Ostional National Wildlife Refuge

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Ostional National Wildlife Refuge


"Damn, Ostional beach is sweet, but I just wanna nest in peace."
"Damn, Ostional beach is sweet, but I just wanna nest in peace."

The Ostional Wildlife Refuge at Playa Ostional on the Nicoya Peninsula was created to protect important nesting sites of sea turtles, in particular the Pacific ridley and the Leatherback. Occasionally, the green turtle uses Playa Ostional for its nesting site as well. Arribadas at this refuge are regarded to be the largest in the world, with as many as a million sea turtle eggs laid in the beach nesting sites each year. For example, the ridley turtles literally take over the beach in large arribadas that last 4-8 days, usually between July and December, but they can arrive on their own or in small groups throughout the year. Scientists suggest that this species produces a superabundance of nests as a strategy for survival against predators, since with so many eggs laid in just a few nights (a million or more during a large arribada) it is unlikely that the local natural predators could possibly consume them all. Likewise, when the surviving eggs hatch and the young turtles make their scramble down the beach to the ocean, if thousands of them are doing this at more or less the same time, then some percentage of them ought to escape the variety of hungry predators that range from crabs to coyotes. The turtles crawl to the sand dunes, dig a hole and lay nearly 100 eggs. This undertaking lasts about 30 minutes and then the turtles return to the sea, after having spent an hour on land. The arrival of the leatherback turtle, the largest sea turtle in the world, takes place from November to January, during the dry season, which lasts until the beginning of May.

The landscape at Ostional is one of great scenic beauty with its beaches, cliffs, rocky platforms, and it’s possible to walk 18 kms along the seashore where small fish, sea urchins, starfish, anemones and numerous crabs can be seen.

Facilities

There is a ranger station at Playa Ostional and it’s open from 8am until 4pm. Guided tours are available. For more information call 506-8682-0470

Getting to the Ostional Wildlife Refuge

Vehicular access to Ostional is somewhat challenging, and a four-wheel-drive vehicle with good clearance is definitely recommended, especially if going in the wet season when the bulk of the sea turtle nesting occurs. The refuge can be reached from either the town of Santa Cruz or Nicoya (both situated on the main highway that runs down the middle of the Nicoya Peninsula), and following a series of gravel and dirt roads to the coast (at Playa Junquillal if coming from Santa Cruz, or Playa Nosara if coming from Nicoya) and continuing south or north, respectively, until arriving at Ostional. Although more direct, the route via Nicoya-Nosara involves fording a river which can be impassable at times in the rainy season.

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