Isla Juan Venado is a sandy barrier island located right next to Las Penitas Bay. It is an important nesting ground for sea turtles, and this natural preserve is also home to crocodiles, caimans, birds, crabs, and much more. A mangrove forest grows between the island and the mainland, functioning as a nursery for may species of sea fish and other marine creatures.
What is an barrier island?
A barrier island is a relatively narrow strip of sand that lays parallel to the mainland coast.
The length and width of barrier islands is affected by a long row of factors, including sediment supply, tidal range, sea-level trends and wave energy.
Chains of barrier island are found along less than 15 percent of the world’s coastlines and exactly how they are formed remains unknown. What we do know is that they play an incredibly important role in mitigating ocean swells and storm waves, forming uniquely sheltered water systems between the barrier island and the mainland coast. If the barrier island is destroyed, the entire wetland system is lost as the brackish and sheltered environment is engulfed by the ocean.
Exploring the Juan Venado Natural Preserve by boat
The Juan Venado Natural Preserve starts at Las Penitas Bay, so it is possible to go kayaking straight from the bay. Kayaking is recommended if you wish to see wildlife since birds and other shy creatures are scared away by the sound of motor boats. Kayaks can be rented from several hostels. Sunrise and sunset are best for seeing birds, and there are plenty of small and narrow waterways that you can navigate through in your kayak.
If you don’t want to go kayaking, you can pay a local fisherman or guide to take you into the preserve in his motor boat. Tours can also be arranged through the hostels and the internet café in the bay.
Leaving the boat and entering the barrier island is permitted, provided that you thread carefully and respect the local laws. During the turtle egg laying season in August – December, night tours and night camping can be arranged
Guidelines for Observing Nesting and Hatching Turtles
Sea turtles are very alert to what is going on around them and any disturbance can cause a sea turtle to abandon its nesting attempt. Disturbance can also cause problems for hatching sea turtles as they try to navigate their way to the water. Use your common sense – just because something isn’t outright forbidden doesn’t mean that it is beneficial for the sea turtles.