Every year the beaches of Banderas Bay receive valued visitors who come back to their place of origin to lay their eggs and continue the eternal cycle of life. Sea turtles, mainly the Olive Ridley species, come back to the place that saw them hatch.
Turtles have been around for over 200 million years, although their number has been diminishing for the last 200 years due to human over-exploitation of our natural resources. The largest turtle that still exists today is the Leatherback, measuring 4 to 6 feet long and up to a ton in weight. Olive Ridley sea turtles are considered to be one of the smallest of marine turtle species. They measure 2 to 2.5 feet and weigh between 77 and 100 pounds.
Each year, between the months of June and December, thousands of marine turtles come to nest on the shores of the Bay. Many turtle camps protect these creatures and their nests, releasing the little hatchlings under the right conditions in an effort to boost their numbers.
You can visit these camps to enjoy one a very special activity, the release of the hatchlings. Your visit will start with an informative talk about the turtles, what to do if you happen to find a female nestling on the beach, and what you can do to help. Then you will pick one of the small hatchlings, give it a name and release it to see it making its way to the ocean waters. This long (for their size) crawl imprints this particular location on them and for some still unknown mechanism makes them return to this very same beach 8 to 12 years later to nest and reproduce.
Poaching of the eggs for their supposedly aphrodisiacal effect and of the turtles themselves for their meat has not yet been eradicated and hence the need for their protection. Millions of sea turtles worldwide drown after getting caught in fishing nets. They can confuse garbage for food. Plastic bags can easily look like a jelly fish to a turtle and clog its digestive system. We can all help by not littering and by picking up the trash we encounter on beaches and in our oceans.
Give yourself the opportunity to live the wonderful experience of a turtle release. Help them mark their future nestling place and be a first-hand witness of the marvelous circle of life!
*Photo courtesy of Josef Kandoll