Unforgettable Experiences That Were Worth the Wait

Unforgettable Experiences That Were Worth the Wait

Bridget Day

Turtle Conservation Project 2022

All images have been provided by Bridget. Read her story below!

For many years Bridget Day’s family traveled to Bald Head Island off the coast of North Carolina, where the now 15-year-old would search for sea turtles. During those visits, there was only one occasion where she was lucky enough to see a baby turtle head to the water. That changed when Bridget’s mother found Rustic Pathways’ Turtle Conservation Project and suggested a journey to Costa Rica. There Bridget had a front row seat to nature’s wonders from day one.

“The first night I was chosen to carry a bucket with baby turtles down to the water and release them. That night I was homesick but that experience made me so happy – being able to carry them and being close to them,” Bridget said


She also got to see a mother turtle laying eggs that same night. Right out the gate, those night walks became Bridget’s favorite part of the program, and along the way she learned a lot about endangered and threatened sea turtles. Those experiences helped her overcome any anxiety she had about her travels.

“I was really nervous for the program. I had previously only gone away to a sleepaway camp close to my family,” Bridget said. “I did not know anyone and at first I wasn’t sure the trip was a good idea. But the people were super nice and always included me, and the program leaders were amazing. They made sure I was okay and their games distracted me. I had an amazing time.”

Saving Sea Turtles from Man-Made Hazards

During the project, the program leaders teach the students about sea turtles in many ways. One of the key lessons was why their work cleaning the beaches was so important. Bridget and the other students spent hours clearing wood and trash from the beach. Bridget said they saw firsthand how this debris prevented mother turtles from laying their eggs.

Some sea turtles return to the beaches where they hatched to lay eggs. Sadly if a mother turtle came to the beach and had wood block her nesting attempt, she would return to the sea rather than staying. These are called false crawls and are increasing because of human-created problems like garbage on the beach and artificial light.

“I thought something like wood was not a big deal, but then I saw how wood on the beach affected their ability to lay eggs,” Bridget said,

Her group also helped create hatcheries to protect turtle eggs from predators, pollution, and humans. Bridget said they need to build new hatcheries as older ones quickly deteriorate or become susceptible to natural elements that threaten the eggs. This work was all done in an area that Bridget described as being a little haven.

“It was so cool we were in the middle of nowhere with cabins so close to the beach,” Bridget said. “We had lots of fun playing music and doing meaningful service.”

Bridget enjoyed the work with the turtles so much she always accepted the offer to stay out later at night – walking around the beach until 11pm or even midnight. Along the way, the group collected about 500 eggs for the hatchery and sent many baby turtles out into the sea.

Trying New Things

After a few days of service, the crew had a weekend jammed with activities. Bridget says they went on an “amazing” dolphin boat tour. They also took an art class with local women.

“These women have been doing this for 20 years. They showed us how to make bracelets and necklaces,” Bridget said.

They also went to a pool and relaxed and tried surfing, which prompted her into thinking about trying other new things.

“I was so nervous to try surfing since I had never done it before,” Bridget said. “After I did it I thought, ‘This is fun. What am I so nervous about?’ I realized I am able to try new things and fully capable of stepping out of my comfort zone – out of my little bubble and enjoying things.”

Aside from the weekend adventures, the group also took a hike on a rainy day to see the local flora and fauna. They saw monkeys, tropical birds, and iguanas. There also was time to hang out in hammocks and take naps, along with getting away from the modern world.

“The internet was super slow, so it was not worth it,” Bridget said. “We were able to disconnect and play cards and various games.”

The students created a special connection with each other during the Rustic Ties discussion session at the end.

“We said our favorite parts about the program and what we’re going to take away – all the memories. We sat in a circle and passed the Rustic wrist ties around. We shared good memories and thoughts. It was a really special experience,” Bridget said.

Afterwards, Bridget had time to reflect on the impact of the project. One lesson from the program was really clear.

“The smallest things can make a big impact. Literally picking up wood off the street or plastic can save so many animals,” Bridget said. “It’s not that big of a task to pick up wood, but the impact makes it so worthwhile.”

Read more alumni stories.