Releasing Leatherback Sea Turtles - Yes, we did!

Not long ago, we spent an amazing weekend in Monterrico, a small, beach town on the Pacific Coast of Guatemala. The town is a popular spot for locals and egg-laying sea turtles. There are at least two Tortugarios (turtle hatcheries), that are working to preserve and grow the population of sea turtles in the local waters.

Each night from August to December workers and volunteers of the Tortugarios walk the beach looking for sea turtles that are digging a nest and laying eggs. As soon as the eggs are laid, and even while they're being laid, they are collected and brought to the Tortugario in order to protect them from predators. The eggs are reburied within the safety of the hatchery where they are tracked by calender.

 This grid system helps track when the turtles will hatch.

This grid system helps track when the turtles will hatch.

About 60-70 days after being laid, the eggs hatch and the hatchlings dig their way to the surface. At nightfall, they instinctively crawl into the ocean. Obviously they can't get far when housed in a protective environment so the Tortugario collects the hatchlings and brings them to the beach for release.

 Hatchlings being carried to the beach

Hatchlings being carried to the beach

In order to protect the hatchlings on their short journey into the water the hatchery ropes off a small section of the beach. 

 Crowds begin to gather in anticipation of the release. Everyone is standing behind the roped off area

Crowds begin to gather in anticipation of the release. Everyone is standing behind the roped off area

For a donation of Q10 ($1.30US), onlookers get the opportunity to personally release one of the turtles. Initially both kids and I were interested. Mickelle thought the experience was incredible, but recognized having to hold a squiggly, alien looking hatchling would only bring harm to the hatchling. 

Shortly after receiving our three hatchlings, Tag decided he was not going to touch one. Hmm...clearly that's Mick's genes. Elle, on the other hand, was thrilled. She LOVES turtles and couldn't get enough. 

 Elle and I holding newly hatched Leatherback Sea turtles. She was thrilled.

Elle and I holding newly hatched Leatherback Sea turtles. She was thrilled.

 They were very cute and active but Mickelle  and Tag refused to touch them.

They were very cute and active but Mickelle  and Tag refused to touch them.

 Elle said her turtle was calmed by sitting on sand while waiting for the go to release them

Elle said her turtle was calmed by sitting on sand while waiting for the go to release them

We had a few minutes before the release...

Then it was release time. The hatchery had us all line up next to the rope and release them at the same time.

 On your mark, get set....GO!

On your mark, get set....GO!

The surf in Monterrico can be rough (especially if you are only 1-2 inches long). It was a wild ride for some turtles but they all made it into the water.

Elle released all three of our turtles. Watching her release them warmed our hearts. It's truly rewarding to give our children experiences we know they'll treasure for years to come. Tag watched the release, but he had important tunnels that needed digging so he did not watch for long.

 Tag played in the sand and pretty much ignored the turtles.

Tag played in the sand and pretty much ignored the turtles.

While we were in Monterrico our friend saw volunteers from the hatchery collecting eggs from the beach on two different nights. We unfortunately did not see this but perhaps next time...

Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this, does us a favor and click the Like or Share button below.