Tortuguero, on the northeast coast of Costa Rica is one of the most important sea turtle nesting beaches in all of Central America. The region is not only important to the four different types of sea turtles that visit area beaches each year, but to a number of endangered mammals, amphibians, birds and reptiles. The Barra del Colorado Wildlife Refuge to the north and the Tortuguero National Park to the south form the largest remaining continues tract of lowland tropical forest on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica.
Tortuguero National Park was established in 1970 and is home to an incredible diversity of flora and fauna. This region is the wettest area in all of Costa Rica with over 500 centimeters of rain a year. Warm, humid days blend with cool breezy nights to form the perfect environment for eleven distinct and diverse ecosystems. Because of its special climatic conditions, this area is home to over 2,000 species of plants, 400 species of trees, 300 species of birds including great green macaws and curassows, 111 species of reptiles including four different types of sea turtles, 60 species of mammals including jaguars and manatees, 57 species of amphibians including poison dart frogs and 55 species of freshwater fish. To say that the area is blessed with an incredible biological diversity would truly be an understatement.
In 1954 zoologist Dr. Archie F. Carr came to a little known and hard to reach Caribbean beach and found what was even then one of the last remaining green sea turtle nesting beaches in the Western Hemisphere. Dr. Carr subsequently founded the nonprofit Caribbean Conservation Corporation (CCC) and thus began the most extensive and longest lasting sea turtle research project in the world. Every year since 1955 in the green turtle nesting season from early July to late October, CCC has carried out a tagging and population program designed to broaden our understanding of the life of sea turtles.
CCC's ongoing research programs are directly responsible for much of what is now known about the life cycles of sea turtles. There is much that we still do not know and still more that we can merely speculate at. This is what makes continued support of the green turtle and new leatherback turtle research programs essential. These programs will not only help us to better understand these ancient and mysterious animals, they will help us to eventually ensure their survival.
Through internships, research assistant positions and the adopt a turtle program, volunteers and concerned people from all over the world can help to further CCC's valuable objectives. Those interested in finding out about these and other programs designed to help protect endangered sea turtles are urged to contact the Caribbean Conservation Corporation.
In the United States: (800) 678-7853 P.O. Box 2866 Gainesville, FL 32602
Outside the United States: 011-904-373-6441 Apartado Postal 246-2050 San Pedro, Costa Rica
Reaching Tortuguero and the surrounding national park and wildlife preserve can be done a number of different ways. There are no roads into the town of Tortuguero so driving there is not an option. Two separate airlines fly to the area, Travelair has daily flights to Tortuguero and Sansa Airlines flies into Barra del Colorado. Travel overland and or by water can be a challenging experience and a great sightseeing adventure in itself. From San José it is necessary to take a public bus to Puerto Viejo de Sarapiqui, from there water transports are available along the Rio Sarapiqui and Rio San Juan. From the port town of Limon boats are available for hire but, you need to go down to the canal dock at Moén directly and inquire about times and prices.