Thursday, July 03, 2014

Turtles and Tranquility in El Salvador

By the time I flung myself into bed the night before I knew I’d caught a cold. During summer in El Salvador no less. Do you even catch colds? Like, if your sick germs get all over me do I get your cold or do we catch colds from merely being cold? These were the type of deep and existential thoughts I had time to ponder while recovering at La Tortuga Verde in El Salvador. 

I’d stumbled upon this cool low-key turtle sanctuary when I was researching our backpacking route in Central America. I liked how it was hours away from the surfing hot spot of Playa El Tunco and touted as eco-conscious accommodations. I travelled with Gekko Trail Explorers leaving Antigua, Guatemala at 3am and arriving at La Tortuga Verde later that afternoon.

La Tortuga Verde property El Salvador

La Tortuga Verde beachfront El Cuco
Overlooking the Pacific Ocean
pet pelican la tortuga verde
Have you ever heard of a pet pelican?
Burying turtle eggs in El Salvador
Turtle egg
After a glorious nap in my crisp and clean private room ($25/night), I awoke in time to help bury turtle eggs, which are eaten as a delicacy in El Salvador. El Cuco beach is well known for turtle nesting; locals wait until the mothers have laid their eggs then dig them up and sell them for profit. The folks at La Tortuga Verde buy the eggs from the tortugadors (poachers) then re-bury them in their protected beachfront area so that the hatchlings are able to develop. I don’t like the fact that the poachers end up profiting from stealing the eggs in the first place, but I guess sometimes you’ve gotta play the game to win in the end. La Tortuga Verde outbids all of the other buyers in the area.

The egg reburial was short and not particularly exciting, but it was cool getting to hold turtle eggs in my hand. They weren’t delicate like chicken eggs but rather felt like semi-flexible ping pong balls. We were encouraged to drop the eggs into a four foot deep hole, simulating how their mother would’ve laid them, then covered everything up with sand. Then… that’s it! Turtle eggs take one to three months to hatch so unfortunately I wouldn’t be around for the adorably cute part of watching the little buggers waddle out to sea.

I only spent a few more days in El Salvador as I was trying to make it to the Corn Islands in Nicaragua to celebrate my 27th birthday, but the peace and tranquility that I found at La Tortuga Verde was a high point in my travels. There were hammocks galore (comfortable woven ones, not the cheap plastic type) and my favourite pastime was to lie under the shade of their beautiful coconut trees and listen to a novel (my e-reader sadly died on me). The beach stretched on for miles and miles, interrupted only by the friendly futbol games that would begin as the sun started to set, and made the perfect backdrop for envisioning the characters and scenery of my latest audiobook.

El Cuco Beach sunset

Sunset football El Cuco El Salvador

When I wasn’t listening to a story, I was trying to paddle board, taking long walks on the beach, searching for pupusas (El Salvador’s national food), and making new friends. As sad as it was to part ways with my husband, being on my own for a bit inspired confidence in myself and reminded me that I’m independent enough to travel on my own. It turned out that I made friends easily and we continued onto Leon, Nicaragua together. I love the sense of openness and connectedness that travellers can share on the road.

My last night in El Salvador was totally random and involved a fun mix of locals and foreigners, a fireshow, $1 beers, and skinny dipping. Let’s just say I skipped out early as my husband and I have a rule about that…

Have you ever been to El Salvador before or visited a turtle sanctuary? What was your experience like?

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