LivingTravelTurtle watching in Puerto Rico

Turtle watching in Puerto Rico

You could say that turtles were the original tourists to Puerto Rico (and much of the Caribbean). Hawksbill, leatherback, and green sea turtles are often found on the beaches of mainland Puerto Rico and its outlying islands (usually February through August), and locals take great care to protect their reptile friends. Conservation efforts strive to provide turtles with safe nesting areas, free from any signs of human activity (a simple footprint, for example, could prove fatal to hatchlings trying to get from shore to sea).

Where to see turtles

There are three species of turtles that particularly enjoy visiting Puerto Rico. The leatherback turtle, the largest of all living turtles, can grow up to seven feet long and can exceed a whopping 2,000 pounds. They require dark, quiet nesting areas, and tend to favor Culebra’s beaches, particularly the relatively isolated Zoni, Resaca, and Brava beaches. Green sea turtles are also common on Culebra. The smallest hawksbill turtle averages 100-150 pounds and 25-35 inches long. Known for its multi-colored shells (dark brown with red, orange and black stripes), this tortoise has a permanent sanctuary on the island of Mona, on the west coast of the island.

You can also find the three species that nest on the beaches of the continent. A good place to spot them is along the Northeast Ecological Corridor, a stretch of the Atlantic coast that runs from Luquillo to Fajardo and includes several fabulous resorts. As sea turtles return to the same beach where they were born to nest, repeat visits are common; The problem, of course, is that those same beaches are also popular with human tourists.

How to experience the nesting season

The Puerto Rico Department of Natural Resources leads conservation efforts on the island, but there is no coordinated program on the island for those interested in observing turtles in an ecological and responsible way. However, there are some hotels that invite guests to join them for a special excursion during the nesting season:

  • Wyndham Grand Rio Mar Beach Resort and Spa – Beginning in 2013, the Wyndham partnered with the Department of Natural Resources to bring guests to the beautiful stretch of beach on their property, where hawksbill, leather and green turtles lay their eggs or they are witnesses. hatching of baby turtles.
  • The St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort : The 483-acre nature reserve at St. Regis includes a pristine stretch of beach. Hotel guests have the opportunity to “guard” the leatherback turtles that nest here. You can get more information at the hotel’s Nature Center, which has a marine biologist on-site. In fact, conservation efforts here have led St. Regis to be recognized as the Caribbean’s first and only Audubon International Certified Gold Signature Sanctuary resort.
  • Mamacitas : Check with Mamacitas staff about volunteer efforts to help the Department of Natural Resources identify and assist nesting turtles (usually April through early June). Volunteers gather for happy landings at 5pm and travel to the beach for a night of turtle watching.

It must be an amazing sight to watch these gentle giants crawl up the shore until you find a place you like and start digging. When the nest is complete, she begins to lay her eggs, and volunteers can gather near her. Eggs are counted and the nesting mother is measured before returning to the water, after covering her tracks to the nest.

Turtles have a long history in Puerto Rico and any of you who are interested in turtle watching should do so in an ecological way that leaves the least possible footprint. The best way to do this is to work with the Department of Natural Resources or check into one of these hotels!

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