by Jennifer McDermitt at Chan Chemuyil Vacation Rentals"How can you see places like this ... and have moments like this and not believe?"
– Jamie, "A Walk to Remember"
It's that time of year again! Visitors to Chan Chemuyil have the opportunity for a hands-on experience with baby turtles and can sign up for evening turtle walks. If your timing is right, one of the highlights of your trip will be watching a mother nest and lay eggs. If your trip is later in the summer, you might assist in the release of baby turtles at Xcacel Beach. Nesting season starts in spring and continues through fall. The beach is still open during the day. The turtles are released at night because it gives them a higher chance of survival with less visibility to predators. The survival rate is amazingly low even with this precaution. We just missed the tail end of hatching season last year but people who were in Chan Chemuyil the week before us went over and helped release hundreds of baby turtles with Flora, Fauna y Cultura de México.
You can sign up during the day at Xcacel Beach. When you return around 8:15 PM, they come out to open the far chain so you can drive back to park at the beach. They have you arrive early to gather the group and explain what will happen. We sat on the beach (bring a towel) and did a Q&A session while waiting. They talk to you about turtle nesting and the plight of the turtles. It's all very interesting and informative. She gave a very good lesson on the turtles as we sat on the beach with her. It was so nice to sit under the stars on the beach, with the ocean breeze and hermit crabs walking around us. The night sky is also part of the great experience of the turtle walk—stargazing in the Riviera Maya is awesome! Watch for the phase of the moon, for brightness but also to appreciate the light of the moon to walk the beach by. Staff were stationed along the beach and signaled back when a turtle arrived. As a group we began walking to the area where possibly there would be a turtle laying her eggs. No flash on cameras or flashlights should be directed at the mother, since the turtles are photosensitive and it could scare them from starting the nesting process. It can happen at any time throughout the night—the one we saw happened around 11 PM.
They lay eggs up to seven times per season with 2–3 weeks in between each nesting. They have a 3-day window to lay the eggs, so if they are scared the first night or two, they will wait and return later. The turtle shown in the picture is 96 cm (38 inches) long and they took numerous vital statistics and fluid samples to help with tracking and research. It took approximately an hour and a half to lay the eggs, cover them and return to sea.
Seven out of the eight kinds of turtles in the world are found in México. The giant green sea turtle and loggerhead are by far the most common in the Riviera Maya. Both are on the endangered species list. The green sea turtle will lay up to 180 eggs per session while a loggerhead will drop around 130. About one in a thousand will survive to become a full grown adult. They stay in the area during nesting season but during other times of the year will travel as far away as Europe.
It typically takes between 45–60 days for the eggs to hatch. The number of nestings is slow from April to June and really starts to pick up in July. Depending on which event you would prefer to try to witness, that puts peak hatchings about two months later. Really heavy storms can prevent the turtles from coming up to nest. At least one was coming up on a daily basis but immediately after a heavy storm the previous week, no turtles came up for a few nights. They can get up to six turtles per night on just Xcacel when it is really busy. They also patrol the other nearby beaches. Remember to donate some money at the end of the night, as it goes to a very great cause!
Out of all the time we have spent in the Riviera Maya, the amazing experience of witnessing a turtle during the nesting process is perhaps our most unique and fondest memory. And remember, our www.chan-chemuyil.com vacation rentals are right across the road from the protected turtle sanctuary—Xcacel beach! Chan Chemuyil is a charming little international community of single family homes away from the crowded tourist zones. While being across the road from the hidden treasure of Xcacel Beach, we are ideally nestled between Akumal (5 miles) and Tulúm (10 miles) so you can easily visit those popular destinations as well. If you would like more information on our vacation homes or turtle nesting/hatching, contact me anytime and I would love to assist with your vacation planning!
Chan Chemuyil Vacation Rentals
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