This is downtown Tortuguero. The main boat landing is just to the left, and this park with giant, colorful bird statues greets visitors. There are a few tourist shops, restaurants and places to stay, although most people come to Tortuguero to see the wildlife, not the town.
This festive atmosphere is a very different greeting than people would have received in the early days of Tortuguero. Tortuguero was originally a hangout for pirates working the Caribbean. It was a good location for two reasons. First, it is very isolated, accessible only by water, with very few people in the area.
Second, Tortuguero was a supply point for pirates because the local population would sell the giant sea turtles to the pirates for food on their sea voyages. Tortuguero even gets its name from that historic role, as Tortuguero means "turtle seller."
Turtles are still the foundation of the economy in Tortuguero, only today it is tourism by people coming to the area for wildlife, particularly the giant sea turtles, that supports the livelihood of the people.
The conservation of the area was spearheaded by Archie Carr, a Costa Rican conservation activist in the 1950's who brought attention to the fact that sea turtles were nearly extinct. His efforts led to the establishment of Tortuguero National Park and the Caribbean Conservation Corps.
The Caribbean Conservation Corps has a visitor center on the north end of Tortuguero town, and it continues to carry out conservation work to protect the sea turtles and other wildlife. And tomorrow, we will return to wildlife, with a post about a poisonous animal with an amazing life cycle.