The Riviera Maya is my favorite place in the summer and so it is for hundreds of turtles that come here every year for their nesting season. We receive four of the seven species of marine turtles on our coast: loggerhead (Caretta c.), hawksbill (Eretmochelys i.), green or white (Chelonia m.) and the biggest of them all, the leatherback (Dermochelys c.). This last turtle is special because it has arrived only 10 times in almost 30 years. We are lucky to say April 2017 was the tenth time; the babies were released a couple of weeks ago by the Cancun Ecology Department.
Considered highly endangered not so long ago, marine turtles remain vulnerable, but the population is growing in recent years. Many organizations, both governmental and private, are raising awareness towards its conservation.
Tortugranja (Turtle Farm) Isla Mujeres is a seminal place that most Cancun residents should know about, especially those with children. They are pioneers in the artificial incubation of turtles. The place is modest in form, but very significant in its mission. They’ve been working since the late 60s, funded by Gonzalo Chale Sr., and this method guarantees that the turtles will hatch undisturbed until they are ready to go into the wild.
The farm has babies and some older ones that have been rescued or are recovering. They even have some full-time residents that are too old or injured to go back in the open, along with a family of sharks in an ocean-connected area. There is also a small aquarium with colorful fish and other oddly beautiful marine creatures. If you want to experience the joy – not sure if I’m being ironic – of having a horseshoe crab walk across your arm, the keeper can help you with that.
There are many turtles incubating in Tortugranja that will hatch soon, and it’s the best time of the year to visit. They just released some loggerhead babies on July 4.
If you want to learn how to help the turtles you should pay them a visit. The place is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and only costs $3 USD.
By the way, please do not touch the turtles. Give some love to the horseshoe crab instead.