While I was staying at the Hyatt Ziva in Puerto Vallarta I had no clue that one of the best experiences I would have is meeting and caring for the turtles of Estacas Beach! The beach is exclusive to hotel guests and one of the best ways to see turtles in Puerto Vallarta!
Miguel is the zoologist based on Playa Las Estacas, the beach in front of the Hyatt Ziva. He is the person who looks after the turtles in Puerto Vallarta’s Hyatt Ziva hotel.
He runs a programme that is designed to help high numbers of baby turtles return to the sea from the nest. To give them the best start in life he looks after the eggs and newly hatched baby turtles in a torugario or turtle nursery.
The tortugario on Playa Las Estacas is a well established programme started in the 1970s by hotel owners Camino Real. The programme has since been continued by the current owners – the Hyatt group.
Meet the Turtles in Puerto Vallarta
The turtles that lay on Playa Las Estacas are Verde Olibo – Green Turtles.
Because they live in the tropics, these turtles can lay eggs all year round, however, they mainly lay in the warmest months of the year.
Turtles come to shore in the darkest part of the night to dig and lay their nests. If you know what you are looking for you might be able to see their tracks in the sand the next morning.
Turtles can lay between 50 – 140 eggs in each nest and only 5% of each nest makes it to adulthood as they make great prey for a host of different predators.
Every morning Miguel scours the beach looking for clues and signs of a newly laid nest.
Once he finds one he carefully digs up the eggs and makes them a new nest in the turtle nursery.
We were lucky enough to help Miguel re-home one of these nests. We named the nest and wrote up the sign that told Miguel where the nest was, how many eggs were in the nest and when the nest was dug!
The perfectly round eggs are soft and leathery so great care is taken to make sure they make it to their new home safely.
Hatching Turtles in Puerto Vallarta
The eggs take around 45 days to hatch out of the nest and the baby turtles can take up to 14 hours to make their way from the egg to the surface.
It’s hard not to get excited seeing 100+ amazingly cute baby turtles wobbling around the sand!
It’s even better when Miguel invites you to help gather them up to protect them from the sea birds and prepare them for release!
Before touching the turtles our hands had to be covered with sand. This was to make sure we didn’t transfer the natural oils from our hands onto the turtles.
Then it was a case of being very gentle, whilst, of course, cooing over all the babies!
Releasing the Turtles
The turtles are released into the sea at 8pm the same night.
They are released under the cover of darkness to give them the very best start in life. At this time there are less predators about.
They are placed at the edge of the water and scramble into the waves. As they tumble into the break they get towed into the sea.
Then that’s it! The nursery’s job is done. Mother Nature takes care of the rest.