Tag Archives: Turtles

Day 4 – Luna Azul I

Wednesday 22 February 2023 – Today is the first of two full days we have here.  It’s billed by Pura Aventura as “relaxed”, which means, possibly, slightly old-fashioned.  We have a large half-share of a sort of bungalow, with a lovely veranda


and several nice little details, like the pineapple decoration of this fan


(although the room is called “Banano”). The hotel itself is up in the hills, away from the beaches of Ostional and San Juanillo

and it’s generally noticeably hotter and more humid than Alajuela, where we stayed upon arrival.  The hotel has a nice lounge with a picture-postcard entrance.


We started the day with a decent breakfast, which was served in a slightly idiosyncratic way.  There is no buffet, so you basically get food put down in front of you without asking: fruit, yoghurt, granola, bread, butter, their own delicious jam.  You do get to vote on whether you get plain or strawberry yoghurt and whether you get tea or coffee (parenthetical note – I have been in Costa Rica, famous for its coffee, for three days and for some reason not a drop of coffee has yet passed my lips).  Eventually you’re offered a choice of egg style with a variety of accompaniments, so it was eggs and bacon for me; and Jane tried a taster of the local breakfast speciality, gallo pinto. Gallo pinto means “painted rooster”, so quite how they get from that to the reality, which is rice and beans is beyond me.  Also, by the way, “rice and beans” doesn’t sound very appetising, but it’s actually a very tasty dish. The beans are black, the rice is fried and the whole thing is nicely seasoned. Anyway, we enjoyed breakfast and it sustained us right through to dinner time,

Breakfast was enlivened by the arrival to the hotel’s pool of a vulture, in search of a drink. Well, I expect a corpse wouldn’t have gone amiss, but in the absence of that, a glug of slightly chlorinated water was obviously appreciated.


This being early in the day meant, of course, that it was a breakfast vulture, rather than a luncheon vulture.

That joke will only mean something to people of my age or similar.  To all of you good folk out there, thank you. Thank you for listening to my joke.

So: what to do with the day?  There were many possibilities, but we’d identified three that seemed of interest:  some kind of turtle activity, since Ostional is where three-quarters of the world’s supply of Olive Ridley turtles make their home and crucially their maternity ward; a visit to a centre which specialises in the rescue of Scarlet Macaws; and a local walk to see the view and hopefully some wildlife, ideally undertaken at 6am as a pre-breakfast activity.

At first, the auguries for the first two didn’t seem promising.  The turtles regularly come ashore en masse to lay eggs in a phenomenon called an “arribada“; but one had occurred just some five days before, so the likelihood of seeing turtles on the beach (a night trip) was very small. Another option would be a boat trip to find turtles at sea and possibly snorkel among them, but we didn’t know how to fix this, and our breakfast waiter didn’t seem too sure about it, either.  The Macaw centre was in the southern part of the Nicoya peninsula, and that meant an arduous drive of somewhere between one and a half and two hours on the frankly crappy roads that are such a feature of the southern part – and, more to the point, the same drive back, but in the dark. Very daunting. Well, actually, terminal, since we decided that simply wasn’t a good way to pass the time.

We had a quick chat with one of the hotel managers, a friendly and well-organised Belgian chap called Olivier, who told us that a boat trip might be possible and we decided that tomorrow morning would be a good time. We were about to head out to visit Ostional in an attempt to avoid total inactivity when Olivier caught us to say that, effectively, the only option was to do the boat trip that afternoon. So we went to the office where his wife contacted Gacci, the skipper of the boat, to make arrangements – time (3.30pm), location (Rancho Cocobolo in San Juanillo) and cost (US $120 – cash only). Fortunately, I had enough dollars to hand, so we were all set.

The few minutes before we set off for the 10-minute drive to San Juanillo saw us sorting out all those things that we needed to take with us for a boating and possibly snorkelling expedition – swimming costumes, goggles, snorkel tubes, sunblock, waterproof cameras, courage (I am really not good at snorkelling).  We found the rendezvous point and also an English expatriate called Simon, who was to accompany us as a guide.  A few minutes later, Gacci arrived with his small fishing boat. After a flurry of activity we clambered aboard and set off, in lovely calm conditions – so calm, I wish I’d brought my Nikon. Ah, well. The phone does a good job almost all of the time,

San Juanillo beach, Costa Rica

We passed a local landmark, the “Indian Rock”, which delineates the start of Ostional.


Gacci and Simon were surprised at the height of the water – normally there is dry land leading to the rock. Simon reckoned the tides were maybe as much as three metres higher than normal.

This affected two things.  One was the likelihood of seeing turtles. The other was the desirability or indeed the sense in going snorkelling, which is best done in shallow water, i.e. at low tide. I was glad about the latter as I really am not comfortable going snorkelling and only do so in order to try to get the photos, normally unsuccessfully. But the former seemed to be the case, as we went for over an hour without seeing any marine wildlife activity at all. Gacci and Simon bore up manfully under this burden.

