The Olive Ridley turtles, as well as the Humpback whales that arrive in the winter, have created a very intense and special bond with the region, thanks to their yearly visits. (VisitPuertoVallarta.com)
The crowning glory of Puerto Vallarta, its tourism board says, are the turtle release programs and events, which take place from August through December each year. Sea turtles return a decade later to nest on the same beach where they were born. About 45 days after the mother turtle lays her eggs on the beach and returns to the sea, the baby turtles hatch and make their way to the ocean. Sea turtle release programs in Puerto Vallarta find an average of 70 to 230 nests and, depending on the location, release approximately 60 to 200 sea turtles per day during the season.
Protecting these nests and safeguarding every hatchling's journey ensures that sea turtles will return to Puerto Vallarta for generations to come. While participation in a sea turtle release in Puerto Vallarta creates a unique and memorable experience, it is also an opportunity for visitors to support local conservation work.
One of the main locations for turtle releases is Campamento Tortuguero Boca de Tomates, situated north of the marina by the Puerto Vallarta airport. Here, volunteers welcome visitors, educate them on the importance of protecting the turtles, and as sunset approaches, gently place baby sea turtles into coconut shells for the visitors to release. Participants are encouraged to name their hatchling and make a wish for it before the release. Contact Boca de Tomates Turtle Camp at 52-322-262-0249 or through their Facebook page for release times and availability. Participation is free, but donations help keep their efforts funded. Turtle release experiences are also offered by local companies Wildlife Connection and Ecoturs.
Among hotels and resorts, Marriott Puerto Vallarta Resort & Spa has a conservation program at Banderas Bay. With its own biologist on staff and a sea turtle nursery on-site, the hotel's program, which began in 2005, releases an average of 60,000 baby turtles each season. The beach at Hyatt Ziva Puerto Vallarta is another popular spot where, under the guidance of the hotel's biologist, guests are encouraged to be an active part of the liberation of the young turtles.
“Once the young hatch and are active, the nest is counted, registered, and immediate release is carried out,” said Alma Lucatero, sustainability coordinator at the hotel.
Turtle releases are not scheduled but are generally done before 11 a.m. or at sunset when the angle of the sun helps protect hatchlings from curious birds.
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