Port of Call
Learning the Dignity of Life from Sea Turtles in Nicaragua, Nov 22, 2017
Tour participant Lisa Wynn holding a baby sea turtle.
On a two-day exchange tour in Nicaragua, Peace Boat participants released baby turtles into the ocean while learning about efforts to support sea turtle populations in the region. The tour was held in and around León, Nicaragua's second biggest city, while Peace Boat made its port of call in nearby Corinto on 29-30 October. Twenty-five participants joined the tour, which also included a visit to a local elementary school for cultural exchange and a peace festival held to welcome Peace Boat to Nicaragua.

Traveling towards Juan Venado Island through a mangrove forest.
To release the turtles into the ocean, participants visited the Juan Venado Island Wildlife Refuge on the morning of October 30. The event was led by the Ecotourism Project Palo de Oro, an organization that holds tours and offers lodging on the island, with the goal of conservation of the coastline and to promote community participation and development. The group took participants to the island in small groups by boat, and along the way taught about the flora and fauna of the mangrove forest there. They stopped at mangroves that were planted by Peace Boat participants who visited the area in 2012; after just five years the trees were already full-sized and integrated into the surrounding forest.

A baby turtle making its way towards the sea.
Baby turtles are typically born in the region from August to October, and participants were lucky to come before the hatching season ended. The Project Palo de Oro maintains a permanent nursery for the turtles where they protect the eggs, which spend an average of 53 days in the nursery before they are ready to hatch. After having a look at the nursery, participants washed their hands and got to hold the baby turtles that had hatched that morning. They brought the turtles a few meters from the shore, and set them free to walk towards the ocean, eventually swept away by the waves.

The students performing a traditional dance for the participants.
In the afternoon, the participants made their way to Andres Castro Elementary School in Las Penitas Village for cultural exchange with the students. The students greeted the participants at the gate, and performed some traditional dances, songs, and games to begin the event, and Peace Boat participants taught the children cultural activities such as origami, calligraphy, and diabolo juggling. Many of the students started to feel quite close to the participants and presented them with beautiful gifts that they had made by hand from seashells. One participant, Shiba Saori, said, "The dance and performances the students did were really nice, and everyone had such vibrant smiling faces. It was really a nicer experience than I could have imagined."

The performance of El Güegüense at the peace festival.
The Festival for Peace and Fraternity: NicaraguaPeace Boat,' was held on the evening of 29 October, and was arranged by the municipal governments of León and Jinotega to promote exchange between Peace Boat and the people of the region. It was held in the plaza in front of the Our Lady of Grace Cathedral, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Participants visited the cathedral as the sun was setting and the event was about to begin; from the roof, they could see the 7,000 people who were gathering below for the festival. Among the speakers at the festival were the Mayor of León, Roger Gurdián, who welcomed Peace Boat to Nicaragua, and atomic bomb survivor Kimura Tokuko, who gave testimony about living through the bombing of Nagasaki and called for a world free from nuclear weapons. Dances and cultural performances continued for two hours following the speeches, including a performance of El Güegüense, a folklore drama combining music, dance, and theater declared a Masterpiece of Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO.