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    Tortuguero: Pride, Community, and Paradise for Residents and Turtles Alike

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    Nestled in the Caribbean of Costa Rica is Tortuguero, a community used to living surrounded by fresh water, sea and natural wealth.

    To get to Tortuguero, it’s necessary to travel for over an hour by boat on the rivers and canals of the Costa Rican Caribbean, a journey where it’s easy to spot crocodiles basking on the shore, monkeys and majestic birds such as herons and ducks.

    This area, surrounded by Caribbean jungle and freshwater canals, is one of the favorite sites for the green turtle (Chelonia mydas) to leave the ocean to spawn on the beach in total darkness.

    The protection of the sea turtles in Tortuguero National Park goes so far that they do not let any light on the beach, unless it’s infrared to see, let alone filming or taking photographs.

    Green turtles (Chelonia mydas), which can grow to over a meter in length and weigh up to 150 kilos, have their spawning season between July and October. At this time 26,000 nests were counted.

    Each turtle can lay up to 100 eggs that hatch in 90 days, but it is estimated that only few of the hatchlings grow into adults.

    The arrival of the turtles on the beach at night from July to October is the main attraction of Tortuguero, but the rest of the year visitors can enjoy the freshwater canals and tranquility offered by hotels in the area located the water’s edge.

    Very few hotels have in-room televisions or alarm clocks, because the philosophy of the businesses is for visitors to be in contact with nature and listen to the sounds of the forest.

    Tortuguero village began to arise in 1934 when Walton Martinez and his family sailed from the island of San Andres, Colombia, and settled on the site where nearly 1,500 people now live, said Karla Taylor, a descendant of the founders and tourist guide.

    Tortuguero has no streets, much less a single car. People mostly use boats to get around and most have found tourism is a way of life as owners of small shops, places to stay, selling handicrafts and offering services to tourists.

    [quote_center]”The development of the people has been interesting. In the 1940s logging companies came along and this created employment for the first families. Two decades after logging is when the conservation movement began.” – Taylor.[/quote_center]

    The villagers slowly began to understand that it was better protect and learn from the turtles, deer and iguanas instead of eating them.

    [quote_center]”It was a process of evolution. People learned to conserve the resources we have and the natural paradise that was once viewed as an inhospitable place. Now we know we have a unique place in the world.” – Taylor [/quote_center]

    In the village, administrators of Tortuguero National Park, the NGO Sea Turtle Conservancy and the tourism industry have managed to work together to protect the natural resources of and face different challenges.

    A score of tourism entrepreneurs recently created the Chamber of Tourism of Tortuguero in order to work to improve in areas such as access, security, conservation, environmental sustainability and promotion.

    The Speaker of the House, Roxana Silman, said that the major projects that will boost the system is the treatment of sewage and to have more rangers and police.

    But Silman said that among the main threats to the area is an initiative that has been brewing in the area for several years to build a path to get to Tortuguero by land.

    The locals do not want to lose the unique charm that gives Tortuguero and its species isolation in which they live.

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