See a sea turtle at Camaronal Wildlife Refuge

Turtle hatchery sign at Camaronal Wildlife Refuge
Turtle hatchery sign at Camaronal Wildlife Refuge

Travelers looking for a destination off the beaten path during their vacation to Costa Rica may want to check out the Camaronal Wildlife Refuge, a peaceful and exotic nature reserve known for its gorgeous scenery as well as its diverse flora and fauna.

Camaronal Wildlife Refuge

Located in the province of Guanacaste along the northern Pacific coast of Costa Rica, Camaronal is situated close to popular tourist beaches such as Playa Samara and Playa Carrillo. While these destinations are best known for their surfing and water activities, Camaronal serves a much different purpose.

Protecting Sea Turtles

This wildlife refuge was initially founded to aid conservation efforts aimed at protecting the four species of sea turtles that build their nests on Camaronal's beach. The olive ridley, the leatherback, the hawksbill and the black sea turtle all lay their eggs in the reserve's sands, making this a critical location for the continued survival of these endangered animals.

Tourists interested in seeing these majestic creatures making their nests can do so at any time of year, but the peak season for turtle breeding lies between May and November. During this time, visitors to the reserve can reliably see between one and five females laying their eggs at Camaronal, while scientists frequently find as many as 120 nests each night.

To lend a hand to the conservation effort, travelers may wish to visit or volunteer at Camaronal's nonprofit turtle hatchery, which was created by Costa Rica's marine turtle restoration program. Here, scientists and researchers work to protect newly laid eggs from potential predators, saving baby turtles that would likely not have lived otherwise.

More than Turtles

Camaronal is great for more than just turtles, however, as it is also a top destination for birdwatchers. The nearby Ora Estuary draws vast numbers of animals belonging to many different species, including trogons, hawks, cranes, hummingbirds, frigatebirds, white-fronted parakeets, roseate spoonbills, tiger herons, green kingfishers, flycatchers and mangrove warblers.

Wildlife enthusiasts who visit Camaronal may also be able to spot other kinds of animals such as crabs, iguanas, coatimundi, armadillos and even monkeys. Those who want to try their hand at angling can go fishing off the coast of the wildlife reserve, with many sportsmen catching sea bass, yellowtail and roosterfish. Meanwhile, expert surfers frequently take advantage of Camaronal's serious wave action, tacking swells that reach heights of up to 20 feet.

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