While strolling down the beach at Rincon de Guayabitos in Mexico’s Pacific state of Nayarit on a Sunday morning, a man approached us. He introduced himself as Santos and offered to take us to a turtle camp. At first, this seemed funny to me. A camp for turtles? But, the man was so sincere and positive. We listened and were glad we did.
The turtle camp, he explained, was not at Rincon de Guayabitos, rather at a nearby beach called Playa Naranjo. We would need to go in a small bus in, maybe, two hours. He would arrange the transportation and would get a group together to defray the cost for all. It would cost about one hundred pesos each round trip, and the whole visit would take two to two and a half hours.
As promised two hours later, Santos appeared with six other interested people. We rode in a van north from Rincon de Guayabitos then turned off the highway onto a sand road that went through a swamp. We crossed several creeks without benefit of bridges and less than twenty minutes later we arrived at Playa Naranjo. There we enjoyed the sight of miles of unspoiled beachfront—protected by the Mexican government.
Our Turtle Group
Observation Tower at Playa Naranjo
At the camp, volunteers and staff from Los Grupos Ecologistas de Nayarit explained there are three types of sea turtles lay eggs in this area, the Hawksbill, Leatherback and the most common, Olive Ridley. All three are endangered species.
Workers monitor this beach and several others in the state of Nayarit at night during the times for mature female turtles to lay their eggs. When located, the eggs are collected and taken back to protected nursery areas—the camps. Forty-five days of incubation later, the baby turtles hatch.
Temporary Protected Nesting at the “Camp”
The workers examine the hatchlings, record statistics from the many groups and then hold them in the protected areas until ready for release into the Pacific. They liberate the babies at night to avoid disorientation, to eliminate the risk of burning in the hot sun and to increase their survival rate by reducing daytime predation from birds, crabs, dogs, etc.
Olive Ridley turtles hatch between August and mid-January.
During the camp technician’s explanation of work at Playa Naranjo, I realized the young man describing the work processes was Santos’ son. Santos had hustled up a group to be educated about this important work. It was clear he was proud of his son’s involvement. The experience was a gift we all appreciated.
As with many wildlife preservation efforts, money for these projects in Mexico is in short supply. Donations are welcome to help fund the turtle camp and releases.