Step out onto a quiet beach in Cancun and the Riviera Maya on a summer night, and you just might spot a female see turtle laying her eggs in the sand. This summer alone, I’ve had several friends mention that they’ve seen sea turtles laying eggs at night on several beaches in Cancun’s Hotel Zone.
Lots of development and activity, however, has made local beaches unsafe for the turtle eggs, and many resorts are now looking for a way to restore balance by finding the turtle eggs and giving them a safe home until they hatch. The hatchlings are then released into the Caribbean to try their luck on their own.
I was recently invited to the very first Baby Turtle Release of the 2011 season at the Ritz Carlton Cancun. Even though I’ve been living here 6 years, it was the first time I’d witnessed one! PR Director Paulina Feltrin gave me a tour of the beautiful hotel and explained about their Turtle Camp, run by Juan de Dios.
The Ritz Carlton has been helping the baby turtles for more than 13 years! They patrol the beaches at night searching for nesting turtles, then recover the eggs and bring them to safety at their Turtle Camp, where they can rest safely for 45 to 60 days until they hatch.
Each mound of sand is a nest of turtle eggs, labeled with info like the type of turtle and predicted hatch date.
The baby sea turtles are always released in the evenings to increase their chance of survival from predators, although it’s estimated that only 1 in every 1,000 sea turtles will survive to adulthood.
After a glance at the Turtle Camp, Paulina led me down to the beach area, where a large crowd of Ritz Carlton guests had gathered to share the experience.
It was a beautiful and peaceful evening, perfect for a turtle release.
I could feel the air abuzz with excitement and curiosity. The adults were snapping photos (note: no flash allowed!) while the kids were peering into the basket of sea turtles as Paulina explained the process. Sea turtles were then passed around to guests, who were careful to hold the baby turtles by the sides of their shell.
And then… they were off!
Some of the baby turtles were super-speedy, swept away by the gentle waves within seconds. Others took a bit longer, but eventually made it to their destination… the Caribbean Sea.
I couldn’t help but notice how tiny and fragile they looked compared to the waves, and I wondered what adventures they’d have on their first night in the sea.
Fun Fact: Many locals rely on sea turtle nesting habits to determine how strong hurricane season is going to be. This forecast is generally more accurate than human weather forecasts! Rumor has it that according to nesting sea turtles, 2011 is not going to be a strong hurricane season in Cancun and the Riviera Maya.
Disclosure: I am being compensated for my work in creating and managing content as a Community Manager for the Mexico Today Program. All stories, opinions and passion for all things Mexico shared here are completely my own.