A Surprising and Serendipitous Day In San Pancho

After a week in Sayulita my friend and I decided it was time to move north to San Pancho. We approached a few taxis and attempted to haggle for a reasonable price to no avail. Once we realized the taxis weren’t backing down, and neither were we, it was time to devise another plan. We stood stubbornly across the street, bags and principles in tow, hoping to hitch a ride with someone going our way.

A few minutes passed and a SUV stopped with a man and woman inside inquiring where we were headed. We told them San Pancho and they motioned for us to get in. After thanking them we began introductions. After a bit of laughter and banter, we came to discover our rescuers were involved in the conservation of olive ridley sea turtles. By the time we arrived at our destination, we had received an invitation to assist in the release later that evening.

At 4:30pm we walked to the meeting point and met some of the other volunteers. Within minutes of our arrival we boarded the dune buggy and cruised down to the beach. The turtle sanctuary was located on the northern end of the beach, its boarders marked by orange plastic netting. Each nest was marked with a wooden stake whose orientation denoted whether or not it needed to be dug up.

To locate the nest we used a wooden stick and examined where the sand was soft. After the location was pinpointed, we began to gently scoop the sand away, digging almost an arm’s length below the surface.

The first nest revealed one turtle who had hatched and was ready to be released, one partially hatched requiring more time in the sand, and a couple sterile eggs. The second nest contained mainly shells from previously hatched turtles and one egg requiring more time in the sand. The third nest provided one turtle to join the evening’s release and many shells from previous hatchlings. Sadly, the last nest contained all sterile eggs.

With two tiny olive ridley sea turtles in tow, we retreated to the main area of the beach and awaited sunset for their release. As the sun began to descend, I held the turtle in my hand, providing warmth so that it had enough energy to begin the long journey to sea.

The colors in the sky deepened and the time had come for the release. One of the turtles had quite a bit of energy and quickly made its way to sea while the other required more warmth before it could continue. The waves rolled toward us and within seconds they were swept away into the vast Pacific.

When the last slice of sun faded I thanked my new friends for what I was able to experience and learn. The magic of serendipity and the kindness of strangers never ceases to amaze me.

A few interesting things I learned about turtles

There are seven species of sea turtles in the world.

Sea turtles return to the same place they are born to lay their eggs.

The sex of sea turtles is determined by the temperature at which they are incubated. Cooler sand temperatures yield males while warmer temperatures yield females.

Many Mexicans believe turtle eggs hold the same power as Viagra. Poachers have capitalized on this belief, selling them for roughly $0.50 per egg and greatly decreasing the number of turtles able to make it to sea.