San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Turtles come to landlocked San Ramón

If you’re not able to get to the Pacific beaches to see the giant sea turtles climb up on the beach to dig nests and lay eggs, you can see it all in the land-locked city of San Ramón.

Well, not really.

But the exhibit in the regional museum of San Ramón mimicks the beach scene right down to trails in the sand and eggs in the nest. Hundreds of turtles appear to be swimming ashore, and others are already poised on land, seemingly dragging their bodies up on the beach, leaving imprints in the sand.  

The turtles are lifesized and can be seen in the museum’s natural history salon all year, except Mondays when the museum is closed. (It’s an advantage over real beaches, where the turtles arrive only during the nesting months, September and October.) A smaller display contains a nest full of eggs deep in the sand.  

The “beach” fills half of the room and the realistic textures, color and lighting make you feel like you are there at Playa Grande or Playa Ostional, watching a phenomenon of nature.

It took two months to build this display, designed by biologists Liz Brenes and Roger Alberto Ruiz of the University of Costa Rica’s western campus. Sizes and colors had to match the living baula and lora turtles. Molds were made from clay, and then the turtles were cast in plaster, fiberglass and cement. Artists Susana Villalobos and Andres Badilla did the background and 10 turtles in the display. The dark sand came from the hardware store and resembles a real beach. “The turtles come ashore in the madrugada, the early morning hours, so we had to reproduce the colors exactly as they are at that time of day,” Badilla said.

A wall-sized chart gives info on the six species of turtles that visit Costa Rica, from the huge, five-foot long baula turtles down to the smaller green turtles and lora turtles. According to information on the chart, between 50,000 and 150,000 turtles arrive in one year.

San Ramón, noted as the City of Poets, is a pleasant community in the western coffee region, about 66 kilometers or 35 miles from San José along the General Cañas-Bernardo Soto highway.  San Ramón has an active cultural calendar spread between the museum and the José Figueres Ferrer Cultural Center. Both are located across the street from the central park and church and share the same hours, Tuesday-Saturday, 9 to 5 p.m. Both are free.

The turtle exhibit will be on display until December, so take the opportunity to see them without ever getting your feet wet.

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