Before my trip to Puerto Vallarta when I thought about turtles, the first thing that came to mind was the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles but after my trip for Blog Paradise courtesy of Marriott Resorts, I will never think about the turtles in a half shell the same way again.
All seven species of sea turtles are on the endangered list and six of the seven species live and nest along the Bay of Banderas. As the lines between the modern world and nature continue to blur, it becomes increasingly necessary to ensure wildfire continues to flourish or else it will be lost forever. It’s not just construction and the growth of the human population that is affecting the safety of the sea turtles, it’s misinformation. I’m told that it’s commonly believed that turtle eggs are an aphrodisiac and sold on the black market. The Mexican government has stepped in and made it illegal to disturb turtle nests or traffic eggs, but given some other trafficking problems in Mexico, violations are rarely prosecuted.
The CasaMagna Marriott Puerto Vallarta employs Oscar Aranda, a marine biologist and founder of La Sociedad Ecológica del Occidente which promotes wildlife conservation. Oscar patrols the beaches along the bay from June until December to help protect the turtle nests. I tagged along with Oscar and some other volunteers on a rainy night in August as they combed the beach.
I am not certain I can accurately describe the awe I felt as I watched the pregnant turtle dig her nest only several hundred feet from a gorgeous beach front house. As lightning flashed across the sky and the rain drizzled, I couldn’t help but be struck by how nature continues despite the encroachment of modern society. Watching the enthusiasm that Oscar and his team had for turtle preservation was absolutely inspiring.
Turtles only lay their eggs at night and most frequently during the 1st and 2nd quarters of the moon as it is darker and easier to disguise. Oscar explained to me, not only it is darker so the eggs will be safer from predators but it also means the babies will hatch during a full moon and that additional light helps the baby turtles find their way to the sea.
After the mother finished laying her eggs and headed back out to sea - Oscar began digging up the nest to remove the eggs. We later reburied the eggs back in the hotel nursery. In 2009 the Sea Turtle Program at the CasaMagna protected 539 nests and each nest contained around 100 eggs each!
It takes about 45 days for each nest to hatch. Once the baby turtles are hatched, the staff will release on the beach in the evening. Hotel guests and the general public are invited to watch and participate as the babies are released into the sea. Guests and the general public are also allowed to follow along with Oscar and the other biologists as they comb the beaches in the evening.
Baby turtle are born ready to swim and have enough energy to swim for about five days before they must eat. If they make it five days, they will find themselves in open water which is full of zooplankton and nekton. It’s hard to estimate how many sea turtle survive after birth but right now it’s estimated that only 5% of baby turtles will make it to adulthood.
I never expected to have this experience with wildlife while I staying at a resort - even typing “wildlife” and “resort” in the same sentence seems paradoxical, but it’s not. My stay at CasaMagna was wonderful but my time with turtles changed my perception about how humans affect the nature and how nature affects us. I was not surprised upon my return to the States to find out that Oscar was on CNN’s Heroes - he is definitely a hero for rescuing turtles but also for educating people about conservation.
Thank you to Marriott Resorts, Diamond PR, and especially CasaMagna Marriott Puerto Vallarta for hosting this fantastic trip!