August 5, 2014
A protected species in Mexico, it’s against the law to hunt sea turtles in Cancun or steal their eggs. The green turtle, loggerhead turtle and hawksbill turtle can all be found in the waters near Cancun.
The life cycle of the sea turtle begins when they gather together to mate – the sea around the South Point of Isla Mujeres is full of frisky turtles during May, June and July. Carey Dive Center on Isla Mujeres organises trips for scuba divers and snorkelers to see turtles during the mating season, and also throughout the rest of the year. Night dives on Isla’s local coral reef, Manchones, offers the perfect opportunity to see dozens of turtles swimming around before they settle down to rest.
The female turtles come ashore at night between May and October to lay their eggs in the sand on the beaches. Local turtle sanctuaries and volunteers patrol the beaches, carefully collecting the eggs and moving them to safe areas until they are ready to hatch. On some quieter beaches, the nests are left in the sand, clearly marked by volunteers so the eggs are not disturbed. In Akumal, the Centro EcolÃ³gico Akumal organises nighttime turtle walks for visitors who want to learn more about sea turtles in Cancun and see them laying their eggs. It’s important not to disturb turtles when they are nesting, so always go with an official guide, keep your distance, be very quiet and don’t use torches or flash photography.
From July until October, once the turtle eggs have hatched, the baby turtles are ready to be released into the sea. Turtle release events are particularly popular with children, who line the beaches with buckets full of wriggling turtle hatchlings eager to scurry down the beach into the sea. The Isla Mujeres Tortugranja (turtle farm) organises a series of turtle releases in August and September that draw big crowds of local families. The turtle farm is also a good place to visit if you want to see adult and baby turtles up close.
If you are staying at a beachfront hotel near Cancun, especially at the bigger resorts, it’s worth checking with the concierge to see if your hotel has its own turtle protection program. Many hotels patrol their own beaches, collect eggs and arrange turtle release events that their guests can take part in.
Header image: Turtles swimming off the coast of Isla Mujures © Gilberto Pat Hoil
Have you seen sea turtles in Cancun? Let us know in the comments section below.
Written by Catherine Gordon