When you’re a worldschooling family like us, you try and find ways to make learning come to life for your kids. Fortunately, in Mexico, there are plenty of ways to get a hands-on learning experience. We were recently invited to participate in a newborn turtle release at a turtle sanctuary in Puerto Escondido, with a company called Eco Adventures Puerto Escondido.
My kids are big fans of nature shows like Wild Kratts and Planet Earth. We love watching documentaries about animals. And we talk a lot about how our actions as humans can affect the habitats of the animals in this world. Throughout our travels, we’ve seen orangutans in the jungles of Sumatra, come across bears in the forests of California, and even encountered whales in the oceans of the Pacific.
This post was updated on June 16, 2021.
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Seeing animal life in Puerto Escondido
Here in Puerto Escondido, the ocean waters are filled with big fish, whales, dolphins, and sea turtles. According to Jaciel “Kiko” Pena, founder of Eco Adventures Puerto Escondido, four of the eight species of sea turtles can be found in Puerto Escondido. This makes the city a very important place for turtle conservation in Mexico.
Baby turtle release is a popular tourist activity in Puerto Escondido. A few companies offer this unique experience. But I chose to go with Eco Adventures Puerto Escondido. They had really positive reviews on TripAdvisor.
Also, their philosophy towards conservation really resonated with me. As a family who tries to practice responsible travel, working with companies that share in this philosophy is really important to us.
Learn more about how to travel responsibly as a family here.
Understanding the newborn turtle conservation in Mexico
Before going on our Puerto Escondido turtle release experience, the kids and I watched a few YouTube videos about baby sea turtles. Finding lessons in the travel experiences we have is a big part of what being a worldschooling family is all about.
We learned how they rely on an internal compass to come back to the very spot where they were born in order to lay their eggs. They do this even after being decades away from their birthplace. And we learned that out of 100 baby sea turtles that hatch, only 1 will grow up to adulthood. Only 1!
Here in Mexico, turtle egg poaching continues to be a really big problem. Men traditionally believed that consuming them would increase virility. The eating of turtle eggs has been banned in Mexico for the most part. But they are still sometimes secretly sold at markets. And even non-human threats can contribute to the low survival rates of baby sea turtles. Raccoons love eating turtle eggs, and birds like seagulls and pelicans feed on the baby turtles as they make their way to the ocean. Too much sunshine and heat can also lower the hatching rate of turtle eggs.
With all these obstacles, it’s a miracle that a newborn turtle even survives at all! Fortunately, human interventions, like a turtle release, can actually help improve the survival rates of baby turtles. Kiko informed me that the turtles hatched at the turtle sanctuary we visited have a 20% chance of surviving to adulthood, rather than the normal 1% chance. It’s just one small contribution to turtle conservation in Mexico.
What happens to a newborn turtle at a turtle sanctuary
So what actually happens at a turtle sanctuary? There are several sanctuaries scattered throughout the beaches in Puerto Escondido, at Bacocho, La Barra, La Punta, Palmarito, Playa Delfin, and Chacahua. The turtle sanctuary we visited was at La Barra.
Each night, volunteers patrol the beaches looking for sea turtle nests. They find the nests by following trails left by the mother sea turtles. Nests can have an average of 30 to 100 golf ball sized eggs. When the volunteers find the eggs, they carefully transport them to the turtle sanctuary. There, they will be far more protected from predators and the heat. This increases their chances of successfully hatching.
When the newborn turtle hatches, it is ready for the turtle release. Most of the baby turtle release tourist activities happen around sunset. This way tourists can still see the turtles make their way to the ocean. But the majority of the turtle release done by the volunteers happens in the middle of the night. That’s when there are the least amount of predators out and about. This gives the turtles their best chance of survival.
Kiko explained to me that none of the turtle sanctuaries get funding from the Mexican government. Many of them operate purely from donations. Other operate from proceeds from the baby turtle release tourist activities.
