How did this experience begin?
I just returned from taking my mom on her first cruise and first trip out of the country. Since she has never traveled, she had been looking forward to this trip for over a year. So much time and discussion went into planning all of the details, but when it came down to the wire, all that was left was to decide was which excursions to do. So many cruise excursions are similar; Beach Day, Island Relax and Margaritas, ZIP Lining, Mayan Ruins, etc. On the last page of the excursion brochure, there was one excursion that stood out and instantly grabbed my attention, “Save a Sea Turtle Experience.” Finally, an excursion that wasn’t about us, but something much greater! After I read through the description, I was set! Convincing my mom was no issue, because she had also seen it on the list and planned on asking me. So it was settled! Baby turtles, here we come!!
The day we arrived in Cozumel (I love Cozumel btw) we loaded up on this cute little safari bus and headed to the Turtle Sanctuary on the other side of the island. The bus ride was beautiful because it traced the coast on the south side of the island!! We did a big loop around the island so that Nacho, our guide, could tell us about the city.
When we arrived at the turtle sanctuary, we we were briefed on next steps by one of the members of the Turtle Protection Committee. I VERY loosely translated that from “Comité Municipal de Protección de la Tortuga Marina.” Please send me a message if I wrongfully translated because this group of people deserve all of the praise for what they do!
Why do the baby turtles need saving?
Well, first they’re endangered. They have many enemies on land and sea so the babies that are able to make it out of their nest and to the sea (while still so vulnerable), do have the chance to grow up and live long lives, 50-80 years on average for Green Sea Turtles.
If you are a diver like me, hopefully you have had the honor of swimming with these docile animals. They’re extraordinary to encounter in the wild and some are huge; I’ve seen some bigger than me!
The Green Sea Turtles in Cozumel lay roughly 100 eggs 3-5 ft below the surface of the sand and 45-55 days later, the eggs will begin to hatch. A majority of the babies are vital enough to break free from their shell and sand, but many are not and die in the nest. This is the reason human intervention is necessary! Without groups like the Turtle Protection Committee monitoring these nests and organizing rescues (like the excursion), the Green Sea Turtle population would rapidly decline and extinction would be a certainty.
Our Heartwarming Experience
After we received a briefing on the rescues process, we we began to dig in the sand with our hands. After several feet deep and lots of sweat later, we pulled our first live baby turtle out of the sand. This was the most intense emotional feeling to see and hold a baby turtle. It was then that we realized our efforts were rewarded and this inspired us to work harder to break these babies out. An hour later, we cleared the nest, rescuing 10 babies. Combined with the other digging groups, 59 baby turtles were saved that magical morning.
My Favorite Part: The Release to the Ocean
All of the babies were placed in buckets so the researchers could confirm and record the number of babies. Once the coast was clear of any birds, came the most moving part of the process; the release into the sea. One by one, we picked baby up from the buckets. This was also the cutest part because these little guys are wide open, ready to go as soon as they leave the nest. It’s so funny to see their little flippers flapping like they’re trying to fly. The instant you set them down on the sand they race to the waters! See the video here 🙂
Go find your Dad!!
It was truly a powerful experience. Knowing that without our help, those babies may not have had the chance to swim in the ocean and live!
How Can You Help Save The Turtles from Home?
Fortunately, many Mexican beaches participate in this mission. I whole heartedly recommend getting involved in this rescue if you ever get the chance to visit. All experiences must be coordinated through your groups on the island. If you are visiting on a cruise, book through your excursions, but if you are traveling independently check out Blue H2O Cozumel
Read more here to learn how to save the Sea Turtles from home…