Between May and October, the excitement mounts in the Riviera Maya during the sea turtle hatching season. This is when the female turtles come to land to lay their eggs on the exact spot where they were born.
Female turtles can lay up to 200 eggs at a time so you can imagine it is imperative to protect the beach areas in question. Once the eggs begin to hatch, the small turtles start to make their journey towards the ocean. Due to their size and speed, the baby turtles need to make a concerted effort to reach the water while avoiding any natural predators. They are extremely vulnerable during this period.
Protect the turtles
Many local organizations are working hard to ensure the protection of the baby sea turtles. In fact, six out of the seven species of sea turtle in the entire world are listed as threatened or endangered. These species include the hawksbill sea turtle, the green sea turtle and the loggerhead sea turtle.
The Centro Ecologico Akumal (CEA) and the Cozumel Ecology Department are two such worthwhile organizations. They have a broad range of programs and recruit volunteers to aid the turtle’s return to the ocean. There are also many conservation projects supported by many hotels and resorts in the area. Some programs allow you to assist with beach patrols, see the turtles lay their eggs or assist with the release of the baby turtles – all important tasks in the life cycle and safeguarding of the sea turtle. Since the turtles are protected, it is illegal to steal the eggs or hunt the animals.
Isla Mujeres Tortugranja, a Government sponsored hatchery, also organizes sea turtle releases and educational programs as well as projects to help protect and re-release injured sea turtles back into the wild.
Akumal, which literally means “place of the turtles” in Mayan, is a popular spot to view the sea turtles in the beauty of their natural habitat. Night time turtle walks are also commonplace alongside the Caribbean waters. It is best to do night tours with an official guide to aid the turtle’s protection and avoid the use of flashlights or flash photography for the turtle’s safety.
Snorkel and dive with the turtles
There are also many opportunities to glimpse the turtles at home in their natural habitat. Snorkeling with turtles can be carried out at both Cancun or Akumal all year round. While the turtles cannot be handled, snorkeling gives visitors the chance to see the turtles up close and personal without adding any undue stress to their existence. Access is easy and it is best to get there early to try to beat the busy tourist crowds. You will also be able to spot many other species of ocean life including stingrays, angel fish, barracuda and blue tangs.
And for those looking for a different type of tour, night diving in the reefs in and around Cancun allows you to glimpse the turtles by the dozens.
These types of charity and ecological tours offer an unforgettable experience for visitors to the Riviera Maya and Mexico in general. They create memories which linger long after the holiday has ended.