| Tortuguero is
situated at the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica in the
province of Limón. It is approx. 40 km (25 miles) to the
Nicaraguan border and it is only accessible by boat
or plane. The name Tortuguero comes from the spanish word
"tortuga" and means: the place where the
turtles are coming. It is a small village with approx.
700 inhabitants and it is bordered by
the Conservation Area of Tortuguero.
The Conservation Area consists of the National Park Tortuguero, the Wildlife Refuge Barra Colorado and several smaller protected areas and conserves the unique atlantic lowland rainforest and as well 50000 ha of the sea. The region is formed by several islands and terra firme. The village of Tortuguero is located on the main island and is limited on one side by the Caribbean and on the other side by freshwater. This island is 35 km (22 miles) long, but only 400 m wide. The beach of Tortuguero is the most important nesting site in the whole western hemisphere for the green turtle (Chelonia mydas).
The village of Tortuguero was founded in the 30´s of this century by a columbian family, who lived off exportation of coconuts and the sea turtles. In the 40´s American lumber companies came to Tortuguero to exploit the forest. Since there was work, people started to immigrate to Tortuguero and mainly from Nicaragua.
The lumber was transported in the sea to Limón, but because the Caribbean is quite rough, they had remarkable loss. At the end of the 60´s, beginning of the 70´s, an 80 km long canal-river-system was dragged as a new and safer way of transportation. Natural rivers had been connected with manmade canals. These canals are still the most important transportation and traveling connection to Tortuguero. This canal system had been finished in the 70´s, when the lumber companies left for private and economic reasons. Many people left as well and only few families stayed in Tortuguero. With the beginning of tourism at the end of the 80´s a new immigration started to Tortuguero which continues until today.
In the 50´s the American biologist Archie Carr chose Tortuguero for his research of the sea turtles. In this time many ships arrived to kill thousands of turtles for exportation to the States and to Europe. Thanks to the work of Archie Carr, Tortuguero has been protected in 1975 as the first National Park of Costa Rica.