Baby sea turtle season is about to begin!
May is here, and baby sea turtle season will take place all along the coasts of Mexico. Throughout Cancun, the Riviera Maya and Los Cabos, everyone is getting ready to welcome mother turtles to the beach over the next few months as they lay their eggs. Starting in July, we´ll watch as thousands of tiny turtles make their journey into the ocean. It’s an exciting time of year for locals and tourists alike as they help the nests to survive until the eggs hatch and the turtles take their first steps into the sea.
All along Mexico’s Caribbean coast, destinations like Cancun and the Riviera Maya will start to see nests on the beach for a variety of turtles, but mainly for two baby sea turtle species, both of which are currently endangered:
- Green sea turtle
Meanwhile, Pacific coast beach destinations like Los Cabos will become the birthplace for three species:
- Olive Ridley
- Galapagos green turtle
The Birth of the Turtles
These sea turtles spend almost all of their lives at sea, but the mothers will return to the beach years later when it’s time to lay their eggs. The mothers usually wait until nighttime to swim up to the beach in order to avoid predators and sun damage to the eggs. Under the moonlight, they dig a hole in the sand as a nest for their baby sea turtle eggs. They usually prefer dark and quiet beaches, and if you walk along the beach in the middle of the night during nesting season, you just might come across a mother turtle laying her eggs! It’s a magical sight that you’ll want to share with your friends, but remember to follow a few important rules in order to keep the turtle from becoming stressed or frightened:
- Keep your distance
- Stay calm and quiet
- Don’t touch the turtle
- Don’t shine a flashlight on the turtle
- No flash photography
After laying 80 – 150 eggs, the mother will return to the ocean. The eggs take 50 – 60 days to hatch. During this time, many local organizations will locate the nests, move them to a safe location on the beach, label them, and fence them off to keep predators away.
Reaching the Ocean
Once the baby sea turtles are born, tourists and locals alike can participate in baby sea turtle releases during the summer and early fall months. The journey from the nest to the water is treacherous for the babies due to predators, difficult terrain, and the sun, so around sunset, the volunteers take the newborn turtles right to the water to make the transition safe, fast and easy.
It’s important to help the sea turtles in any way possible (by protecting their nests and helping them reach the ocean) because only 1 in every 1,000 sea turtles will grow to adulthood. We need to make sure that as many baby sea turtles as possible reach the ocean in order to increase the chances for more adult sea turtles, who hopefully will come back to Mexico one day and lay even more eggs.
Sea turtle nesting season runs from May through October in the Riviera Maya, and from June through November in Los Cabos. Enjoy a vacation in Mexico’s best beach destinations to see these adorable animals!