If one could sit quietly on a Mexican beach long enough, eventually a sea turtle would edge by. Of course, there are beaches where the waiting would be short—minutes or hours—and others where the waiting may be longer—days, months or even decades. But eventually, with time, a sea turtle would haul her body from the ocean, cross your chosen expanse of nighttime sand and pass you by on her way to give life to the beach.
You are among the fortunate. At the tip of the Baja California peninsula, from La Paz, around the Cape, and up to Todos Santos, the chance for a close encounter with one of these ancient ocean voyagers is good. These beaches are the nesting place for Olive Ridleys and the highly endangered Leatherback turtles. I’ve spent the past 15 years learning about these animals and we are only beginning to unravel their mysteries. For example, when the leatherbacks leave the beaches, they may travel as far as South America or Asia in search of their favorite food, jellyfish. The Leatherback turtle’s nesting season takes place from November through February. The Olive Ridley turtles begin nesting in June; their primary nesting season is June to December.
Sea turtles have migrated the oceans and come to the beaches to lay eggs for more than 100 millions years. We are visitors to their dominion. We haven’t always been good houseguests. However, there are some simple things we can do to ease our impact and help them to survive. First, go to the beach on foot. Take off your shoes and feel how loose the sand is.
That’s the way the turtles like it. Vehicles pack down the sand and make it hard for turtles to dig nests and hard for the babies to climb out. Second, keep the beaches dark. Turn lights off, away from the ocean or use special “turtle-friendly” lighting. The hatchlings are attractedto the light and will wander away from the sea towards the glow. Last, support the local groups working to save the sea turtles. They are part of a vast network of dedicated people who have devoted themselves to our oceans and its inhabitants.
For more information on where to see Baja’s sea turtles and to support the groups working to save them, contact Grupo Tortuguero