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Sea Turtles in Riviera Maya

Sea Turtles in Riviera Maya

SEA TURTLES IN RIVIERA MAYA

The season for turtle nesting starts from spring and ends in September in the Riviera Maya. During this time a score of sea turtles come ashore on the beaches of Riviera Maya to lay eggs. And you know something amazing about these turtles? Well it is absolutely fascinating that female turtles come all the way to lay their eggs at the exact same spot they were born! According to experts and turtle researchers, sea turtles navigate their way through the use of earth’s magnetic field. It is what helps them to successfully find their way around.

Female turtles can lay up to 200 eggs at one go. The mother makes sure that the eggs safely land on a soft layer of sand. They first do some digging a few meters away from the beach then they lay their eggs, bury them and swim away. Upon hatching, it is a struggle for newborn turtles to crawl their way to the water and swim away.

A Dangerous Journey

It is quite difficult for baby turtles to safely reach the waters and swim away. And that is because there are many predators on the lookout. Apart from that, baby turtles are also hunted by poachers as well. And this is why the only option left to them is to slip by unnoticed and undetected.

Turtles face plenty of risks during their early age, which is various turtle species are now on the verge of becoming endangered. However, they are efforts being made by the SEMARNAT (secretary of the environment) and several ecological centers in the Riviera Maya to protect these species.

6 out of the Total 7 Turtle Species in the World are Found in Mexico!

Did you know that there are just 7 total species of turtles in the entire globe? Six of which are only found in Mexico. While diving or snorkeling, we can often meet 3 of the 6 species of sea turtles in Riviera Maya. And they are:

  • The Green Turtle
  • The Loggerhead
  • The Hawksbill

Recognizing the Three Sea Turtles

The Loggerhead: Loggerhead turtles are reddish-brown and have big heads. These species of turtles can grow up to 3.5 feet in length and weigh just over 400 pounds. Their main source of food is small crabs, jellyfish and mollusks.

The Green Turtle: Green turtles are large and have a carapace that is up to 3 feet in length. These big turtles can weigh up to 350 pounds and can have different colors for their carapace, most of which include shades of green, gray, black, brown and yellow. Another interesting thing about them is the fact that they are carnivorous when small, eating small fish – but as they grow up they become herbivorous. Their main source of food is plankton, seaweeds and seagrass.

The Hawksbill: Hawksbill turtles can grow up to 3.5 feet in length and weigh up to 180 pounds. They are called hawksbill because of the way their mouths are shaped – which resembles the beak of a raptor. These turtles have enigmatic designs for their shells, which can vary in color.

Human Danger

The sea turtles of Riviera Maya are fast becoming endangered and the number one danger to them is none other than human beings. It is unfortunate, but it is true. Many people visiting the beaches of the Yucatan Peninsula, especially Riviera Maya riddle them with plastic waste (plastics bags, straws, etc.) The turtles confuse the plastic with jellyfish, and upon consuming thinking it is food, they suffocate and die.

It has become considerably important to protect the beaches of Riviera Maya in order to protect the turtles.

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How to recognize a green sea turtle?

Green sea turtle

HOW TO RECOGNIZE A GREEN SEA TURTLE?

Identifying green sea turtle is not that simple

When you look at a sea turtle, you would think that their common name (Green Turtle) will give you the perfect description of the specie. However, when you found out that their carapace color varies from dark green (called black sea turtle on the Pacific) to yellow, brown and green tones with shining stripes, it could be confusing!

Here some key facts, which can help you the next time you will be swimming with turtles in the Riviera Maya or in your next snorkeling adventure around the world.

Green turtle, white turtle, black turtle are the same species, the scientific name is Chelonia mydas, what they have in common and is totally different from other species are:

  • One pair of prefrontal scales
  • Serrated jaw, with small and round head
  • Carapace is bony without ridges, non overlapping scales

Green turtles are found in all temperate and tropical waters around the world.

They like to live in bays and protected shores like the Akumal bay, located between Playa del Carmen and Tulum, where they can find a delicious sea grass bed. Adults green turtles are complete herbivorous but when they are less than 8 to 10 inches in length eat worms, young crustaceans, aquatic insects, grasses and algae.

Adults can weigh 240-420 pounds (110 – 190 kg) and from 3 to 4 feet in carapace length (83 – 114 cm). They could live up to 80 years.