Gacci and Simon

Simon thought it so unlikely that we’d see anything that he got the fishing line out (he had instructions from his wife to bring back something from the trip, otherwise it just looked like he was having fun, apparently).


Almost immediately he’d done this, things began to happen.  We saw a couple of Olive Ridley turtles in the distance, and one glided right by the boat.


After that we were treated to a rare sight – Black Turtles (the ones we know as Green Sea Turtles), rather than the Olive Ridley sort that Ostional is famous for.


In fact, it turned out that we were seeing the sort of grim battle which Mother Nature has determined is the best way to banish the weaklings – two bloke turtles fighting to have their way with a girl turtle, who has quite a struggle on her hands to avoid being drowned. If you want to see some of the more grisly bits, and have some three minutes to spare, take a look at the video I made that summarises the afternoon. (There are some other delights in the video, I should point out. It’s not all turtle porn.)

Whilst we were rather voyeuristically and pruriently focussed on these interesting but surely testudinatical matters, there had been other action on the other side of the boat as well. The general shagfest extended to two pairs of Olive Ridley turtles, too


and a distant view of another pair – no gatecrasher this time – of Black Turtles mating. I’m not sure we should be comfortable with the degree of satisfaction we felt with the amount of turtle mating we’d witnessed, but we certainly were happy that the boat trip had been more than just a couple of companiable hours bobbing around on the Pacific Ocean. So when the dolphins came to play with us (no photos I’m afraid, I did get some video though which is part of the video above) it was the icing on the cake, as we headed home past a beautiful sunset.


Simon caught a skipjack tuna, which he was happy about but which rather disconcertingly flapped around in the back of the boat for what I thought was an unconscionable time. Then we arrived back in San Juanillo, where we bade goodbye to Simon and Gacci and his boat


and headed back to the car in a lovely twilight,


before making our way carefully back to the hotel. This provided further education about what it was like to drive on these dodgy roads with their unexpected potholes, craters and narrow bridges in the dark, so that Macaw place is definitely off the list of possibilities.

We had a good but (for us) late dinner back at the hotel


before an earlyish night, as the morrow holds the possibility of an early morning walk; not something I would normally countenance, but, hey, we’re on holiday travelling, which makes it OK. No, really.  So, do come back tomorrow, and find out how that went, won’t you?

Oman Day 9 – and we thought the mountain roads were rough!

Friday March 1. A large chunk of the day was to be spent at the Daymaniyat Islands, a nature reserve off the coast by Seeb, near Muscat. Rashid had talked about a dhow being our transport, but in the event we travelled in a smallish motor boat just big enough to house the three of us, the skipper and his mate and two 300-horsepower outboard engines. We boarded at Al Mouj, a very posh community residential and business area which featured (luckily for us) a marina, and pottered out of the harbour before the skipper opened up the throttles and we headed out at 30mph.

The Daymaniyat Islands are just basically lumps of rock a short distance off the coast of Oman, but access is restricted – it is necessary to apply for a pass to go there, and such things as fishing are prohibited. There are a couple of beaches and snorkelling is a very popular activity, and that was what we were here for. We moored off one rock which the skipper called Turtle Island.

I don’t think that’s it’s real name, it’s just he thought we had the best chance of seeing turtles there.

My ambition was simply to try to get some decent underwater photos, as my record so far is dismal. I tried in the Galapagos, which was pretty much my first (and not really very enjoyable) experience of snorkelling (the lack of enjoyment was due to my own lack of experience and swiimming expertise); the photographic results were awful. There was not one single underwater picture worth sharing on that trip, sadly.

So, in we plunged and I was about to set off in the hope of finding some nice pictures when I tested my nice brand-new snorkelling tube to find that it let the water in, which was a bit on the disappointing side. Fortunately, the skipper could provide a substitute, so off I went. I got lots of very poor photos of fish and some reasonable pictures of the coral there

and a fairly sizeable sea urchin

but no turtles by the time I got out of the boat for a rest. Jane had found one and so we got back in and headed over to where she had seen it – and there it was; a green sea turtle! The only problem was that my mask had completely misted up so I could barely make the thing out, far less see what my (Olympus TG-5 Tough) camera was doing. Nonetheless, I managed a couple of decent snaps

by sheer freakish good fortune, and also – hallelujah! – some video!

We pottered over to another, different location

and had another dip. This time, athough my mask was clear, the photos and videos were still disappointing. Note to self – don’t try to zoom in too much, even if the camera has the function, as the results are unlikely to be worthwhile. So I’ve learnt something photographically worthwhile on this trip, eh?

Then, although it was still earlyish (about 1130) we took lunch as it looked like the weather would change. Rashid said that perhaps some rain was expected. Indeed, the wind was beginning to get up and actually before we’d had time to finish our picnic lunch, the skipper was looking anxious and so we told him to take us home.

Fuck me, what a journey!

