QUINTANA ROO, MEXICO—With thousands of sea turtles saved every season since the program’s inception nearly 40 years ago, the turtle protection program of the Mexican Caribbean keeps drawing travelers and top Quintana Roo hotels aim to continue that growth through new on-site initiatives. One in every 1,000 baby turtles don’t survive to adulthood and of the seven sea turtle species in the world, the loggerhead, white, hawksbill and leatherback species especially thrive in warm Caribbean waters.
“More than an attraction, the turtle protection program is a way of life in the Mexican Caribbean. Now that such programs are becoming more popular among travelers, it is our responsibility to innovate the practices while ensuring the program’s longevity and integrity is maintained,” said Dario Flota Ocampo, Director of Quintana Roo Tourism Board.
In Akumal, the town whose name means “place of turtles” in Maya, the Akumal Ecological Center (CEA) has been honoring its namesake with Akumal Turtle Camp since 1993. The camp invites volunteers to a minimum month-long program that begins with in-class education on sea-turtle monitoring protocols, methods and species identification before continuing with in-field team research. Monthly program fees begin at $276. Akumal Bay Beach & Wellness Resort, which has released an estimated 10,000 baby turtles since the program’s inception, staffs two biologists for its turtle conservation supported by the CEA: one year-round and one exclusively staffed during the turtles’ official nesting season.
More Examples of Turtle Protection Programs
Palace Resorts has a private-sector turtle protection program managed solely by professionals (biologists, veterinarians and environmental engineers); since 2006, the resorts have been a refuge for more than 18,000 nests. Meanwhile, other Mexican Caribbean hotels invite a limited number of guests to join the activities and to witness turtles in temporary residence on property. The turtle reserve at Belmond Maroma Resort & Spa has space to hold 59 nests, though the hotel has built an annex to house the 86 nests that have arrived to date.
Tulum will soon host its 16th annual Sea Turtle Festival from October 19 to 21, celebrated with educational activities, music, games and more. Joining the festivities is Dreams Tulum Resort & Spa, which hosts daily information sessions and activities to raise awareness of the season. In addition to its sea turtle space, Fairmont Mayakoba also houses freshwater turtles in a dedicated turtle pond to preserve the species naturally found in Mayakoba canals.
As home to more than half of the world’s endangered sea turtle species, the Mexican Caribbean implemented its revolutionary turtle protection program in 1982 to support the growth and research natural patterns of the turtles during their Caribbean nesting season of May to October. From classic Cozumel to on-the-rise Bacalar, the Mexican Caribbean invites visitors to enjoy this staple of its beautiful landscape.