A nest has a size around 70-190 eggs depending on the turtles. In addition, in one nest you can find eggs from different mates with the same female turtle.

Green turtles has some threats to survival, like fishing, lost of the habitat, commercial trading of the eggs. Also the climate change is shifting the population on males and females. If the temperature of the sand where the turtle’s nest is below 85 degrees Fahrenheit (30ºC) the turtles will be predominately male; above 85 degrees Fahrenheit (30ºC) predominately female

The green turtle is an endangered specie, the best way to conserve it is to protect their habitat and sighting them with precaution, just remember that 1 from 1,000 would survive to be an adult.

We are really lucky in the Riviera Maya to able to swim with the turtles. If you are interested in that activity, check our special Swim with turtles tour and also the Akumal bay regulation in order to protect the turtles.

Hoping that we could have a better relationship in the future and our younger generation could continue sighting these ancestral animals!

Bibliography:

http://www.reef.org/reef_files/TurtleID.pdf

https://conserveturtles.org/information-sea-turtles-green-sea-turtle/

http://www.defenders.org/sea-turtles/basic-facts

https://www.treehugger.com/natural-sciences/11-critically-endangered-turtle-species.html

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Akumal Bay regulation – Swim with the turtles

Akumal bay regulation

SWIM WITH TURTLES

Akumal Bay Regulation

You may have seen or read many things on social media about the Swim with Turtles activity, some companies offer this tour, some others don’t, some people say it is allowed or not allowed… To help you to understand the issue, here the details of the new Akumal Bay regulation, and the good news is that it is possible to swim with the turtles!

We would like to inform all of our customers about the change and explain that we are excited for the new law protecting our turtles and set up of sustainable activities.

As a result of the new law, Absolute Adventure Mexico has partnered with a local cooperative to be allowed to bring tourists to the bay. 

The 2017 Akumal bay regulation includes:

  • Swimming and sighting of sea turtles is not allowed during the months of September and February.
  • Swimming and sighting of sea turtles is not allowed on Mondays.
  • Swimming and sighting of sea turtles is only permitted from 9am to 5 pm
  • Tourists should use exclusively the routes and timetable established by CONANP***.
  • It will be carried out in groups of up to 6 people plus a guide authorized by CONANP.
  • Snorkeling session cannot exceed 55 minutes.
  • Both the entrance and exit of the sighting area should be done slowly and quietly walking along the beach
  • Life jackets are mandatory (to avoid total immersion).
  • The minimum distance between groups that do the activity will be 10 meters (33 ft).
  • Tourists must maintain a minimum distance of 3 meters (10 ft) from the back of each turtle, without exceeding the observation time of five minutes.
  • During the course of snorkeling it is prohibited to touch, feed, disturb, retain, remove, hold, and / or damage any specimen of wildlife.
  • If the turtle shows signs of rapid movement, evasion, or sudden changes of direction, or longer dives, observation activities will be immediately suspended
  • Only the use of biodegradable sunscreens is allowed.

Akumal Bay has high biological wealth which provides alimentation and rest zone for three species of sea turtles: Green turtles (Chelonia mydas), Loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta) and Hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata).

The bay offers an easy access with shallow and pristine waters, where sighting of sea turtles and others wild species can be enjoyed it by swimmers and snorkelers. So it makes the Akumal bay the perfect place to swim with turtles.

With the growth of the tourism in the state of Quintana Roo, Akumal became a great place for sighting without any regulation. Since 2015 the beach access is disputed between the community and different public and private actors.

That is why the Environment Agency of Mexico (SEMARNAT*) started to work on a regulation for conservation of Akumal and protection of the natural habitat of the sea turtles. They published a technical study for the protection and conservation of the bay.

On July 6th 2016 the SEMARNAT introduced a new law, effective same day, to limit the number of swimmers with turtles in the bay of Akumal. The limit decreased from thousands of swimmers a day to less than 300. Only few local cooperatives are allowed to bring twelve individuals per day, which is controlled by the PROFEPA**.

The last review of the regulation was published in April of 2017 introducing new guidelines for the activity.

 

* SEMARNAT: Secretaría del Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales – Secretary of Ambient Environment and Natural Resources

** PROFEPA: PRocuraduría FEderal de Protección al Ambiente – Federal Administration of the Ambient Protection

*** CONAP: COnsejo National de Areas Protegidas