Nov 10

Turtles! continued: fruitless search

Category: animals,Travel

Cozumel is an island on which the west side has pretty much been set aside for tourism and the east side is a nature preserve. Our friend and fellow scuba diver Paul learned that it was turtle-hatching season, and proposed that we look for some hatchlings. Being tourists, we were on the west side, so we grabbed a taxi and zoomed over to the other side in order to look for hatching turtles. How cool would that be, to find baby turtles coming out of the sand?

Our cab driver, Martin, was a walking compendium of distorted local history, which he delivered with absolute conviction, panache, and a complete lack of self-consciousness. During the 25-minute drive to the other side of the island, the five of us engaged in a hallucinatory conversation about lost treasure and the “wezils from the mainland” brought in to placate the “pegmys” that live in caves and protect crops.

Eventually Martin stopped at a bar to “wait” for us while we spent an hour looking for the turtles as the sun set.

Holly, Wanda, Paul and Jeff

Holly, Wanda, Paul and Jeff

There is an organization called the cozumel turtle salvation project which is working to increase the popuation of these animals. The project’s members observe the mother sea turtles laying eggs and mark each nest site with a wooden stake, so it was easy for us to see where the turtles should come from. We searched the beach in vain for an hour while the sun set, but were teased by the obvious signs of a turtle hauling herself out to lay eggs, as well as empty eggshells (which have the consistency of soft plastic). You can see the marks left by the mother turtle’s flippers as she worked her way up the steep beach:

Turtle tracks and eggshell

Turtle tracks and eggshell

We didn’t find turtles on this evening, and although the beach was pretty, the mosquitos – so dense they seemed to form a solid – drove us away. Walking back to our rendezvous with Martin, we ran into some other norteamericanos who had only minutes ago been lucky enough to run into the turtle project people, releasing hatchlings on the beach! We had been so close! Oh well.

Next installment: we strike the turtle lode!

1 comment

1 Comment so far

  1. spleeness November 12th, 2008 11:48 AM

    Why do I always look like I’m standing like a chicken?

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