The trip to Tortuguero takes most of the morning. We boarded a van bright and early with a couple from Colorado and our guide, Danny. I was geared up with a book and my ipod, ready to spend the morning drifting in and out of sleep on the bumpy roads. Danny wasn't about to let the morning pass in dull silence though! He kept us entertained with Costa Rica's history, stories about the local culture, information about all the ecological zones we were passing through on our way and more. By the time we reached our breakfast stop in Guapilles I was astounded that three hours had already passed - and how awake I felt.
Breakfast was buffet style, a stop over place for most of the lodges bringing guests into Tortuguero, Danny told us we had 45 minutes to eat and to explore the butterfly sanctuary out back. Once we were back on the road, Danny told us that our driver Marco was going to be our eyes, watching for wildlife along the way. I figured it would be a while before we really saw anything considering we were still on a pretty major road in a populated area. No sooner had I thought it, we were pulling over to take a look at the very first sloth of our trip. The rest of the drive and subsequent boat ride were eventful, with stops along the way to see more wildlife and Danny's cheerful commentary.
Arriving in Tortuguero we payed our $15 Park fee and strolled through the town. I think my mom said it best when she said "I feel like I'm in a theme park." There were vendors on every corner, all the garbage cans and walls and streets were colorfully decorated and the whole vibe was pretty touristy. That being said, I will never, ever regret spending that afternoon in Tortuguero, because this was the spot where I got to see one of the most miraculous natural wonders in the world. Baby turtles making their way to the ocean.
We were just about to head to back to the hotel when Danny spotted people running toward the beach. Following his instinct that people only run to see something awesome, we followed. About a quarter mile down the beach, there they were. Poking their heads out of the sand, getting their bearings and making the mad dash to freedom in the ocean. There is a lot that can disrupt the process of these little guys making it to the sea and I couldn't help but smile widely and tear up just a little watching them scramble across the sand and into the ocean waves.
I can't stress enough just how special this experience was not only because of the spontaneity of the moment, but also because its so, so rare to actually see baby turtles in the wild. Danny was just as excited as the rest of us because even he hadn't seen baby turtles making their way to the ocean like that. Add that to the fact that we were pretty far past hatching season, and I was feeling pretty dang lucky.