Catching the Next Wave Home
from the Photo Lab
“Crush: Oh, it’s awesome, Jellyman. The little dudes are just eggs, we leave ’em on a beach to hatch, and then, coo-coo-cachoo, they find their way back to the big ol’ blue.”
Have you ever had a summer that changed your life? One in which you experienced something so unbelievable, something that literally took your breath away? If you have, you’ll know how I feel. If you haven’t, I hope you do soon.
We have been enjoying the beaches of the gorgeous Mayan Riviera for as long as I can remember. It is a summer staple for our family, and it is a tradition I hope we will continue for many generations to come. This beautiful place is like a second home to us, and we have had a plethora of good times there, but never in our lives had we experienced something like this.
The crystal clear waters of the Mayan Riviera are home to an immense number of marine animals; among them, beautiful parrot fish, whale sharks and sea turtles among many others. For the turtles in particular, this area is key to their survival. It is in many parts of this region, that a variety of sea turtles including Green Turtles, Loggerheads and Hawksbills come to nest. It is an amazing thing to see, a giant turtle making its way onto the sea shore. They build their nests with such strength and effort, and as they return to the protection of the ocean, they leave behind such precious cargo: anywhere from 60 to 160 hopeful little lives, encased in tiny round shells.
Sea turtles, as I am sure you know, are endangered creatures. I won’t go into sad details, instead I want to focus on the good people that are doing something about it.
For many years now, Sea Turtle Protection Programs have been in place in Mexico and are carefully monitored by marine biologists and resort security. The Royal Resorts Group has been a loyal participant of these programs, helping protect sea turtles in Cancun for many years now. They monitor the turtles that nest on their beaches, carefully gathering the eggs and keeping them safe in a corral until the babies hatch; they are then released at the water’s edge just after nightfall (to keep the babies safe from predatory birds). Because this is such an incredible experience, The Royal Resorts welcomes guests to partake in the release program. More about that here.
Never, in all my years of visitng the Mayan Riviera had I seen so many turtles in the span of one short week! According to The Royal Resorts blog, as of August 7th, 290 turtles have already laid their eggs on the beaches, and the corrals have in their care an amazing 35,820 eggs!
The first hatchlings of the year were released on July 6th, and since then, more than 5,000 baby turtles have begun their life journey catching the next wave out to sea.
Throughout the week we were there, Bill and I were fortunate to participate in an organized release. We love this place and took every opportunity to walk on the beach. One of those nights we were thrilled to see two giant turtles come ashore. We alerted a security guard of its presence, stayed and watched it diligently work on its nest, and then, just as quietly as it arrived, it disappeared beneath the surf.
On a different night stroll, I saw a tiny shadow move across the sand near my feet; I couldn’t believe it… a couple of baby turtles! These little guys probably made their way out of one of the nests within the corrals. As Bill ran to get a security guard, I gently scooped the baby in my hands and walked him (or her) down to the shore.
I cannot describe what it feels like, to have this precious, tiny life in your hands. To know that it is nature’s way that they venture into the wild ocean. They are so tiny and vulnerable, how can they possibly be safe out there?
Yet, this is the amazing thing: the second that tiny soul in my cupped hands smelled the saltwater, I felt it start flapping its little fins with all the tiny strength it could muster; and I realized: this is millions of years of instinct right here. They do survive, and in 10 to 15 years, they return to these shores to lay their own eggs, and so life continues.
With this thought in my heart, I kissed the tiny shell and gently set the baby turtle on the sand. As I watched it disappear beneath the waves, I whispered a wish to the salty breeze, that this tiny friend outlive me and may he (or she) have a long and happy life.
Bill soon returned with a security guard, and the second baby turtle held safely in his hands. What are the odds? Two baby turtles, two people randomly walking the beach that night. We must have done something good along the way, for this was, above all else a magnifiscent reward.
If that experience wasn’t enough, the morning of July 30th, our last day in Mexico, we woke up early to catch the sunrise. While enjoying our last walk on the beach we came across turtle tracks that lead all the way up to the corral. We went to get a closer look and found a security guard collecting some brand new hatchlings from one of the nests. I asked him what kind of turtle they were, to which he replied: “Cahuama! Or Green Turtle. Want to help?”
I just about fainted… He gave me a latex glove, and taught me how to retrieve the tiny babies from the sand. Some had already made it out of their egg shells and I had to carefully scoop them up and place them into a crate. Others were still working their way out, all they needed was a little help in removing the sand around their head and fins, and they would take it from there.
Working your way out of a shell in a deep hole in the sand is no easy feat. The babies are a bit tired after this ordeal (in the wild, this is when they are at their most vulnerable), but after a quick break they are ready to start exploring the world.
After gathering everyone safely in a crate and taking note of how many little ones there were in total, security would then take them to a safe haven indoors until nightfall, when they would be released.
Thank goodness Bill was there taking pictures the entire time, I was so high on excitement that everything else disappeared. I only had eyes for those baby turtles.
I will forever be grateful to the amazing team of people that looks after these beautiful creatures day and night, and especially to that kind soul who allowed me to help gather the new arrivals and in turn, made this summer a truly unforgettable one.
We think of the babies often, wondering how and where they are, and how much they have grown. We hope they are all safe, healthy and having a blast surfing the waves.
To find out more about sea turtles and how you can help protect them I compiled a couple of links for you to check out:
5 Things You Can Do to Help Sea Turtles