The Omen of Ostional – by Patrick Lally

On the morning of April 9th 2018, I found myself nearly three months into my Central American backpacking trip, I awoke to my last day on the ‘Rich Coast’, in the modest village of Nosara.

A year prior and I would be found in urban London, on my way home from work, riding the wonders of the northern line. Not however, without the company of Paolo Coelho’s novel ‘The Alchemist’ to hand, a book about a young man who seeks wisdom and knowledge through adventure and omens.

After gaining a degree in Anthropology, my passion for travel and culture was greatly enhanced, and after around 2 years of employment at the London Aquarium, I made the decision to challenge my inner nomad and seek volunteering opportunities in Costa Rica and further travel through Central America. Little did I know that this would be the best decision of my life thus far, revealing many of my omens along the way.

Back to Nosara and I was stuck with the tricky decision of choosing between Costa Rica’s Pacific surf with my new found Canadian roommates, or to take a trip to Ostional Wildlife Reserve, in the hope of seeing some Olive Ridley Turtle hatchlings. In hindsight, this really wasn’t a tricky decision given my surfing prestige could be described as a mere ’ten second stander’. So with my mouth stones cleaned and two month strong, backpacker attire on, I phoned for a tuk tuk to take me to the reserve.

Now to put things into perspective, the following morning I was scheduled to leave for the Nicaraguan border and continue into my third country. Not only was this my last day to see these magnificent turtles, but as Olive Ridley nesting patterns are concentrated from July to November, the odds were very much against me.

With a short but loud beep, my tuk tuk had arrived and off we set towards the reserve.

Around 10 minutes into the drive and I had the pleasure of witnessing multiple iguanas scamper up nearby trees in a bid to avoid the looming bright red predator, in the form of our very noisy vehicle. Not only are iguanas a norm for a local Tica (Native Costa Rican) but the presence of fresh mangos is another commodity at their disposal. I asked the driver to stop by one of the mango trees and with impeccable timing, sampled a freshly fallen specimen.

After some intermittent, international charades via the rear view mirror and attempted verbal communiction, we learnt one anothers names and I felt as though I had made an acquaintance in Pablo. We eventually reached the destination and after paying Pablo, I made my way into the reserve station. I was greeted kindly by a group of volunteers who gave me permission to walk along the beach at my own leisure.

I started along Ostional’s impressive stretch and within a few seconds, I was subject to the suns blazing rays, I applied some factor 40 (war paint) and continued in anticipation. I passed a handful of nests, finding nothing but the remains of egg casings. With each possible sighting I felt myself competing with the local black vultures scavenging on the sand.

I was ready to accept defeat as I approached the end of the nesting area, but as I took one final gaze around, I sensed a movement in my peripheral vision. After closer inspection I had indeed managed to spot two very fragile, yet determined Olive Ridley hatchlings. I ran to the station to inform the volunteers and Ginny, a trainee vet, accompanied me to check up on my discovery.

Not only was it thrilling to find these animals in their natural habitat, but to watch the start of their life cycle was something special indeed.

When it comes to my fascination of evolution and adaptation, one of my favourite facts is that of turtles having forms of magnetite crystals in their head and thus having the ability to navigate the oceans and subsequent route back to their nesting ground.

To think that one day, the turtles may return to continue the cycle of life was a rather unique thought. We sat in awe of nature at work and saw the hatchlings make their first splash into the big blue.

For me, these turtles stood as an omen of hard work and after two years of teaching sea life conservation it was a privilege to have witnessed this uninhibited encounter with a species often against all odds.

I receive the omen of Ostional as nature’s way of saying thank you and it has taught me never to lose hope on the things you believe in and to continue in my commitment to conservation, even if the tide may not seem to be on ones side.

About the Entry

Patrick Lally

For me, there is no better experience than sharing a connection between another species. I consider myself an ever evolving naturalist and conservationist, fascinated with what we can learn from the natural world.

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