“Run… Run faster…. RUN!!” And so began our adventure with sea turtles in Mexico.
We sprinted on the white sand under the full moon at 1am, panting as we slowed and silently approached the red glow of the ecologist’s night lantern. “No worries, you made it. She just started digging!”
What better place to experience sea turtles in Mexico than Akumal, which means “place of the turtles” in Mayan. We watched multiple mama turtles digging in the beach and laying their eggs that night, an experience my kids and I will never forget. From April through December, you might observe nesting and hatching sea turtles in the 2 bays of Akumal. Here are 4 ways you can experience sea turtles in Mexico.
There are only eight species of sea turtles in the whole world, and most are in danger of extinction because of over-poaching and habitat destruction. Of those eight, seven nest in Mexico! The sea turtles you may see in Akumal are the green turtle and the loggerhead. Today I’m sharing how you can experience sea turtles in Mexico.
1. Visit the Centro Ecológico Akumal to Learn about Sea Turtles in Mexico.
El Centro Ecológico Akumal is a leading research and conservation non-profit based in Akumal, whose main objective is “to protect the nesting female turtles and their hatchlings, raising awareness among visitors and residents on sea turtle biology and conservation measures.” There are several exhibits, kids can speak with experts, and they even offer six- to 12-week volunteer programs for those over 21 years.
2. Snorkle in Akumal Bay to See Sea Turtles Grazing on Sea Grass.
The Akumal Dive Shop behind Centro Ecológico Akumal can rent you snorkle gear, or take you on an hour tour of the bay to see sting ray, coral, lobsters, barracuda, and of course- sea turtles! Akumal Bay has a wide, soft beach with white sand and coconut palms, and the guides know exactly where to find the young, gentle sea turtles grazing on the sea grass. Do NOT touch or get to close to the sea turtles! And please, please do not step down on the coral.
3. Patrol the Beach at Night to Watch for Nesting Sea Turtles.
At the Centro Ecológico Akumal families can sign up to do a turtle walk 9pm (M-F) to help search for new nests. The ecologists will mark the nests so that no one crushes the eggs unintentionally by stepping on the sand. If you see a female laying eggs and want to watch, it is vital that you stand behind her and at least 5 meters away, being silent and still. We didn’t realize it can take up to an hour for her to lay her eggs! Check out the moment we first saw a mama turtle nesting:
4. Take a Night Hike to Watch Sea Turtles in Mexico Hatch.
If you are in Akumal during May-December, you can also sign-up at the Centro Ecológico Akumal to do a night hunt for baby turtles hatching. If you are lucky enough to see baby turtles coming up from their sandy nests and heading for the sea, it is important to turn off all nearby lights to prevent their disorientation (since they use the moonlight as their guide). It is essential that the turtles make it to the sea on their own so do not let your children pick up any baby turtles, as cute as they are. The ecologists might gently move disoriented babies a bit closer to the shore.