Night life is not only in the crowded and noisy discotheques. Go out one evening with the Turtle Volunteers and you will have more fun!

Last Saturday my family, friends and I went to Cozumel and we experienced the majesty of a green turtle nesting and we participated in a baby turtle release.

From May to September after sunset, on the Eastern shore of the island, two species of sea turtles come ashore to lay their eggs on the beaches of Cozumel. The two species of turtles that visit the island are the loggerhead (Caretta caretta) and the green (Chelonia mydas), they can lay anywhere from 120 -150 eggs and can nest up to 6 times in one season. Roughly 52 to 54 days later, the young hatchlings emerge at the surface of the nest, typically at night when the temperatures are cooler, and immediately head for the ocean following the light reflected off of the ocean’s surface.

After only a few minutes we saw 2 green turtles digging and laying their nest. My daughter and I decided to name then and called the first one “Lilly” and the second “Estrella” (Spanish for star). We watched as the eggs fell into the nest (sometimes 2 at a time) and it took over an hour. After laying her eggs, Lilly covered her nest with sand using her hind flippers. The entire process leaving her exhausted! After the nest was covered Lilly left her nest and went back to the ocean.

While Lilly was making her way back to the ocean Estrella was digging her nest but unfortunately uncovered the eggs of another turtle. The volunteer marine biologist Marielle Gorgonza, Pierre (my son) and myself went to look for eggs that were intact. Unfortunately many of them were damaged and we could see the yolk inside, but we managed to rescued a handful (about 10 of them). We dug a nest and my daughter Claire and her friend Luna (both 6 years old) were so happy to deposit the eggs in the hole. Hopefully some baby turtles will come out from “our nest”.

When we were ready to leave we saw two dark specks scurrying across the sand toward the ocean. They were 2 beautiful baby turtles. We don’t know from where exactly they got out, since they were alone. It is almost impossible to tell, there are hundreds nests that are just on this part of the island. In fact Lilly’s nest was number 4,806 since the season started in May. The beach was covered with numbered sticks so the Cozumel Marine Turtle Salvation Program can monitor and protect the nesting and hatching.

To end our early-morning experience we went on another site where a nest was 52 days old. The volunteers opened the nest and moved the sand to help excite the baby turtles. After a minute an explosion of baby turtles were crawling out. They were baby green turtles, and all so beautiful ! All of them found their way to the ocean, quite rapidly in fact ! Only one was late and we helped her to find her way, we named her Laure because she looks like she is like me : always late !

Did you know ?
– Sea Turtles are cold blooded reptiles that lay eggs.
– The first turtles appeared 245 million years ago.
– Sea turtles live in warm tropical oceans.
– Only 8 species of sea turtles exist in the world and 4 of them nest in the State of Quintana Roo.
– The principal threats of sea turtles are seabirds, crabs, raccoons and human beings.
– Sea Turtles are protected under National and International law.

Green Turtles a.k.a. “Blancas” (Chelonia Mydas)
– Dark olive green in color.
– Adults weigh 100-250 kg. and grow 1.15 m in length.
– Nesting season is between June and September.
– Each female nests 3-7 times a year.
– Each nest contains 120-150 eggs, which are round and white.
– The eggs hatch in about 60 days.
– Feed primarily on sea grass.

Loggerhead Turtles a.k.a. “Caguama” (Caretta Caretta)
– Reddish-brown in color.
– Adults weigh 100-200 kg. and can grow up to 1.00 m in length.
– Nesting is between April and July.
– Females nest 3-7 times every season with approximately 120 round white eggs in each nest.
– The eggs hatch in about 60 days.
– Feed primarily on shellfish such as crabs and snails

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