Playa las Tortugas

You are currently browsing articles tagged Playa las Tortugas.

I hate people who ask me what sort of animal I’d like to be. They’re the sort of people who love Celine Dion and think J. K. Rowling should get the Nobel prize in literature. Frankly, I would never want to be any animal. Their lives are very British: nasty, brutish, and short.

One animal I’d particularly never want to be is a sea turtle. Talk about nasty and brutish (and often short).

Playa las Tortugas isn’t just a pretty name. There are actually turtles here. In fact, the five miles of coastline along this stretch of Nayarit Riviera is a Mexican sea turtle conservation area. Between June and December, a couple hundred, at most, female sea turtles—mostly Olive Ridleys, although also Leatherbacks and Blacks—make their way back to  Playa las Tortugas and lay thousands of eggs in the sand. During this time, volunteers and students patrol the beach and, when they find a nest, mark it and keep an eye on the eggs until they hatch. 

A basket of Olive Ridleys sea turtles

A basket of Olive Ridley sea turtles

 Then BOOM! Over a few nights time, thousands of hatchlings, smaller than the palm of your hand, hit the beach like it’s D-Day and they’re invading Normandy—in reverse. I’m not sure exactly how many baby Olive Ridleys were released last month. Just for the sake of argument, let’s say it was something like 10,000 (in 2007, a record number 106 female turtles came up to lay nests on Playa las Tortugas resulting in some 8,000 hatchlings, so let’s be optimistic here and assume there were even more moms around in 2008).

So that’s pretty good, right? I mean, 10,000 turtles, small or not, would certainly make a hell of a mess around my house. But—and this is the reason I’d never, ever want to be born a turtle—the survival rate for hatchling turtles is a measly 1%. Which means that even if 10,000 Olive Ridleys made it into the calm waters of Turtle Beach on a moon-less night shortly after Halloween last year, only about a hundred will ever return.

Now that’s nasty, brutish, and short. 

Tags: , , , ,

Playa las Tortugas

There are two ways to get to Playa las Tortugas from the Fletcher’s house, Casa Corona del Mar. You can make your way down the hill to Platanitos and then drive for about six miles down a rutted dirt road through Mexican cowboy land (cattle, mango groves, and fields of tobacco) until the roads ends at a huge grove of coconut palm trees, part of a former plantation, that delineate Turtle Beach. Or, if you’d rather, you can wait until low tide and just walk across the estuary.

The latter approach might take you two minutes of wading through shallow water as opposed to a 30 minute drive. But there are risks. When the tide is up the current is strong and weak swimmers can easily be pulled out into the ocean where currents will quickly sweep you up along the coast where it is almost impossible to exit the water because of crashing waves and a rocky coast line. So you need to time your visit properly so you don’t get stuck on the wrong side of the estuary.


Crossing the estuary at low tide

Crossing the estuary at low tide

But one way or the other, you have to go to Turtle Beach. It is one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Yesterday, around noon, I crossed the estuary in knee-high water and combed the golden beach for miles, collecting shells, and saw only three or four other beach goers. Later, I just plopped myself down in the shallow water, barely deep enough to cover my body, and closed my eyes as the small waves washed over me. It was as close to an all-natural massage as you’re going to get.


The long, sandy beach at Playa las Tortugas

The long, sandy beach at Playa las Tortugas

I haven’t done this yet, but Babs, a friend of the Fletchers, says I absolutely must take the estuary birding trip with Armando. She says Armando is an autodidact who knows all the flora and fauna here in Nayarit.

“At one point,” she said, “Armando whistled to a hummingbird and it came out to talk to him—just like a Disney movie.”

Hmmm….The Hummingbird Whisperer? 

Tags: , ,