A Swim With Turtles

It’s Sunday, and we’ve booked a boat tour with Mike. 
Mike does fishing tours and scuba tours, but we’ve asked for his turtle tour, and he’s guaranteed us that we can see some of those Olive Ridley turtles in the water near their arribada site at Ostional.
We arrive in San Juanillo, and I realize that getting on a boat here isn’t quite like the Boat Club marina at home. First, we hop into a small boat that has been pulled onto the shore. Then we’re shoved off the beach to make the quick trip to Mike’s larger boat, which is anchored in deeper water. 

Launching from Playa San Juanillo

It’s no simple task to get on the larger boat with big waves rocking and swaying the vessels, but we manage. I tell myself the waves will be calmer when we’ve pulled away from shore. 
I am wrong.

Headed out to Sea

Unlike the rivers and protected inlets in which we typically boat, we are soon out to sea and the swells are huge. Camille, Lee and I take a spot at the front of the boat where there is a strong breeze that helps settle my stomach, and at least I can spot the waves coming which helps my equilibrium. 
Soon, we find a pod of spotted dolphins hunting nearby. The captain approaches, and several dolphins swim at our bow, jumping out of the water periodically and giving us quite a show.
As we near Ostional, the turtles appear. From a distance, they look like brownish-green rocks floating at the water’s surface. Many of the turtles are in pairs; Mike tactfully says they’re “dancing.”
Camille laughs each time she sees them. “Look! They’re riding piggy back!”

Turtle Pair

When Mike spots a lone turtle, he jumps in and swims to her. This is not Mike’s first rodeo, and he has perfected his “turtle talk.” He knows how to make just the right sounds to settle the female turtle and keep her still. He invites us into the water. 

Mike with Gertrude

I worry about the big waves, but once we are in the water they really aren’t that apparent. Camille swims right up to the turtle, which Mike has named Gertrude, and holds onto her shell. The turtle is buoyant enough to keep them both afloat, and Camille speaks softly to her and strokes her flippers. When the turtle occasionally begins to slap at the water, Mike talks to the turtle some more and she immediately settles.

Camille with GertrudeCamille, the Turtle Whisperer

We take turns holding onto Gertrude, who is a very patient and tolerant girl.

Lee with Gertrude

When it is time to say good-bye to her, Mike invites me to hang on to her shell and go for a dive. He says I should grab on toward the back, and that when he lets go she will dive and I can go along with her as far as I want. I borrow his goggles and ready my hands.
He lets go. Sure enough, Gertrude takes a breath and dives. Her back is slick and too soon I’ve lost my grip and she swims away. I stay under water as long as I can, watching her dive deeper until I can’t see her anymore.
Back on the boat, we see more turtles and a venomous sea snake (eek!), and we get to admire the beach around our house from the sea. I love the way the aqua waves crash onto the rocks, sending sea spray high into the air. I love the green, jungle trees that come right to the water’s edge. I love the mountains in the background. I love it all.

On the Boat with CamilleThe Coastline from Sea

Soon we are back in San Juanillo, back on the little boat, and then back on shore (is it just me, or is this beach rocking?). After lunch at the beach house, we head out for one of our new favorite activities – searching for sea glass on the sand. We are rewarded for our efforts with several new green, blue and clear bits of glass, and Camille has a blast getting muddy in the tidal river. 
Then, it’s time to do laundry and begin to pack. Tomorrow, it’s back to San Jose to say good-bye to Boo and Ann and hello to my parents, a fresh set of visitors with whom to share this wonderful place.

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