It was one of the most amazing things we’ve ever done – seriously. For many years I’ve had in the back of my mind that one day I’d like to go to Costa Rica to save baby turtles, so when I came across Cozumel Insider’s Baby Turtle Liberation Experience, I convinced Shaun that we should do it. Fortunately, he agreed!
Read to the end to see our awesome baby turtle liberation video!
We scootered to the meeting point near dusk, and were picked up by three volunteers from Punta Sur Eco Park. We were very lucky as it was just the two of us accompanying the volunteers that night – during the high season as many as 50 people join the trips. As we headed to the park, one of the volunteers (he was about 17, and had been volunteering for 8 years!) explained to us about the turtle nesting process and the stats of turtles nesting on Cozumel. About 600 turtles come ashore in Punta Sur alone each season (a very small part of the island). We bumped along the potholed road and we asked him if they see baby turtles all the time, and he replied that it’s about 50/50. We were thinking “What, this is what we signed up for!” when he pulled out a polystyrene box from under the seat and there were about 15 tiny baby turtles inside. Oh my goodness, they were so cute! The volunteer said that we were going to help them release them that night – exciting!
Finally we stopped at the beach and hopped out of the van, polystyrene box in hand. Down to the waves we went, and carefully we plucked the turtles out of the box and placed them on the sand. They were pretty tired and didn’t move a lot, so we had to encourage them towards the water. Eventually they all made it into the sea either by flapping their way down the beach or being swept away by waves. Bye bye, little tortugas!
We thought those were all the baby turtles we would see that night – but we were wrong! The volunteers took us a bit further down the beach where they could see with their trained eyes that babies had hatched inside their nests (apparently a depression in the sand is made when the turtles begin digging their way to the surface). So we got down on hands and knees and scooped the sand away, and began scooping baby turtles out with the sand! These ones were very vigorous as they had just hatched and their instinct was telling them to get out of the nest and go for the ocean!
Into the now-empty polystyrene box they went. Our nest yielded 80 babies, and the other volunteers’ nest had 120 inside. We took them down to the water’s edge and tipped the boxes over, and off they went! It was the most surreal feeling watching 200 tiny turtles heading towards the big scary ocean like their life depended on it. It was sad in a way, as only one in a thousand survive to adulthood (about 30 years old). But it’s what they were born to do, so it was an amazing feeling knowing that we had helped them on their way.
We had our GoPro on hand so we made an amateur video (sorry about the water spots!)…
So amazing. I wanted to keep them all.