During my recent adventures in Costa Rica I spent a week of it volunteering for a fantastic project called Parismina Turtles, in the tiny village of Parismina on the Caribbean coast.
Everyone joked before I left that I was “off to save the turtles” and I just had to prove them right. I was keen to lend a hand and see these beautiful creatures up close.
What I was not expecting was both the education I received in their habits but also in ours.
The only time we were out patrolling the beaches (to ensure poachers were scared off from approaching the sea turtles as they laid their eggs on the beach) was during the evening. But a four-hour slog along the seriously soft-sanded beach was not our only workout – during the day we helped to clean up the shores around the village.
Garbage picking was not what I expected but I have never been so glad to do such a gruelling task – sand fleas bit at my feet (I counted 50 bites on each foot one day), while the sun beat down on my continual sun burn, and my back ached from leaning down to pick up the rubbish.
‘What was all of this garbage?’ you may ask. ‘Was the village filled with trash throwing plebs who knew not where trash went?’ you may presume. The answer to the latter is, most certainly, no. All of this garbage being thrown up onto the sands each day was coming from that great blue ocean that spanned the horizon around the village. And if you’ve ever wondered where old shoes go to die, well, you’ll find a hell of a lot of them there. Along with toys, bottles and used needles.
I always knew our oceans were being filled with trash, but seeing it there all of the time, and labouring to clean it up suddenly put me face to face with just how we are ruining our planet with everything we throw out.
What was worse? All of those plastic water bottles that are floating about are now breaking down to such small levels that young sea turtles think they are plankton and consuming the bits until they die.
So, yes, it was about saving the sea turtles. About being there to watch them lay their eggs and see their amazing, powerful flippers scoop out buckets of sand, and huff and puff back down the beach after their laborious childbirth.
But the experience also taught me a little bit about how we are slowly choking (not only the creatures of the sea) but our land masses as well. It was definitely, not, a Gwilty Pleasure.