The wind had got up to at least a force 6. If you read the official blurb to describe this, it calls it “strong breeze” and says that it features “large waves with foam crests and some spray”.

What it doesn’t tell you is that, in a small boat when trying to make way basically into the teeth of it, it involves you being thrown out of your seat unless you’re clutching on to something substantial whilst having bucketfuls of the contents of the Sea of Oman chucked over you at regular intervals of, say, every five seconds or so.

The skipper did his best to minimise the discomfort, but it was still a hideously uncomfortable journey made worse by my (a) worrying that sea water would find its way into my lovely new Nikon Z6 and all my lenses and (b) really, really, really needing a pee but understanding that trying to do that would almost certainly involve suffering serious injury. I used Endomondo to track our progress on the boat, which is how I know we were averaging about 30mph on the way out. Coming back, the best we could do was between 5 and 9 mph until we got very close to the coast and could speed up a bit. So it was a long, wet and very uncomfortable journey for us all. Under the circumstances, I hope you’ll forgive me for not having taken any photos on this return leg. Poor old Rashid looked a picture of misery even as he insisted he was OK standing and holding on to a stanchion and really didn’t need us to shift up so he could sit down. The sea water got to his phone, and it was dead by the time we made land, poor chap.

Thanks to the skills of the skipper, we made it back safely to the marina and I made it safely to the loo; then we hastily packed up our stuff so that Rashid could take us back to the hotel. We said our goodbyes to him at that point, but the situation made it a hastier and more muted farewell than perhaps it might have been in other circumstances. Rashid had done a fantastic job of looking after us for nine days, sharing his passion for Oman, his knowledge of the area and his love of guiding to make our time with him so interesting and enjoyable and we’re both hugely grateful to him for his energy, expertise and thoughtfulness.

The shower back at the hotel was a thing of joy. So was the large G&T immediately afterwards.

The rest of the day was spent recovering and relaxing and, in my case, writing the blog, for today would be the last day of Being A Tourist; the only thing the morrow had to offer was a day of relaxing, maybe a bit of photography around the hotel and packing to travel home, as we have a very early start on Sunday.

So, that’s it, really – it’s been a remarkable few days, with new experiences of a (for us) new country and its landscape, culture and people. We’ve been royally looked after by the fantastic team at Hud Hud Travels and the staff at the Chedi Muscat. We shall miss this place.

I might cobble together some final thoughts on the holiday and what we’ve learned, in which case, it will be in the next instalment of this blog, in case you’re interested to keep up. ‘Bye for now.

Galapagos 4 (Wednesday): Rays your game before a Dolphin Shower

4th April 2018

So, here we are at the half way point of an intensely enjoyable week. What could Wednesday bring, we wondered? “A mixed bag” was the answer.

The morning was spent on Floreana Island, at Punta Cormorant, which seemed a bit of a misnomer, as not a single cormorant was on offer. There were flamingoes;

even including a juvenile (marked out by the lack of pink colouration);

Noddy terns;

a flycatcher;

some beautifully colourful crabs;

inevitably, some Frigate birds;

and, excitingly, Eagle Rays swimming near the beach.

But not a single cormorant was on show – although there were some blue-footed boobies doing their fishing thang, which is not dissimilar to the cormorant’s diving style.

We were lucky to see the flamingoes – Jane and I visited the same place later on in the morning for a beach visit (which included an abortive attempt at snorkelling on my part which basically has put me off the idea for the rest of my life), and by that stage almost all of the flamingoes we’d seen earlier had vanished.

Later on that day we took a ride in one of the pangas (Zodiacs, RIBs, whatever you like to call them), which enabled us to see that the marine iguanas on this island were bigger than those of Española (though much less colourful).

The bird you can see walking among them is an American Oyster Catcher.

On the panga ride we saw rays and sharks in the water, and also some turtles, which occasionally came up for air (although apparently they can stay submerged for up to four hours, slowing their heart beat to around one beat per minute, down from the usual frenetic pulse of seven or eight).

The most dramatic photo opportunity came as we headed back to the ship, as it became clear that there was a pod of dolphins in the area, and they wanted to play.

and, indeed, were in very exuberant mood!

In the final part of the day, we visited another part of the island, called Post Office Bay, for the good reason that there is a post office there – of sorts. To be precise, it’s exactly the same sort of post office that can be found in Patagonia, at Wulaia Bay; a barrel where you put your postcard after you’ve taken a look at the cards already there to see if any are addressed to someone living near you, or in an area you plan to visit. So, a reliable delivery mechanism it ain’t; an opportunity for serendipity it certainly is.

Here is Natasha, one of our guides, explaining the idea in front of the barrel

after which everyone had a go at finding a card to deliver (ours will be to Chalfont St. Giles).

This was a busy, eventful day with many memorable moments. But the time with the pod of playful dolphins is one which everybody on the Origin saw, some got great underwater footage of and which was a highlight for everyone who was there that day.

To see the highlights of the next day (Day 5), click here.