The turtle egg-laying season is between May and September in the Mexican Caribbean resort town of Cancun. I was fortunate to visit with my son in August and experience turtle eggs hatching and the baby turtle’s journey to the ocean.
For most sea turtles, making their way onto the beach at night to lay eggs can be a risky situation. In Cancun, a few of the hotels located on the famed ‘Hotel Zone’ have created sea turtle protection and release programs. I recently visited CasaMagna Marriott Cancún Resort, where in conjunction with their adjacent property, the JW Marriott have implemented a sea turtle protection and release program that protects and preserves this endangered species. CasaMagna and JW Marriott Cancun Resorts save an average of 3,000 endangered baby turtles each year.
When the female turtles make their way onto the beach to lay their eggs, they are guarded from a distance by a marine biologist or hotel employees to make sure they are not disturbed. The females, then head back to the Caribbean waters, leaving their eggs to incubate. Once the female turtle heads back to sea, the marine biologist or hotel employees will relocate the eggs to a protected area to ensure that nesting sea turtles go undisturbed.
Once the eggs have been moved and buried in the sand, the mound is marked with a sign designating the date, the species of turtle – Blanca (Green), Carey (Hawksbill), Caguama (Loggerhead) – and the number of eggs. Average hatching takes 60 days, but can be faster depending on the temperature of the sand.
My first morning at CasaMagna, I headed to the beach for the sunrise with my son and we ran into two other hotel guests who showed us the turtle tracks in the sand and the protected area the turtle eggs are kept in on the beach at CasaMagna. As we were standing there two employees came over and began checking the different mounds to see if any of the turtles had hatched.
We watched them gently dig in the sand until they came upon a group of baby turtles that had hatched. They took them one by one and placed them in a large bucket. The babies are in danger from birds, during day light hours, so they keep them secure and safe until a release in the evening.
On top seeing the babies that morning, it turned out they were doing a turtle release that evening and it was open to hotel guests. While they let turtles go most evenings during this time of year, they only allow guests of the hotel to take part in a release every seven to 10 days. At dusk that evening we gathered on the beach with about 20 other hotel guests and patiently waited for the birds to ‘give up waiting’. The hotel won’t release the turtles if there are any birds in eyesight. While we waited two hotel employees shared information about the turtles and answered questions and had a photo opportunity with a few of the babies.
When the birds finally gave up – we headed to the shoreline and they released about 300 turtles into the sea. It was a really beautiful moment watching these tiny turtles instinctively know to head out into the water to start their life in the sea.
If you travel to Cancun – support the CasaMagna and JW Marriott Cancun Resorts and this amazing program they have implemented! And make sure to spread the word about this great cause.