Dr. Marcelino Lopez created the Palmarito Sea Turtle Rescue in 1990 in the same period of time that Mexican federal government mandated a ban on sea turtle harvest, slaughter, and collection of turtle eggs for public consumption. As a matter of fact, the Rescue exists on the same site as the local turtle slaughter site.
The Rescue is located about 10 minutes away from the city of Puerto Escondido and if not within walking distance, can be reached by taxi, various local tour companies, or moped and bicycle. Chauffeured traveling is inexpensive at about $300 MXN (currently less than $16 USD), but the local folks appreciate the business. It is important that a price is agreed upon before departing when traveling by taxi or local guides.
Research regarding seriously declining sea turtle population had been noted by Dr. Lopez and other biologists after his arrival in the early 1980s. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) contributes decline mainly to human consumption of the turtles and their eggs, combined with commercial fisheries, and loss of nesting habitat. On a positive note, the FWS also reports that the above mentioned consumption ban, along with mandated shrimp trawler nets retrofitted with turtle excluder devices, have improved the population of the Olive Ridley and other indigenous turtle species.
Prime season for Olive Ridley nesting is July to May. They are most identified with a mass nesting behavior called arribada, a phenomenon where anywhere from 1,000 upward to 90,000 turtles may arrive, traversing the beach to their nesting site over a several day period. Nesting occurs 1 to 3 times per season. Of the 100 to 150 eggs laid per turtle only one hundredth of the turtles survives. The danger begins immediately upon nesting and continues during their dangerous trek to the sea where they are vulnerable to birds and land-based predators. During their early entry in the sea they encounter natural predators, obstacles of netting, plastics mistaken for food, and more, all contributing to that astonishingly high mortality rate.
At arrival, each turtle will lay eggs then carefully cover the nest with sand, smooth the area over, covering it with available grasses before retreating back to the sea. 45-60 days later the hatching process begins. Last year The Rescue reportedly released98,000 turtleson the approximate 13.5 miles (22 km) of beach they patrol.
The Palmarito Sea Turtle Rescue takes the following steps from turtle arrival to hatching to protect the cycle:
- The species of turtle is categorized with the nest location noted
- The eggs are moved to a protected area and reburied with a schedule set for when to expect movement
- Security patrols are kept 24/7 to protect the area and mainly funded by The Vivo Foundation, the largest supporter of the Rescue. The Foundation was launched by Cary Mullen, owner of the local vacation and residential amenities at Vivoresorts.com
- Once hatched, the tiny reptiles are collected and protected for optimal environmental release
The last step involves your physical assistance.
Your assistance would involve your personal introduction to the tiny, newly hatched turtles and rewarded with a casually held presentation by the Rescue. Following this your simple presence is a deterrent for the predatory birds. Further, turtles can be confused and misdirected by electric light or delayed in their trek by weariness. Your mission is not to carry them to the water as the sense memory of their origin is needed for adult return, but if needed, gently guiding them forward when they falter. Once in the water the little ones make haste.
For those of who have participated, it is reported as a personally epic event.
When you are not helping to protect the turtles
There are a plethora of activities to enjoy while visiting Puerto Escondido, a few of which are highlighted below and are overwhelmingly guided by the people that live there, making this travel destination a valued, long lasting experience with the local culture.
Travel trends are moving more from a pre-booked set itinerary of what our activities will be within a blocked space of time to simply arriving at our destination, enjoying a meal, and talking to the folks who live there to know what is happening that interests us personally.
While there are many experiences and adventures available that you can purchase there are also many experiences and adventures that will not cost you anything at all.
Beaches and hiking
Off the beaten tourist track and on to the many hiking trails of Puerto Escondido, be prepared during the summer months for the hot weather. Gauge the best time of day by sourcing information from the local folks about best times and places to head out. Also many trails are not advertised, but well known in the area. Be sure to wear appropriate footwear as snakes do inhabit the trails as well!
Playa Bacocho is another beach known to be a sea turtle nesting habitat, its waters are not conducive to swimming, but do offer year-long views of dolphins and whales (when in season) off shore. There is a hiking trail with astounding ocean views along its red cliffs. Joggers are often found running the almost 14 mile (22 km) beach.
Playa Zicatela is a surfing Mecca. Very strong undertow for none-surfers, but it is exciting just to hang on the beach and watch!
Laguna de Manialtepec offers hiking trails a few miles long through the wildlife preserve, as well as the mangrove forests and exotic birds.
Barra de Navidad is approximately 15 minutes by car from Puerto Escondido. Here protected wetlands offer a quiet sanctuary and mostly unmarked hiking trails through the mangrove forest.
The roots of the trees hold the trees sturdy in the sand protecting from soil erosion and supplying the wealth of aquatic life that depend on the area for protection during spawning. Egrets, pelican, heron, butterflies, and more will be encountered.
There are manymore beaches and trails to discover!
For those that want to venture out with the local guides it is best to start out with the well-known and respected guide named Gina Machorro who operates a tourist booth for the Oaxaca Tourist Bureau in front Hotel Rocamar from Monday to Saturday 10 to 1.30 p.m.
Gina has access to maps and activities offered at Puerto Escondido and also personally host local walking tours of the city, as well as these fascinating tours offered to nearby locations.
Agricultural Tour Offered By Gina
For $700 MXN (currently about $36.00) this tour focuses upon local agricultural methods and is offered on most Sunday afternoons. The tour has focus on small organic farms in a small nearby village with exotic fruits and plants not prevalent elsewhere. The tour also includes local in-season chilies and peppers andMoringa trees.
Tututepec Tour Offered by Gina
An alternative offered when the Agricultural Tour is not occurring may be a 6 hour excursion to Tututepec($800 MXN /($40 USD). It includes visits to:
- The museum, Museo Comunitario Yuca Saa (“bird mountain”) displays ancient items of jewelry, pottery, tools, and other artifacts. Your guide and museum staff will provide explanation and history to magnify the experience.
- The local church, which was built in the 16th Century on top of a pre-Hispanic pyramid and supplies wonderful views of the area.
- Mesmerizing hand-painted scenes and murals are found at the city hall (Palacio Municipio).
- Lunch is also included at a local casa.
There are many local companies selling guided eco tours, including a full 9-day guided tour of Mexico City that has stops in Oaxaca, offered via Caravan.com.
The plankton living in the water in the Lagoon of Manialtepec creates a bio luminescent glow. Tours ($32 – $40.00 USD) are offered at both 7:15 pm and 10pm daily. It is a 60 minute boat ride to the lagoon in a 25 foot boat (7.5 meters). Visitors can make the experience personal, swimming in the waters and viewing the bio-luminescent glow on their skin.
The village of San Jose Manialtepec is about 11 miles (18 km) from Puerto Escondido, Arrive by Taxi for $15.00 to 25 USD, Tour Company, or rental car.
Guides introduce you to local vegetation, views of small farms visibly dispersed along the trail, andbird-watchingwhile you wind along the Manialtepec River. There are 2 to 6 hours tours that include stopping and meeting families who will share cheese and tortilla making processes passed on for generations. Expect prices to begin at $70 USD.
There are 3 hour boat excursions ($40 USD) offered by many local fisherman and tour companies leaving Puerto Escondido daily.
Boat views sail past a few of the manyglorious beaches in the area and off to the local habitat for the dolphins living in these waters. Abundant numbers of common and bottlenose, spinner, and spotted are normally enjoying their day.
When you come to Puerto Escondido you will meet the wonderful people living in the area, help protect endangered sea turtles, and learn while enjoying all of the ecological pleasures that are inherently abundant and protected in the area.