Joaquín Martínez in Costa Rica / SUR

Meet the Costa del Sol volunteer who helped save a thousand turtles in Costa Rica

Joaquín Martínez has now published a book for the charity he worked with about his 15-day stay in the Central American country during the coronaviris crisis

Eugenio Cabezas

In the summer of 2020, 64-year-old retiree Joaquín Martínez spent 15 days volunteering in Costa Rica and he has written a book about his experience of rescuing leatherback turtles.

The proceeds of book sales will go to the NGO Refugio Laguna Urpiano, which works to help the survival of the leatherback turtle, one of the seven species of this aquatic reptile on the planet, and which is on the list of critically endangered species.

It is estimated that there are fewer than 30,000 specimens of leatherback turtles on the planet but they can be found on the beaches of Costa Rica where they come to lay their eggs.

"We were coming out of lockdown and I found information about this association on the internet, contacted them and prepared the trip. It was curious, because back then you couldn't go from one municipality to another, but you could travel by plane for something like this," says Martínez, who has just published the 125-page book with photographs, 'El voluntario que salvó a mil tortugas' (The volunteer who saved a thousand turtles).

"Think that out of every thousand hatchlings that are born, it is estimated that only one reaches adulthood," says Martínez. "Basically what they do is rescue the eggs that the turtles lay in the sand and take them to a hatchery, to prevent them from being captured by predators or poachers, because although it is sanctioned, there are still many people who take them to sell or eat them," he explains.

Young Leatherback turtle / SUR

He goes on to say how a few years ago he saw a National Geographic documentary on this species, "It had always interested me” he says, adding that the trip was “a way of doing something different" just at a time when the world was "paralysed", he embarked on this adventure, which he says "changed my life".

"I met people from many places, from the USA, Germany, the UK, Uruguay, and also Spaniards," says Martínez. In his book he writes about the routines he had during the two "intense" weeks he spent in Costa Rica. It has been published by Anáfora and costs 12 euros. It can be purchased online at the website

"Everything will be donated to the NGO," says Martínez, who insists that the stay "has left a mark" on him. "Leatherback turtles are real dinosaurs, survivors since that time, they can weigh up to 900 kilos and travel up to 20,000 kilometres from the place where they are born,” he explains, adding that they “eat their weight in jellyfish every day, so that is why it is so important that they do not disappear, among many other things.”

Martínez is originally from Cordoba and for more than three decades he worked in the audiovisual sector in Madrid. He took early retirement and has been living in Torre del Mar for a little over a year.

The experience as a volunteer for 15 days in Costa Rica cost Martínez 1,500 euros, and he says he hasn’t ruled out doing something similar in the future. "It's highly recommended, it's like paradise, full of rivers, jungles, wild fauna and immense beaches. Costa Rica is an incredible country," he concludes.

A group of volunteers in Costa Rica / SUR