As we prepared for our trip to Cabo San Lucas, we had a lot of fun things planned. From sailing, to snorkeling, to riding horses on the beach, we were going to be busy, and no doubt having a blast. However, there was one particular activity that had me maybe more excited than anything else we had planned to do.
As you may or may not know, many sea turtles are threatened with extinction. The olive ridley sea turtle, which lays its eggs in Mexico among other places, is unfortunately one of those species. They are famous for laying hundreds of eggs, and when they hatch, the brand new babies immediately run for the ocean. Unfortunately, the majority of those babies do not survive more than a few minutes. As they head for the massive waters they will call home, they are encountered with numerous obstacles. Birds, crabs, raccoons, coyotes and lizards are just a few of the animals looking for an easy meal. And if they do make it to the ocean, there are more fish and sea creatures there they must avoid.
These factors, along with the ever present dangers humans impose, have taken a toll on the population of these amazing creatures. So now there are some groups looking to give them some help. We found out about Baja Outback, which is one of the organizations helping to preserve the olive ridley.
One of the things Baja Outback does is help protect the nests of these turtles so that predators can’t get to the eggs before they have an opportunity to hatch. They locate the nests and place them in areas that are fenced in so that animals are unable to get to them. They also aid in the hatching process, making sure as many turtles come out successful as is possible. Unfortunately, many don’t even survive this first step into life.
What is really cool for people like us is that we are allowed to participate in this amazing journey these turtles take just as they are born. We were going to see the turtles actually hatch from their eggs, be placed into buckets for transfer to the water’s edge, and actually release them to make their way to their new home!
Marcos was our guide for the evening and he was an excellent host. He explained what we would be doing, as well as the importance of the work. It is imperative for them to not only do their part in helping the babies to survive, but to also educate the public so that they can be more conscious of the struggle. The more people know about the turtles, the more likely the campaign is to be successful. And that is why ordinary people like us were allowed to participate in such an amazing activity!
They picked us up at our hotel and we made the short drive to the nesting grounds. We headed out onto the beach and enjoyed the beautiful view of the ocean and watched some people ride horses along the waters edge. It was nice, but we were all anticipating what we were about to take part in. It wasn’t long, however, before we got to see exactly what we came for. A fairly large fenced off area contained several people who were working on some of what appeared to be dozens of different nests. One lady was close to the fence and we could see she was aiding in the hatching process. It was amazing and she then showed us a bucket that was loaded with maybe 100 tiny baby turtles! It was incredible.
But this wasn’t our batch of turtles. Marcos left us briefly and returned with a box that looked to have maybe 200 turtles in it. They were so cute we all were just so taken in by them. It was almost impossible to see them and not want to hide one or two in your pocket. But of course we were here to help out this amazing turtle, not gain a new pet.
We headed down towards the ocean and stopped about 20 yards or so from the edge of the water. This would be the release point for our group. Marcos allowed us to spend a little time with the turtles first. He explained to us how to properly handle them, and had us put on gloves so that we didn’t pass anything on to them that might harm them. After that we picked a few up and got to look at them a little closer.
They were just so cute. When you pick them up out of the basket, their flippers go a mile a minute. They are already to get on with their long trip! We loved holding them close to our faces and just enjoying our brief time with them. We all hoped so much that each and every one of them would be one of the lucky ones that would survive.
Finally, it was time for the big moment. We all picked out a turtle that would be “ours,” and let them take their first steps towards the ocean. As we placed them on the ground, they instinctively raced towards the water. It is hard to believe that they are just born knowing exactly what they need to do.
We released several more and watched them all do the same thing. Seeing them head towards the ocean in unison was one of the most beautiful things I have ever witnessed. Then, Marcos released all the remaining turtles at once. Over 100 determined, fierce, baby olive ridley’s were now on the loose and it was spectacular!
One thing Marcos told us about was the waves. It was important for us to keep a close eye on them because every couple minutes or so a big one would come in a send a bunch of the little guys (and girls) tumbling back up on the beach. When this happens, if you aren’t careful, you could step on one. So we were all instructed to freeze until we could see where they ended up. It was so sad seeing all of their hard work to get into the water only to have them turned back. But they were never deterred and just would head right back in.
Finally, they had all made it into the ocean. We don’t know how many of them would make it, but we know we did our part to give them their absolute best chance. I took a moment to look into the water and reflect on what I had just done, and to think about how wonderful nature is. If I ever think my life is hard, I will just remember what these turtles have thrust upon them from the very moment they are born.
The next time you go to Cabo, no matter what else you book to do while there, you absolutely MUST add this to your list. It is one of the most rewarding things you could ever do and will create a memory you will never forget. There is more than one company out there that does it, but Baja Outback is as good as it gets. Their professionalism and expertise added to what was already an amazing experience. You can check out more about this once in a lifetime opportunity HERE. You will be glad you did.