The turtle release experience with Eco Adventures Puerto Escondido
Our experience of doing a turtle release in Mexico with Eco Adventures Puerto Escondido was extremely memorable and educational. Kiko is super knowledgeable about the animals that live around Puerto Escondido. And he’s an excellent guide. He even picked us up from our Airbnb, and drove us out to the turtle sanctuary at La Barra beach!
When we arrived at the beach, Kiko gave us a quick lesson on sea turtles. He even had the kids do a turtle puzzle to see how big sea turtles can get. At the turtle sanctuary, we saw some of the baby turtles that had hatched that day. They were grouped in little enclosures, so they could be contained until it was time for the release during sunset. Having a turtle release during sunset helps ensure the weather isn’t too hot for the turtles.
For the turtle release, we each carried five or six baby turtles in a plastic bowl down to the beach. Each newborn turtle was released in the sand, about fifty meters from the waves. Letting the turtles go in the sand is extremely important. This gives the turtles a chance to imprint the scent and texture of the sand. That allows them to remember where to return to when it comes time to lay their eggs.
Making a difference with the newborn turtle release
I’m not kidding when I say a newborn turtle faces grave dangers as soon as they’re born. During our Puerto Escondido turtle release, seagulls and pelicans swoop down and scoop up a few of baby turtles that we release. Right before our eyes! It was so heartbreaking, to say the least.
The volunteers at the sanctuary try their best to scare away the birds. They shout at them, shoot fireworks, and even throw sand. But still, some turtles get captured. Even the turtles that do make it to the water face a long and tough journey ahead of them. In addition to fighting the waves, the turtles also have to fend off water predators from below, as well as the birds from above. It truly is a miracle that a turtle can survive to become the big magnificent creatures that they are!
Mexico turtle release, bioluminescence tour, and more
Turtle release activities are not the only experiences that Eco Adventures Puerto Escondido offers. The company is only a few years old. But it already offers a wide variety of eco-focused experiences for visitors to Puerto Escondido. Some examples include horseback riding in a lagoon, bird watching, sea safari, and even surfing lessons.
One of the experiences we did was the evening bioluminescence tour in the nearby Manialtepec Lagoon. If you’re not familiar with what bioluminescent organisms are, they are creatures that have chemicals in their bodies that cause them to glow. On land, you can find bioluminescence in bugs like glow worms and lightning bugs. In Mexico, at Manialtepec Lagoon, it’s microscopic plankton that are the stars of the bioluminescence tour.
Booking your tour with Eco Adventures Puerto Escondido
I’m so glad we went with Eco Adventures Puerto Escondido for our Puerto Escondido activities. Their prices are quite affordable for families. And the quality of the tours are top notch! I would absolutely recommend them for any family or traveler coming to Puerto Escondido.
Take a look at these amazing Puerto Escondido activities from Eco Adventures Puerto Escondido that you can book for your trip:
Sea Turtle Release in Puerto Escondido
Birdwatching near Puerto Escondido
Oaxacan Coast Adventure (Ventanilla, Mazunte, Zipolite, & Puerto Angel)
Want to learn more time in Oaxaca state? Read more posts about Oaxaca state here.
Our role as travelers and tourists
As travelers and tourists, we play a role in making sure our presence is not making a negative impact on the destinations we visit. Too often, tourism is about consumption. We consume activities, and we consume places.
But we have the power to change the trajectory of the travel industry. And we can make it a force for good. Activities like the turtle release from Eco Adventures Puerto Escondido are great examples of how tourist activities can actually make a positive impact. I’m thankful we have the opportunity to share this experience with our kids. And I’m thankful to teach them how to be good stewards of the world around them.
Have you participated in a newborn turtle release activity during your travels? Share your experiences with me in the comments!
And be sure to check out all the fun experiences offered by Eco Adventures Puerto Escondido for your next trip to Mexico!
Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. My family and I received a hosted experience from Eco Adventures Puerto Escondido. Although we did not pay for our experience, the opinions expressed in this post are completely my own.
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It is amazing the odds for survival and that a 20 percent increase is an incredible difference. I’ve always wondered why they don’t keep some in ponds until they are really ready to fend off the odds?
