Rhonda and I recently celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary. As one of those major anniversaries that end with a zero, we decided to do something special and take a cruise to Mexico. Now you may be thinking two things. First, why on earth would people who just spent four years living on a boat want to get on another boat (ship) for a vacation? And second, how can a couple that look so young and active have been married for 40 years? 🙂
So the first question is pretty easy to answer. Before we became Cruisers with a capital C, we for many years had been cruisers of the cruise ship variety. It was always one of our favorite getaways. A week of fine dining, shows every evening, interesting places to visit, and someone to make your bed and clean your bathroom—what’s not to love? As for question two, well, all I can say is I guess we’re pretty fortunate.
Rhonda has always been passionate about sea turtles. So when I mentioned that there was an excursion we could sign up for where we could help local conservationists rescue baby turtles, she was all in. After arriving in Cozumel, we boarded a van for a trip to the undeveloped eastern shore of the island. Notice the black sticks in the sand in the picture below? Each one marks the location of a sea turtle nest. It was amazing to see, because it went on this way for miles. Back home in Pensacola, we get all excited if 10 or 12 turtles lumber up onto our miles of beach to deposit some eggs. Here in Cozumel, I could reach out and touch a dozen nests without even moving.
So here’s how this worked. The conservationists (I can’t really call them biologists, because I’m pretty sure this wasn’t their day job, but rather something they did out of passion) monitor the nests constantly to see when they hatch out. It usually happens at night. A typical nest might contain about 120 eggs, and when a nest hatches, there are usually a few turtles that for whatever reason just don’t manage to dig their way out. So the next day, this small group of volunteers dig up the nest by hand to rescue the slackers. They formerly dug every nest up themselves, sometimes more than 20 a day. But then someone realized that there are people on cruise ships who would happily pay for the opportunity to do the manual labor, while they just watched and took notes.
So that’s how we found ourselves on a beach in Cozumel one August morning, along with our friends Lance and Shelly, who were also celebrating an anniversary and who also liked the idea of rescuing baby turtles.
After some brief instruction, we were turned loose to excavate.
You had to go pretty deep. After a certain point, I had to take over because the hole was deeper than the girls could reach.
It was amazing when we started finding tiny little turtles buried in the sand.
The four of us eventually found seven turtles alive and kicking and apparently happy to be out in the fresh air and sunshine.
The conservationists had previously collected a batch of hatchlings that decided to dig their way out in daylight, which is a pretty bad idea if you’re a turtle. The area was swarming with Magnificent Frigate birds (that’s their name, look it up!) that love tasty little turtle snacks. The men rounded up the turtles to protect them from the hungry birds. We then added the ones we’d collected,
After traveling a mile or two further down the beach to a spot free of birds, we then let all the little guys go. One look at the water, and instinct kicked in and they were off and running.
Here’s a brief video to give you a feel for how marvelous it all was.
We’d hoped for a fun and memorable experience. It greatly exceeded our wildest expectations. We can’t recommend this activity enough if you ever have the opportunity to take part. You’ll remember it forever. We sure will!
And from now on, whenever we spot a sea turtle while out sailing, we’ll ask ourselves, “Is it one of ours?”