How can a vacation help save the world? EnviroKidz, the delicious kids brand of organic food company Nature’s Path, approached us in early 2014 to help launch their “Win an EnviroTrip” initiative, a way to get their customers out into the world to see wildlife and contribute to their protection. We jumped on that opportunity and just wrapped up three tours with Nature’s Path EnviroKidz to Costa Rica’s incredible Osa Peninsula and the impact was more than we could have imagined.
First Annual EnviroKidz EnviroTrip Impact:
- 8 sea turtles studied (5 greens & 3 hawksbills)
- 33 travelers brought to Costa Rica
- Dozens of mangrove trees planted
- More than 300 volunteer hours worked
- 4,000 baby turtles saved
- Thousands of dollars generated for the local community
Nature’s Path EnviroKidz has supported sea turtle conservation through SEE Turtles since 2008 and has been one of our most important partners. Their financial support helped us launch an educational program which provides free lesson plans and other resources for teachers and brings kids to visit turtle conservation projects. They also helped to launch Billion Baby Turtles, which to date has saved more than 250,000 turtle hatchlings at 10 nesting beaches around Lain America.
On these trips families from the US and Canada, SEE Turtles and Nature’s Path staff, and researchers from Latin American Sea Turtles all got together to study endangered green and hawksbill sea turtles in the Golfo Dulce, a beautiful body of water between the Osa Peninsula and Costa Rica’s mainland. In addition, the participants supported a mangrove reforestation program and visited an organic farm to learn how chocolate is grown and produced.
Starting early each day, our groups boarded the small boats to head out onto the calm gulf for a 15 minute ride to the turtle foraging areas. The LAST staff set out nets to catch the turtles (the only way to study them here since they don’t nest in this area) and then whoever was game hopped in the water to help untangle them. Once set, we headed to the beach to wait for the turtles to arrive.
The LAST staff monitored the nets throughout the day and when a turtle was caught, it was brought to the beach and placed in the shade to study. With help from our participants, the research staff measured the turtles length, width, and weight, tagged them with little metal tags on their flippers (if they weren’t already tagged), measured their tails, and took tissue samples for genetic studies. Once done, the turtles were taken back to the water for release.
Besides working with the turtles themselves, LAST is also working to restore mangroves to the area. Mangroves are extremely important trees, providing nurseries for fish, protecting the coast from flooding, and helping to keep the water clean. They are also important for the sea turtles, providing food and shelter for the hawksbills. Our groups helped contribute to this work by planting mangrove saplings and helping to restore their nursery from flooding.
These trips were not all hard work though. One afternoon with each group, we visited a nearby organic farm to sample all kinds of delicious fruits and to see the whole process of making chocolate, from seed to fondue. The participants learned how organic farming can support wildlife and help keep chemicals out of the water, which helps sea turtles and other animals. Everyone left with a new appreciation for chocolate, the “fruit of the gods”, seeing how the seeds grew on the trees, through the drying and fermenting process, and sampling the deliciousness at the end with a fondue with tropical fruit.
Even though not every participant was able to see sea turtles, these trips had a tremendous impact on sea turtle conservation efforts and the local economy. A big thanks to Nature’s Path EnviroKidz for their support and for the hard work, great attitudes, and generosity of the wonderful participants from the US & Canada!