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Fernando, best known as "Don," was born on May 30, 1954, in Bluefields, Nicaragua. He is one of 13 siblings. As a child and young man in Bluefields, he had seen the Puerto Cabezas Indians come to town to sell turtle meat but he had never seen one of the giant sea turtles alive. Elders told stories about them coming ashore to lay their eggs in Tortuguero and Don wanted to see this first hand.
Years later, Nicaragua was enduring one of the most grueling times of the Somoza dictatorship, when Miss Tomasa, Don's Aunt and midwife from Tortuguero, came to Bluefields for a visit. She invited Fernando to join her on the journey home. Don thinks that his father let him go because it would be one less mouth to feed and this was a chance for Don to travel with his Aunt rather than alone.
At the age of 16 Don arrived at the village of Tortuguero when there was a population of more or less 15 families (today, 1500 people). He worked at the lumber mill for the first year and then his dream came true. He got a job working for Dr. Archie Carr and the Carribean Conservation Corportation. He worked with them in the fight to save the Atlantic Green Sea Turtle from 1975-1987.
Don still remembers seeing his first sea turtle; the sheer size of this reptile caused a big impression, the weight of the turtle, the sound of her body dragging on the sand on her way up the beach. Don says that he sat on her back and got in front of her trying to stop her from moving he wasn't able to detour her even putting his heavyweight boxer frame fully into the task.
I was most impressed with the way she makes the chamber hole. He says, She takes those giant flippers that she uses to swim in the ocean, the same ones she uses to drag herself up the beach and turns them into scoops that dig a perfect hole with perfectly round contours.
Although he has experienced the turtles backwards and forwards and has walked the beaches of Tortuguero National Park thousands of nights. The privilege of watching guests experience the turtle nesting process and the questions that they ask him each day keep him young and proud of the conservation effort that has been made.
Don began to work for Tortuga Lodge as a boat Captain and Naturalist Guide in 1989. Today, he leads guests to Tortuguero National Park on a daily basis.
Don and his wife, Pastora, have four children and three grandchildren. He is known for his booming laugh, which can be heard for some distance.
His message to people considering a visit to Tortuga Lodge & Gardens: You won't believe me if I tell you everything you will see when you visit Tortuguero National Park. You will have to come and see for yourself. Then, please go home and tell your friends.