Heading back to Costa Rica the next day, we traversed the entire diagonal of the country, from the south Caribbean to the northern Pacific side, stopping for a night to soak in the lush (though not exactly jungle) hot springs near Arenal Volcano. This was my first visit to the northern part of the Guanacaste province, a rare thing since I have spent about 2 years of my life here and 15 or so visits to the country.
El Jobo is a small community along the coast, near the border with Nicaragua. Here we were visiting Equipo Tora Carey (ETC), a community organization that is working to study and protect the incredible wildlife of this area. The area around El Jobo is pretty unique for sea turtles, with three species either nesting or living in these waters (or both), (hawksbills, olive ridleys, and both Indo Pacific green turtles and black turtles, a sub-species of green turtles). SEE Turtles has supported the work of ETC since 2019, providing $5,000 in grants which has helped to save an estimated 1,000 hatchlings.
We met Mathilde, one of the organization’s coordinators, at her home, which doubles as a BnB, hosting visiting volunteers. During our visit, we enjoyed several delicious meals at the home of Kembly Mora, one of ETC’s leaders, and sampled the many activities that travelers can participate in this area. We joined Kembly’s husband Ricardo to search for and catch rays, as part of a research study, spotting a hawksbill along the way. We visited three of the area’s nesting beaches with Randall Mora and though we did not spot any turtles that evening (it was outside of the peak nesting times), we did get to see the impact of the Dreams Las Mareas Resort, one of the country’s largest. This resort in the past had taken steps to reduce some of its impact on the nesting but no longer does, hosting loud parties with bright lights on the beach, to the detriment of the turtles, which have fewer nests here than in the past.
The highlight of the visit was to Bahia Matapalito (a marine management area adjacent to Santa Rosa National Park), a 30 minute boat ride across the Gulf of Santa Elena, to participate in ETC’s in-water program, where turtles are caught in the water to study and release. Along the way, we spotted a mating pair of olive ridleys in the water. Mathilde also educated us about the importance of this bay for humpback whales, where two distinct populations come to mate and calve.[MH1]
Once across the Gulf, we stopped to drop the nets, which are used to catch the turtles without risking drowning them. It didn’t take long to snare the first turtle, an Indo Pacific green turtle with a gorgeous shell. After that, two more turtles, one black and one Indo Pacific were caught in a remarkably short time. We snorkeled a bit around the small bay in search of other turtles including hawksbills but were not successful. Once we collected the data of these turtles, we returned them to the water and headed back across the bay, right into the oncoming rain.
That evening, when the skies cleared, we headed up the hill above Mathilde’s place, where several new cabins are being constructed that will house our and other future groups. The view from the top was spectacular, seeing across both sides of the Punta Descartes peninsula[MH2] over both the Santa Elena Gulf and Salinas Bay. This spot is ideal for the parrot research ETC is conducting, counting these chatty and colorful birds as they migrate from the mainland back to their nearby island nesting colony.
Our two-week journey along Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast, down to Panama, and back up to the Pacific wrapped up with a visit to the Rincon de la Vieja volcano, a beautiful and active one an hour drive from El Jobo. We stayed at the Blue River Resort, which has a variety of fun activities for families and guests, including several hot springs pools, a mud bath and natural sauna, and beautifully landscaped gardens. It was the perfect way to end a hectic but fun and productive trip.
Stay tuned for our newest conservation trip to El Jobo, Costa Rica Turtles, Whales, & Rays coming soon!