World Oceans Day: Turtle Watch In Costa Rica


World Oceans Day is celebrated on June 8, and has been a decade long programme of worldwide events looking at promoting the beauty and power of ocean and our personal connection to the sea. Few holidays are complete without a trip to the beach, and‘s very own eco-warrior Kimberley Wyatt, is striving to do all she can to help protect the natural environment – and in particular; turtles. Here is her story:

Leatherbacks are the largest species of sea turtle in the world and are quite literally living dinosaurs. They have been around for more than 100 million years having survived the KT mass extinction at the end of the cretaceous that wiped out almost two thirds of life on earth. It is a tragedy therefore that having survived this long they are now on the brink of extinction with worldwide populations falling by two-thirds in the last 20 years[1]. A decline that can be attributed in a large part to worldwide ocean pollution, long line fishing practices, poaching and destruction of nesting beaches.

Turtle in Costa Rica

Compelled to act, I flew out to the East Coast of Costa Rica to volunteer on a research and conservation project, in collaboration with Earthwatch, that is trying to reverse the decline in their numbers

As well as monitoring the number of nesting females, the project also relocates nests to safe areas of the beach, and after the sun has set in the evening we have the pleasure of taking the newly emerged hatchling to the shoreline. Incredibly only 1 in 1000 of these baby sea turtles survive to adulthood, so every one that reaches the sea with our help is a massive step forward.

Costa Rica Sea Turtles

“With moonlight illuminating the Playa Blanca beach I am laying on my front, behind the female Leatherback, now in a trace, lifting her tail and counting the number of eggs she is laying in her newly dug out nest; 106 a good number. A no light restriction on the beach means I am not wearing a watch but looking at the position of the false Southern Cross in the sky. I guess it is about 3am and I have been patrolling the beach for about 4 hours. My mind is wondering off course, somewhere between the blisters forming on the soles of my feet and dreaming of hot tea, when the radio screeches into life; there is a sighting at marker 36, that’s our patch! With sore feet forgotten we turn around and pace quickly up the beach, our eyes now accustomed to the dark, scanning the shoreline for movement. Every so often we slow and listen intently for signs of movement, and there in the distance we she her, a majestic female Leatherback sea turtle dragging herself slowly and methodically towards the dry sand at the top of the beach.”

Costa Rica Map

You may be surprised to learn that you do not have to go half way around the world to see these wonderful species, Leatherbacks are now regularly sighted off the UK coast, following their much loved jellyfish during our summer months. If you are lucky enough to sight one than you can assist within ongoing research of their numbers by filling out a sighting form on the Marine Conservation Society’s Website, where you can also find out more information about turtle’s and protection of UK Shores and download their Turtle code.

South West Wales and Cornwall are amoungst the most common places to sight sea turtles during the summer, but even if you don’t see a leatherback why not celebrate World Ocean Day by making the most of a beautiful coastline, and stay at a hotel with a wonderful sea view;

Mercure Brighton Seafront

My pick would be the 4 star Mercure Brighton Seafront hotel. This is a grand Victorian landmark with period features. It has a prominent position right on the Brighton seafront, for east access to the beach, and close to The Lanes.

I travelled to Costa Rica as part of an Earthwatch Expedition. For more information about their projects please visit


[1] Obtained on 23/05/2013


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