It’s turtle time and I could not be more excited. A couple of years ago a nest of turtles hatched from underneath one of our guests as she sunbathed. And last year we helped three or four nests of slightly misguided turtles who came crawling up to the restaurant looking for the ocean (maybe they were looking for chef Laura’s amazing appetizers). Either way, there is nothing more humbling and beautiful than holding a tiny life in your hand and rushing it to the ocean shore, trying to convince it to swim out to sea to find its first meal.***
Of the tiny lives I could be rescuing, turtles are among the most in need. Of every 100 turtle eggs that are laid, 1 makes it to adulthood. These are tough odds. On their way out to sea they risk being eaten by crabs and birds, not to mention a more modern threat of theirs: humans. Unfortunately, turtle soup is a delicacy in many homes. And then there’s our propensity to dig up their nests and expose the eggs to the elements, or scare off the mothers while they are laying their eggs because we want to get a closer look. Additionally, our bright lights drown out the moon, confusing the turtles, and leading them up to restaurants and houses, and across roads. Because we are now officially in turtle season, I’d like to provide a few friendly facts on how to enjoy sea turtles in Tulúm.
Come across a nesting turtle?
* Do not walk on the beach with a flashlight (covering the light with your hand will mute the light but still allow you to see) or shine a light in the sea turtle’s face. The light may cause the female to abort the nesting process, or other sea turtles nearby may be discouraged from nesting if there are lights on the beach.
* Do not take pictures using flash. This high-intensity light can be even more disturbing than the flashlights.
* Stay clear and out of sight of the turtle until she begins laying eggs, otherwise you may scare her back into the sea. Once she begins laying her eggs, you may approach her discretely from behind.
* For your safety, stay away from the turtle’s head. Sea turtles, especially loggerheads, have very strong jaws and can harm you if provoked. (Loggerheads are the main nesters in Quintana Roo, as well as Green Sea Turtles)
* Do not handle the eggs or put any foreign objects into the nest. You can introduce bacteria or injure the eggs.
* Do not handle or ride the sea turtle. In addition to being illegal, you may injure the turtle or cause her to leave without finishing nesting.
* Do not disturb tracks left by turtles. Researchers use the tracks to identify the type of turtles that nested and to find and mark the nests.
* Do enjoy the experience, and remember it for the rest of your life.
Interested in the turtles? Check out these sites or come visit Tulúm May-October.
http://www.cesiak.org/ (while in Tulúm you can arrange to go turtle watching with a biologist through Cesiak)
***Since our first experiences with turtles, we have learned that the baby turtles must be rushed to the ocean as quickly as possible as they are only born with a set amount of energy. Once this energy is expended the baby turtles must find food immediately. Therefore, it is important not to keep them for any period of time