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Sunday, May 23, 2010

Out of this world: Xcacel Turtle Camp

Never would we have imagined, coming here to scuba dive and study coral reefs, we would find ourselves holding a piece of the hope and future of an endangered species peacefully resting in the cup of our hands.

Barely five minutes old, the Loggerhead Turtle egg resembled a golf ball. Covered in sand, the eggs start off soft at birth, likely to prevent cracking when laid.

Just a few meters away from us the Loggerhead Turtle “mother” groaned in exhaustion after her struggle through the ocean, a shark attack (she had a fresh wound, a palm sized chunk of her shell had been damaged from a bite and the wounded flesh was still raw), climbing the beach, digging a nest in the sand, filling that nest and then exasperated by the commotion of head torches and personnel taking measurement readings, recording her tag identification number, and overall general inspection. The turtle was massive; she looked well aged, with a large thick shell dotted with several barnacles. We couldn't believe we were right there watching it happen in person. Once the mother regained sufficient energy reserves she used her powerful limbs to rotate herself 180 degrees and push herself back into the ocean.

The following night, after a day spent relaxing in the freshwater cenote ( and sleeping, we were lucky enough to witness another turtle nesting. This time we were even allowed to assist in delicately placing the freshly laid eggs collected from the turtle-dug nest into one that the ‘Tortugueros’ had constructed in a more sheltered area, further up the beach. They do this to protect the eggs from the elements and from being damaged by tourists during the day.

What they do, the turtle conservationists, is a noble and very respectable act and we were just glad to be there to witness, let alone participate. For the opportunity to assist the turtle conservationists we feel very privileged and lucky. It's one of those experiences we'll take with us for life. Hopefully we’ll get to see one of these guys hatch someday, maybe hold him or her in the palm of our hand again as they take their first look at our world and chance their luck in the circle of life...