Tortuguero National Park

Land Area: 26,653 ha
Marine Area: 50,284 ha
Hours: 6 a.m. - 4 p.m.

Tortuguero National Park

The creation of this park in 1970 gave much needed protection to one of the region's most important and unique natural resources: a 22-kilometer stretch of shoreline that serves as the principal nesting site throughout the western half of the Caribbean Sea for the Atlantic Green Sea Turtle. Watching these great reptiles emerge from the tropical sea and haul their 100 plus kilogram (220 lb.) bodies ashore to lay their eggs under cover of darkness is truly a memorable spectacle. The nesting season for the green turtles extends from July to October.

An even larger species, the Leatherback Sea Turtle, also nests on these beaches from February to April, although most nesting is done in the southern portion of the park, far from the actual village of Tortuguero.

In addition to this vital strip of coastline, Tortuguero National Park protects 18,946 ha. of forested habit and an extensive network of freshwater creeks and lagoons. The aquatic environment is home to seven species of river turtles, as well as Spectacled Caiman, Southern River Otters, the scarce and hard to see West Indian Manatee, the fierce-looking Alligator Gar -- a fish which has remained nearly unchanged in appearance since prehistoric times -- and numerous other fish species, including Atlantic Snook and Atlantic Tarpon, which bring anxious anglers to this region from all over the world.

Gliding through the tranquil backwaters in a small boat is as enjoyable and rewarding a way to watch wildlife as you're likely to find anywhere. And even if most of the diverse assortment of rain forest denizens manages to elude your gaze, the experience alone, along with the wonderful forest sounds, make this activity one of the highlights of any visit.

In 1994, the Carribean Conservation Corporation finished a new Visitors Center Building just north of the village of Tortuguero and the exhibits on display are very well done and most informative.

Admission Policy: Night walks on the beach to observe nesting sea turtles must be in the company of a trained and authorized local guide (arrangements can be made through any of the area hotels).

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