If you want to hear me squeal and say ‘oh my God’ a million times, put me around cute animals. It’s exactly what happened when Rueben and I visited Vive Mar, a sea turtle sanctuary run by volunteers on Playa Bacocho, the large, quiet, westernmost beach in Puerto Escondido.
The group drives up and down 27KM of beach in search of freshly laid sea turtle eggs, digs them up, and takes them to four different sanctuaries along the route. This helps protect the eggs against predators like birds, crabs, and human poachers. There are 7 species of sea turtles, and the Oaxacan coast sees four – Olive Ridley, Green, Hawksbill, and Leatherback sea turtles. Each turtle can lay 30-100 eggs, but sadly only 1-2% of the turtles survive. They’re so tiny, it’s not hard to imagine how many predators they come upon.
Bowls used to hold the turtles made out of the shells from calabash trees
You will see many tour groups offering tours for $35USD to have them drive you to the site and back, but there’s no need for that! We took a $3USD cab from Playa Zicatela to Playa Bacocho, about a 15 minute drive. We got there around 4:45PM, and had time to play a little in the water and view the beautiful surroundings. The turtle release only costs about $5USD ($100MXN), so it’s an awesome and cheap outing! The main tip I will add is that make sure you have a number to a cab company for your ride back. I thought we were prepared with one but it turns out we weren’t, and had to make the long trek back up to the main road to grab another $3USD taxi. It was actually a lovely but pretty steep walk!
The view of the beach on our walk
Come 5:30PM, one of the sanctuary hosts spoke to us about the turtles, how they lay their eggs, and what their group does. After that, we all lined up (about 40 of us) and got handed a bowl with a baby turtle in it! Once that happened, cameras came out and there were selfies galore. Rueben named his turtle Fred, and mine was Kevin. These turtles (born that day) are the Olive Ridley species.
Once we all realized that no, we can’t just look at these beautiful babies forever and have to release them, we lined up along the provided barrier and laid them on the ground. The turtles know by the sound of the waves and the light on the water where to go, and most took off. Well, they took off then paused, then walked some more, and paused. It took awhile but it was so absolutely adorable!
This is definitely something that Rueben and I want to do again; it was just too great to do once. Visit Vive Mar’s Facebook page to learn more!