from the sea. Fortunately, it was the latter.
And at approximately 11.24 pm I saw my first turtle, and what a beautiful lady she was. Our group hung back momentarily to ensure we would not scare her off, as we surely did to the witches who were lurking near us. As our excitement grew a dark figure appeared and was moving in our direction. Stephan, just as King Arthur himself would have done, sprinted in a wide arch around the turtle to stake our claim on her precious cargo, since it was a poacher approaching. After that our goliath leader began preparing our equipment to collect the eggs and obtain some date on the turtle. No sooner had we become ready, the heavens themselves opened up, releasing a torrent of rain that must have been intended on testing our hearts and will. With our fearless leader we looked up at the heavens and exclaimed our might and intentions. I thought that sacrifice would have appeased the gods but Stephan was much wiser and said our holy intentions of ensuring this species’ continued existence was enough. Once again our leader had not led us astray. Fore as soon as the beautiful sea creature identified the perfect location for her nest, the heavens ended their assault. We had passed the test. At this point our work was just beginning. Stephan and I prepared the bag while Morgan took down the data. Once the eggs began to fall, it was when the reality of it all hit me. Without the incredible work of conservation groups like this one, these magnificent creatures would be laying their eggs into the bags of poachers, ending up being sold as food rather than incubating and hatching. Without getting into the morality of poaching. I’ll just say it was a special experience being part of the laying of eggs of a species that is on the verge of extinction, and without NGO’s like La Tortuga Feliz, they would be . So, upon completion of the egg laying ritual, she returned to the sea and we returned to camp, as modern day knights, with our Holy Grail.
Date: April 11, 2014