|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.
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.