The turtles really need to be on the beach when they’re babies, because it’s what helps them remember where they need to return to when it comes time to lay eggs.
How lucky your children are to be world schooled! And, how it must affect your perspective on travel and on the world to see things through the eyes of your children – for both now and in the future. This feature really shows the insight that brings you. Thank you for sharing.
You’re welcome! We learned so much from this experience, and loved being able to do some hands on conservation work too.
I did this turtle release exercise in India and volunteered with the organizing team. It’s such a fulfilling experience and gives you insights of the exercise.
Good to see you doing it too. I think more & more people should participate.
That’s great, Nisha! Turtles are all over the world, and it’s good to see that other countries also care about turtle conservation.
it reminded me about a similar place in Oman, Small turtles are so sweet and helpless
They’re so cute, aren’t they?
OH MY GOSH THOSE BABY TURTLES!!!! This looks like such an incredible experience. My kids would love it, too. I pinned this for later – I’d love to work a turtle release into an upcoming trip to Mexico!
That’s awesome. If you guys come to Puerto Escondido, you should definitely go with Eco Adventures. If you’re going elsewhere, there are other places that do turtle release experiences along the both coasts.
What a fabulous, educational, and mindful activity to partake in. I am a fan of world-schooling, and of showing kids that there is more than a pen and paper education. I am shocked by the low ratio of sea turtles that actually make it to adulthood! Puerto Escondido looks stunning too.
I was pretty shocked by their survival rate too. That’s why these types of activities are so important!
This is so cool! What a fabulous treat for your children to experience. So much more than just a “vacation”! I completely agree with the need to change the trajectory of the travel industry – a great reminder to always try to give back to the places that you visit.
Thanks! We love doing these types of things when we travel.
What a great thing to do with your family. I did not know that Puerto Escondido was the spot to go for turtle releases. Good to know that the release program has increased the survival rate. How amazing it must be to see your baby turtles make it into the sea.
There are other spots throughout Mexico, and also in California and Texas, where you can do turtle release activities. So Puerto Escondido is not the only spot.
This looks amazing. It would be such a fun thing to do as a family and I know it would make lasting memories.
It was a fun experience. If you ever get the chance to do it with your kids, you should.
Ooo soooo cute! I would love to see the baby turtles. I would like to check out a bio bay tour.
Both activities are great. I would have loved to take pictures of the bioluminescence tour, but it was so dark, and my iPhone just doesn’t have a good enough lens.
I have wanted to do something like this for ages. It looks like an amazing experience. There are some wonderful projects like this across the globe. It makes me really happy to see that people are finally waking up and trying to protect some of the most vulnerable creatures around the world.
Yes, so true! We can do so much more as travelers than just sitting on a beach and working on our tan. 😉
What an amazing experience for kids and adults alike. I bet this is a once in a lifetime adventure for sure.
It really was! We’re glad we did it.
That looks like an amazing experience! My husband and I are going on a cruise in May and a turtle sanctuary is one of the shore excursions that I was checking out.
Ooh, yes, you should definitely check it out!
What an amazing experience this much have been! I would love to see something like this someday!
I hope you do. It was truly amazing.
This is definitely on my bucket list! Turtles are incredible creatures, I’ve seen some diving & snorkelling but never on land so I would love to help with any activity which helps their chances of survival. Just keep those horrible seagulls away!!
Yes. I think just considering that they have such a low chance of growing up to be the big magnificent creatures that they are is so heart-breaking.
Gosh, I love the sound of that… worldschooling. This sounds like such an amazing experience for your kids . I have wanted to do this for quite some time, as well as the bioluminescence tour. Bookmarking for future travel
It’s totally worth it!
Love that you had the opportunity to experience this! My sister in law works with a Sea Turtle Protection group in Florida & she leads groups to do this during the summer, as well as doing patrols every weekend night in the summer. We had the opportunity to see a sea turtle laying her eggs one late night with her. Such an awesome experience!
That’s awesome, Jen! I bet that was such an amazing thing to see.