Rancho Santana in Nicaragua


“You’re on the planet too. Why should James Bond have all the action, fun, money, and resort hotel living.”
― Paul Kyriazi, How to Live the James Bond Lifestyle: The Complete Seminar

When my best friend from high school came to visit us last week, they asked us to go to Rancho Santana with them. What a treat for us! We are country people at heart and usually choose inexpensive and funky places to stay, but we live on this planet, too! Honestly, why should James Bond have all the action, money, fun, and resort living?
Rancho Santana is a world-class resort and residential community on the Pacific Coast of Nicaragua. It was developed in 1997 and continues to provide first-class services to tourists and residents. 

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Take a Walk on the Wild Side


Take a walk with a turtle. And behold the world in pause. ~Bruce Feiler

Watching a turtle arribada (massive arrival of turtles) has been on my bucket list for some time. Monday night, during a strong thunder and lightning storm along with heavy rain, we saw hundreds of Olive Ridley turtles arrive on the shore of La Flor beach to lay their eggs. Take a walk with us on the wild side.

photo by La Flor Wildlife Reserve

photo by La Flor Wildlife Reserve

I researched the best time to see an arribada which is between the last quarter of the moon and the new moon, made reservations to stay at Parque Maritimo on El Coco beach, and called Francisco, our awesome taxi driver, to take us to La Flor. We crossed our fingers and I would have been happy to see one turtle nesting…BUT, we were in for a huge surprise:

The Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources (MARENA) announced that 35,087 endangered Olive Ridley sea turtles have arrived at their nesting grounds in the Chacocente and La Flor Wildlife Refuges. Yeffer Cruz, technical director of Chacocente said that, “Yes, there was a delay. Obviously climate change delayed the arrival; fishing with explosives also had an effect, but they are arriving massively as they do every year.” Indeed he said that little by little the numbers are increasing due to conservation and enforcement measures. He noted, “In 2000, 26,000 turtles arrived and now there are many more.” MARENA delegate for the Department of Rivas Mario Jose Rodriguez said that an inter-agency cooperation plan for protection of the turtles includes roadblocks at strategic points in the region to inspect vehicles and confiscate eggs. Volunteers walk the turtle nesting grounds to prevent theft of the eggs. Law enforcement officials patrol the bars and restaurants to prevent the sale of turtle eggs which many people consider a delicacy. (El Nuevo Diario, Sept. 30)

Monday night, we went to La Flor Wildlife Reserve and bought discounted tickets because we are residents of Nicaragua. Oh, no! There weren’t any numbers on the September 2013 chart. Would we see any turtles on the last day of September?

IMG_3597Walking to the beach with red cellophane over our flashlights ( so we wouldn’t disturb the turtles) I could see a dark bump in the sand. Looking to my left, then right, I noticed hundreds of bumps in the sand. The Olive Ridley turtles were arriving!
The small, olive colored sea turtles gathered off shore in a large group. Then, they rode the waves ashore….thousands of them. No one really knows what triggers an arribada. Our guide told us they always return to the beach where they hatched and always during the darkest time of the moon.
IMG_3602During their nesting time, each Olive Ridley will lay about 110 eggs. The eggs plop one at a time, then two at a time, then three at a time until the shallow hole is full. See the egg being gently released?
IMG_3609The nest fills up quickly. Mama Olive Ridley will lay 3 clutches per year, each with 110 eggs. While she was laying her eggs, I could take flash photos because Ms. Olive was in a trance and nothing would bother her.
IMG_3612Then the Olive Ridley shoved the sand over the shallow nest with her flippers and patted down the nest by thumping her body against the sand…over and over and over. There was a lot of thumping going on at the beach. After about an hour, the turtle returned to the sea.
During our visit, the rain rhythmically pelted the backs of the turtles, while the lightning flashed and the thunder boomed. With each flash of lightning, we glimpsed hundreds of turtles arriving, laying, and leaving. It was the most incredible sight!
IMG_3603The turtles are marked with different colors of paint, so they can be identified with each arribada. Since there are many predators and one hatchling is lucky to survive, workers gather each nest and move the eggs to the porch of the Wildlife Reserve. Then, 50-60 days later, the nests are carried back to the beach and when the hatchlings emerge, they are gently ushered to the sea.
IMG_3598

 

When a friend of mine visited La Flor, she took these photos of egg poachers and sent them to the La Flor Reserve. Stealing the eggs continues to be a problem in La Flor as well as other beaches where arribadas occur. Turtle eggs are considered to be a delicacy and an aphrodisiac.  People living in poverty depend on the traditions of selling and eating the eggs to make a living.

I hope you enjoyed a walk on the wild side with us. It was the most amazing thing I had ever seen. What’s next on my bucket list? Whale watching.

Olive Ridley Sea Turtles National Geographic
Network for Endangered Sea Turtles

Aquarium of the Pacific

 

 

Down at the Bottom, We, too, Should Have Rights


I know up on the top you are seeing great sights, but down at the bottom we, too, should have rights. “Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories” ~ Dr. Seuss

Seven arribadas, or turtle arrivals, occur on the Pacific and Atlantic coasts of Nicaragua each year between July and January. They lumber ashore by the hundreds and sometimes thousands to lay their precious eggs. Throughout the world, there are seven species of sea turtles. Five of the species are found in Nicaragua: Green Turtle, Hawksbill Turtle, Leatherback Turtle, Loggerhead Turtle, and the Olive Ridley Turtle (called Paslama in Nicaragua).

Although these incredible arribadas are a sight to behold, they are fraught with danger… not for tourists who witness the egg-laying marathon, but for the five endangered and critically endangered species of turtles in Nicaragua. The adult sea turtles have few natural predators, mostly sharks and killer whales. Fish, dogs, crabs, seabirds, and other predators prey on eggs and hatchlings. Unfortunately, more than 90% of the hatchlings are eaten by these predators.  This is survival of the fittest in all of its glory…munching to the top of the food chain in a fragile ecosystem.

Yet, the most dangerous threat to the endangered sea turtles is the human species. The problems experienced by the turtles are mostly related to the poverty in Nicaragua. Indigenous communities have inherited the traditions of hunting for turtle eggs ( considered a delicacy and aphrodisiac in Nicaragua), and poaching turtles for meat. The major problem on the Pacific Coast is illegally selling the turtle eggs for public consumption.

Three other problems that contribute to the decline of turtles in Nicaragua are: fishing nets in which turtles may get trapped and drown ( fishing nets, called reds, are the main way to fish in Nicaragua), the destruction of their natural habitat due to accumulation of trash the turtles may ingest, or deforestation, which can indirectly threaten sea turtle nests, and the use of turtle shells, leather, and calipee ( the cartilage of the turtle used to make a popular soup) to make jewelry and other products.

Yet, all hope is not lost. Down at the bottom, the turtles on the Pacific Coast of Nicaragua are gaining rights. At the beaches of La Flor and Chacocente, protection of the sea turtles and their environment is managed by civil organizations and the Nicaraguan army. It’s all about changing attitudes. The World Wildlife Fund conducted studies comparing money generated from selling of turtle eggs and other turtle products, and money generated in tourism from the turtle arribadas. It was no surprise that the money generated from tourism was three times that of selling turtle eggs and other turtle products.

For three years, Ron and I have searched for a turtle arribada. We’ve walked miles along  dark, rocky beaches without spotting one turtle. This year, it’s going to be different. We’ve researched the arribada times according to the lunar cycle and found the perfect place to watch the turtles. At the end of September, between the last quarter and the new moon, we are going to Playa El Coco. I’m hoping for a massive arribada, but one turtle will make me happy. 🙂  Wish us luck!

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