Sunday, September 13, 2009

Night of the Turtle:Puerto Vallarta

A full Aquarius moon peaked from behind a cloud curtain onto the beach in front of Peninsula Towers on Banderas Bay. What a fortuitous moment, as the sea turtles would be out laying eggs on the shore that night.I skipped down the concrete steps to the beach clutching my camera , accompanied by a "Federale" to watch a large female turtle digging at the water's edge.We approached the nest cautiously. There lay a beautiful Olive Ridley turtle, nestled on the ground, her fins outstretched , her neck arched and head resting on the ground with a look of exhausted satisfaction. She had just finished depositing more than 100 ping pong ball sized eggs into the burrow beneath her. Her eyes glistened with streaming tears and a bit of sand, and she occasionally raised her gaze as she surveyed the visitors arriving to witness the nesting . Summoning a bit more strength the turtle began to rock her carapace from side to side, smacking the ground sharply as she packed sand into the burrow to conceal the precious eggs. The Federale explained that the process lasted about half an hour for egg laying, then the turtle would return to her ocean home.
Special attendants were called to fetch the eggs and remove them to a breeding sanctuary for hatching. Turtle eggs are not only popular for food to pelicans and other predators, they are also prized by locals who dig them up and sell them as aphrodisiacs or ingredients in beauty products and food.
A small group of people gathered around the turtle's nest. She began to spin around on the sand , and her nest was soon completely covered and camoflagued . She headed off toward the water line, gaining speed as she inched into the surf and disappeared below the murky waves. Another clutch of eggs was laid, another family of beautiful sea turtles would emerge soon. The eggs would hatch at the next full moon, the beach coming alive with hundreds of baby turtles poking up through the soft warm sand , feeling the damp breeze and smelling the salt air in their first ocean home.