Sea turtles are elusive creatures that spend most of their lives at sea. Only the females return to land to lay their eggs, and although olive ridley turtles visit the beaches of the Pacific Coast of Guatemala almost year round, it is difficult to predict where and when an individual will emerge from the surf to drop off her precious cargo of eggs.
The best way to find nesting turtles is to walk along the beach at night, and that is exactly what the the Indigo Field Team did over nine days at Estación Biológica el Banco in July this year. Night after night we walked the beach at el Banco in search of turtles and their tracks.
After several fruitless nights walking in the heat and the salty humid air, we were getting to the end of our walk when, about just 200 metres from the Estación, our Indigo participant, Irina, spotted the tracks of a turtle leading out of the surf and up to the top of the beach. We excitedly followed the tracks up over a ridge of sand, and there she was. A magnificent olive ridley turtle filling in her nest of eggs and preparing to leave for the ocean once more.
After we had collected our thoughts we called Don Juanito from the Tortugario el Banco and told of our exciting discovery. He arrived with his wife, Doña Olli, shortly after. It was thrilling to stand in the presence of this wonderful animal as Don Juanito and Doña Olli, who have worked to conserve the sea turtles of el Banco fo the last 25 years, as they generously shared their knowledge and experience of how to move and behave around nesting turtles so as not to disturb them.
Once she had finished filling in her nest the turtle turned to the sea and headed remarkably quickly to the sea until she got to the upper reaches of the surf. As the first waves crashed over her, she paused and seemed to breathe a sigh of relief that she was about to enter the water again. And with that she pushed off the wet sand and with one stroke of her powerful flippers disappeared back into the ocean.
Olive ridley sea turtle laying eggs
Conservation heroes Don Juanito and Doña Olli helping the Indigo Field Team
Burying eggs in the tortugario
Releasing hatchlings into the ocean