Magi Azul - Caribe Beach House

Enjoy my family's adventure living on a Caribbean island as they build a boutique vacation beach house. Get a peek at island living and join me in some mischievous musings!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

It's Turtle Time!

photo by Michele Westmorland/Corbis
It 's turtle time on Isla Mujeres! These are some of my favorite months here. The winter winds and waves have long since died down, and the ocean becomes a placid turquoise paradise for snorkelers and underwater adventurers like myself.  The waters are often what the locals call a bonanza.  A bonanza is one of those days when the water is so clear and the surface so smooth that you drop whatever you're doing, grab your snorkel gear and explore!  July and August are also the height of the turtle nesting season. Turtles are more concentrated closer to shore as they nightly scour the sandy beaches in search of choice nesting ground. There are 6 species of turtles on the island, but the Loggerhead and Green turtle are the most common. 
       I have wonderful memories of midnight turtle watches with all of my children.  We still sit on the log behind our house, with our mug of coffee or hot chocolate and scan the moonlit surf for the familiar glowing eyeballs or the silhouette of a humped shell emerging from the water like a stealth submarine. In hushed whispers our excitement mounts as we spot a mother coming to shore to lay her clutch of a hundred or so eggs.  The next several hours are spent watching her dig holes here and there looking for just the right spot to hide her buried treasure.

        In years past these nests were often robbed of their eggs by island natives who considered the turtle eggs a delicacy.  Now thanks to the preservation efforts of the Isla Mujeres Turtle Sanctuary or the Tortugranja, many of these eggs survive to become hatchlings.  During this time of year almost all the sandy beaches are patrolled nightly by workers and volunteers of the sanctuary.  They guard the female turtles from undue harassment from over zealous observers and ask that no flashes by used with cameras to disturb the nesting mothers.  Once the turtles have made their grand deposit into their sandy beds, they return to the ocean  until next year's nesting season.  At which time they will return to the same beach to lay their young again.  Once the eggs are laid the turtle people, as I call them, collect the eggs and transport them to the sanctuary where they are incubated for 60 days, hatched and later released.  And oh what an occasion the turtle releases are!


      They are a favorite of the island children of all ages.  The turtle people bring huge vats of baby hatchlings and pass them out to the crowds of  children and adults who stand with tiny buckets waiting to be filled with these adorable creatures.  Then after much ooohhing and ahhhing the children gently place the baby turtles on the sand so they can scurry to the surf to begin their odyssey. The turtle people manage the crowd and chase off any four legged or winged prey that would try to make an afternoon snack out of the baby turtles. The Turtle sanctuary is located on the south part of the island called Sac Bajo. They are supported by the Mexican government and private funds.  For a small fee (30 pesos) you can see hatchlings at various stages of growth and maybe even participate in a release. 

Now is the perfect time to come to the island to see this wonder of nature. You'll find me with my coffee mug sitting on my log gazing out at that moonlit Caribbean.

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