After a long day cooped up in the coach we finally arrived at our last destination of the field course, the blistering hot beaches of Playa Grande. With some free time to explore we had a look around Hotel las tortugas, complete with swimming pool, hot tub and hammocks. Right on the beach this is most definitely a fabulous place to spend our remaining time in Costa Rica, especially with some well deserved sun!
The focus of our time here is marine conservation, specifically in terms of turtles. Playa Grande is known for its nesting leatherback turtles however in 2016 there were only 17 reported nestings here, this being a shadow of what the numbers once were. Even after the protection of turtles at Playa Grande leading to the closing of beaches during the evenings and the switch to low level lighting, specifically at Las Tortugas, no recovery from the crash in numbers has been seen and therefore the reduction could be related to international problems. We did have high hopes to see one of these incredible ocean giants despite the chance being very slim. Unfortunately over our 2 nights here we had no luck, but fingers crossed for future years!
Our final discussion session of the course encompassed the topic of marine conservation, an issue that needs to be considered in higher regard around the world. Nearly 5% of the worlds biodiversity is found in Costa Rica, but less than 1% of its waters are actually under protection. Despite this lack of oceanic protection there are some regulations in place to conserve species, for example from the 1990’s turtle egg poaching has been made illegal, except for a compromise made during two take days for those that rely on the eggs for sustenance, with beach patrolling being a key tactic to enforce this. Tourism has bought money to locals and awareness of the importance of the environment, however it can also be damaging, for example boat collisions with marine species.
We were also lucky to be joined by the brilliant environmentalist Randall Arauz of the association PRETOMA and CREMA, who gave us an enlightening guest lecture about marine conservation. Beginning with sea turtle conservation, Randall has now expanded, focusing on sharks and other marine issues too. He spoke of the difficulties of conservation, especially when species are slow growing, long lived, have long sexual maturity, have few offspring that reach adulthood and are highly migratory. Animals exhibiting these characteristics include sea turtles, all 8 species of which are endangered, and sharks, of which one third are also endangered. Conservation efforts discussed included the use of turtle excluder devices, which consist of a grid section of trawlers that push out turtles through an escape route, which has been proved to be 97% effective. However, Costa Rican fishermen have been found to often not use these despite their success! Randall also spoke of a number of policies that aid in conservation, such as the ruling in 2001 that shark fins must be attached. However, it is clear from his talk that environmental conservation faces many continual battles, and that education is a key aspect of raising awareness of these issues in order to conserve our oceans for generations to come.
Our last activity at Playa Grande, and for the field course as a whole was snorkeling! Loading onto two boats we headed off into the sea, spotting masses of pelicans flying with ease across the water. We kept our hopes up for some fabulous marine life as we geared up with snorkels, flippers and the occasional noodle. Once in the cool blue sea we set to investigating anything that moved, spotting a variety fish from brightly coloured individuals to shoals of silvery white. A few pufferfish were also sighted along the way! After a few hours in the water diving to the depths and scanning the area it was time to for us climb back aboard and make our way to solid land, however most of us could’ve happily stayed for hours more. Sufficiently relaxed we settled down at the front of the boat and watched the sunset as we returned, the perfect way to end a brilliant day, and mark the close of our activities on field course Costa Rica. With the course now drawing to a close, all that is left is to head to our first destination yet again, Hotel Autentico, and prepare to leave what has proved to be an amazing country.
Only one day left! Don’t miss out on the last of Field Course Costa Rica:
sf343 January 26th, 2017 Costa Rica, Costa Rica archive beach, boat, Costa Rica, CREMA, Field Course, fins attached, Fish, Hotel las Tortugas, leatherback, leatherback turtles, marine, marine conservation, nesting, pelicans, Playa Grande, poaching, PRETOMA, puffer fish, Randall Arauz, Sea turtles, sharks, snorkeling, sun, sunset, tourism