2013 Running around - Pretty Planet Project

A lucky encounter with a sea turtle on one of Costa Rica's busiest beaches

March 2013

I´ve just had a great wildlife encounter while running in Costa Rica.

Running in the wilderness sometimes is an ecstatic, blissful experience, one that lifts the spirit. It´s not just the endorphins kicking in. It´s also because you see the beauty of our planet. Running along the rim of the Grand Canyon (AZ, USA) was great, just as jogging was at first light in Yellowstone NP (WY, USA), the landscape still covered in snow and morning fog lingering between the trees and on the meadows. Jogging on a lone desert highway near the town of San Pedro de Atacama (Chile) with the Licancabur volcano as a backdrop was also memorable.

Over the years, I was lucky to have some spectacular wildlife encounters as well. While jogging on a trail at dusk in the Sierra Nevada (CA, USA), I ran into a black bear that came trotting in the opposite direction on the very same path! Not knowing what to do, I was glad the bear bolted and turned. I encountered elephants twice. I still have small scars on my upper left arm from the time I got impatient with such a behemoth as it didn´t move and kept feeding along the road. When I tried to walk past it as calmly as I could, it mock charged. I fled running in the bushes and fell in thorny plants.

Now in Costa Rica, I twice saw a jaguarundi while doing my workout near the town of Uvita (Central Pacific coast). A jaguarundi is a small wild cat and wild cat sightings are uncommon in the Americas. A few days ago while being in Manuel Antonio (Central Pacific coast), I was running late (pun intended) for an interval training on the beach. Working my way through e-mails and having to move my bags to a hotel apart from the rest of my travel companions, delayed my run. Instead of 17.00 hours, I started running at 17.37 hours, ten minutes before sunset, which happens fast near the equator. Near the end of the run I saw familiar tracks on the northern end of Espadilla beach: a sea turtle had come ashore to nest! The reptile turned out to be a hawksbill turtle (karetschildpad, carey), a critically endangered species. An amazing sighting here, as it was a clear, moonlit and rainless evening, and Manuel Antonio is among the most crowded beaches in the country.

Anyway, I finished the run and went back to my hotel room to get my camera. When I returned, a Costa Rican couple had also found the animal. They meant no harm, but said that many Ticos (=Costa Ricans) still collect and eat turtle eggs and even kill sea turtles for their flesh. The eggs are supposedly a natural Viagra. Their statement about poaching annoyed me, especially since Costa Rica markets itself as an environmental conscious country.

The man and me erased the turtle tracks on the beach in order not to attract more people to either the animal or the nest. We patiently waited for the hawksbill to finish the hole and to start laying her eggs, trying to be quiet and not to disturb the reptile. However, the hawksbill started moving on the beach again, even though her nest had been virtually finished. At this point we decided to take some pictures. The Tico couple thought it fun and necessary to get pictures from one another while touching – virtually laying on - the turtle… After that they left. The hawksbill circled and returned to her nest but almost an hour later she again left the nest. Upon this, I took some more pictures and called it quits. Maybe the turtle needed to be alone. It was also getting late, the beach is known to be unsafe*, and dozens of tiny mosquitos were feasting on my blood.

(* Police presence in Manuel Antonio has greatly reduced crime. Costa Rica is among the safest countries in the world. It used to be and to some extend still is a place where people don´t lock their doors. In recent decades, however, crime has gone up a bit. For example, the first bank robbery in Costa Rica took place as late as 1970. Many Ticos worry about rising crime and consider it a serious problem, that doesn´t fit in their rosy image of their country. As a consequence they blame most crime on foreigners, even though over 90% of prisoners here are Ticos.)

Hawksbill turtle on nesting beach, Central Pacific Coast, Puntarenas, Costa Rica

Now in Costa Rica, I twice saw a jaguarundi while doing my workout near the town of Uvita (Central Pacific coast). A jaguarundi is a small wild cat and wild cat sightings are uncommon in the Americas. A few days ago while being in Manuel Antonio (Central Pacific coast), I was running late (pun intended) for an interval training on the beach. Working my way through e-mails and having to move my bags to a hotel apart from the rest of my travel companions, delayed my run. Instead of 17.00 hours, I started running at 17.37 hours, ten minutes before sunset, which happens fast near the equator. Near the end of the run I saw familiar tracks on the northern end of Espadilla beach: a sea turtle had come ashore to nest! The reptile turned out to be a hawksbill turtle (karetschildpad, carey), a critically endangered species. An amazing sighting here, as it was a clear, moonlit and rainless evening, and Manuel Antonio is among the most crowded beaches in the country.Anyway, I finished the run and went back to my hotel room to get my camera. When I returned, a Costa Rican couple had also found the animal. They meant no harm, but said that many Ticos (=Costa Ricans) still collect and eat turtle eggs and even kill sea turtles for their flesh. The eggs are supposedly a natural Viagra. Their statement about poaching annoyed me, especially since Costa Rica markets itself as an environmental conscious country.The man and me erased the turtle tracks on the beach in order not to attract more people to either the animal or the nest. We patiently waited for the hawksbill to finish the hole and to start laying her eggs, trying to be quiet and not to disturb the reptile. However, the hawksbill started moving on the beach again, even though her nest had been virtually finished. At this point we decided to take some pictures. The Tico couple thought it fun and necessary to get pictures from one another while touching – virtually laying on - the turtle… After that they left. The hawksbill circled and returned to her nest but almost an hour later she again left the nest. Upon this, I took some more pictures and called it quits. Maybe the turtle needed to be alone. It was also getting late, the beach is known to be unsafe*, and dozens of tiny mosquitos were feasting on my blood.(* Police presence in Manuel Antonio has greatly reduced crime. Costa Rica is among the safest countries in the world. It used to be and to some extend still is a place where people don´t lock their doors. In recent decades, however, crime has gone up a bit. For example, the first bank robbery in Costa Rica took place as late as 1970. Many Ticos worry about rising crime and consider it a serious problem, that doesn´t fit in their rosy image of their country. As a consequence they blame most crime on foreigners, even though over 90% of prisoners here are Ticos.)