When you read the tourist brochures on Costa Rica, they’re telling the truth about the wildlife. My husband got to hold a baby sloth crawling along the ground. We were close enough to monkeys to take up the entire frame in the photo without a zoom lens. I watched leaf-cutter ants straight from the Discovery Channel, I dodged lizards falling from the tree next to the pool. I declined to hold a poison dart tree frog, although a toxic red frog landed on Ron’s rubber boots in the rainforest. I rode up right next to a chimera in a speed boat, and photographed birds whose names I’ll never know (except the toucan. He looked just like Sam on the Froot Loops box.)
They are dead on when they tout the fun of ziplining. The beauty of a molten lava flow at night. The wonderful beaches at Manual Antonio. The upscale hotels that deliver quality lodging without the stuffy, pretentious atmosphere that U.S. resorts give off.
But beware of the famed nesting turtle pitch on the Caribbean side. Oh, the licensed guides will tell you it’s a crap shoot to look for them … as they take your $15 for the night tour. That’s all the warning you get before trudging off down the beach in the dark, no flashlights allowed. (Stupid me, I must have thought they said no water bottles allowed because I left that behind at the hotel, too.) For the next two hours, I dizzily followed the silent guide, surrounded by 15 other suckers in our group, across the sand in humidity designed to sweat your brains out all over your shirt. He wasn’t walking slowly either – we were putting up a decent clip.
And at some point it finally struck me: I was looking for a turtle. Maybe a green turtle, maybe a leatherback, or hawksbill or loggerhead. But nevertheless, a turtle. You know, those things I used to keep in a plastic aquarium as a kid – has a wrinkled penis-like face, four fat legs and a shell. And if I found any representatives of this species, it would be walking in a circle.
This begs just one question: Who cares? I could have been sitting poolside with a drink, for Pete’s sake. Or borrowing the bartender’s red-light pointer and hunting tree frogs. Maybe even getting frisky with my honey in the hotel room. But no, I chose to dehydrate myself silly looking for a damn turtle that never materialized.