Sea Turtles on Monterrico Beach
It is a brisk, crystal clear morning here in Antigua Guatemala. As I look out over the Calle del Arco, the 16th century arch spectacularly frames massive Agua Volcano. But that is another story! What I really want to tell you about is something that happened a few weeks ago.
Monterrico – September 15th, 2000 – 11.30am:
Last night the near-full moon was enormous, beach palms dancing in its brilliant light. This morning, classical Pacific waves are rolling in; warm winds from the sea meeting lively sounds of Salsa music from the restaurant at the Hotel Kaiman. The beaches and surfs are thronged with frolicking children and festive holidaymakers; many with ice cold Gallo in hand. It is our Independence Day long weekend.
Hey, What’s that out there in the surf? It’s getting closer! Well, I’ll be darned. It’s a Olive Ridley sea turtle coming ashore in broad daylight!! Never have I seen anything like this! As if the most natural thing on earth, she waddles up the beach, through groups of people and, right in front of the restaurant, uses her powerful fins to scoop out a large depression in the black volcanic sand. The crowd quickly surrounds her and accompanied by oohs, ahs and clicking cameras, Señora Ridley lays about 70 eggs in her hastily prepared nest. This done, she flips warm sand over her precious deposit and waddles back into the sea. In an instant she is gone. Successful end to an emergency delivery, which will long be remembered by those who cheered her on.
Monterrico, on Guatemala’s south Pacific coast, is no stranger to the Olive Ridley and Leatherback sea turtles who always come back to their place of birth to lay their eggs three times each year, between July and December. But they usually come ashore on deserted stretches of beach, on moon lit nights, only to have their eggs plundered and sold as a native delicacy
For 22 years conservationists at the desperately underfunded Monterrico Nature Reserve have been recovering about 20% of each clutch, allowing them to hatch naturally at their Center and lovingly releasing 2 day old babies into the sea. The true attrition rate (believed by local specialists to be about 40%) is not known but proof of the success of the project is seen in the increasing number and varying ages of the females who come ashore each year.
To promote and raise funds for the continued support of the sea turtle, green iguana and caiman crocodile projects of Monterrico Beach, visitors are encouraged to physically participate in their collection and release programs. Donating Q10 (less than $1.50) to adopt and release their very own baby, an “adoption fee” proudly matched by Adventure Travel for each and every tour sold to this tropical paradise. (Overnight inclusive tours from Antigua or Guatemala City begin at US$56).
PS: Gallo is Guatemalan for beer!