Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The beauty of nature

A few weeks ago we got the opportunity to travel to a fairly "undiscovered" beach community in Guanacaste, Costa Rica. Playa Coyote is a fishing community that has yet to truly be developed for tourism and visitors, but it is definitely worth the trip! It took us about 10 hours of driving in CATIE vans/buses to get all the way up the Pacific coast and back down the Nicoya Peninsula. Most of the roads further down the peninsula are unpaved and require much more time to get to your destination.. especially if it is raining (you better have 4-wheel drive).

This community relies heavily on fishing and realized a few years ago that their fish populations off the coast of the Nicoya Peninsula were quickly decreasing and endangered species were being harmed due to trolling careless fishing practices. These beaches are also home to several different species of Sea Turtles who come there specifically to lay their eggs. In order to protect these areas PRETOMA was created. In the last 16 years, this organization has been able to get approximately 35,000 square hectares of ocean and beach protected from poachers and unsustainable fishing practices.

Over the course of the weekend we were able to go out in the Pacific Ocean with local fishermen (my Dad would be pleased to hear that I didn't get sick!). They took us out and taught us their sustainable process for line setting. These lines are made to sit at the bottom of the ocean and each line usually has around 500-1000 hooks baited. Ordinarily each line is set in the evening and left overnight, but since we didn't have that much time we set the line and went a little further out for a swim in the ocean and came back about an hour later.

And the grand total of fish we caught... ONE! And one other one we had to throw back. But we won't count that one. Granted, the lines weren't out there for very long. Still I think it is a good example of the fish population and how much they have been depleted. It made for an incredible day though.. I mean, how often do you get to go swimming in the Pacific Ocean?? Sure I was scared out of my mind most of the time, but hey, there's a first time for everything!

That night Erick took us out to one of their protected beaches to patrol for turtle nests. Now this was interesting for me. First of all, I'm partially night blind, so my eyes don't really adjust to the darkness and I can hardly see without a flashlight (big thanks to Kaitlyn and Nikki for being my guides!). Secondly, it was really late and we were all tired, but in the end it was WAY worth it.

Not many people get to go out and witness turtles laying their eggs, but that night.. we got to. I don't even know how to begin explaining it. It was like stepping into a TV episode on the Discovery Channel. We walked down the beach a bit and then Erick disappeared into the darkness only to run back to us saying he had found a turtle.

Now I'm sure you are wondering how we actually saw these turtles in the pure darkness.. and the answer is by red light. For some reason the red light doesn't disturb the turtles as a normal white light would. But either way, it was fascinating. We stood there in pure silence watching as these turtles dug a nest and laid their eggs in the sand only to return back to the sea. It was beautiful.

After something as incredible as that, the rest of the weekend seemed to pale in comparison. But of course, that was something I will never EVER forget.

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