It is only 5:40 when my alarm goes off. In a rush I wake up my girlfriend and grab my bottle of water. Normally I’m not a morning person, but today is different. Today we’re going to release baby turtles. I’m so excited that I almost forget my camera. Some other guests are already waiting at the pool while Rusty, one of the owners, shows up with his happy face and start to walk towards the turtle hatchery.
The 3 owners of The Driftwood Surfer have been talking with passion about their turtle conservation project. In turtle season, which is from September till December, each day one of the owners takes everyone before sunrise to the turtle hatchery. We have to leave this early because most of the baby turtles hatch between 5 and 6am and of course we don’t want to miss out on such an amazing experience.
As we’re walking towards the turtle sanctuary, everyone starts to walk backwards. Orange and pink skies rise from the east. Out of the ocean appears the sun. Tens of pelicans are passing by while they use the waves to save energy. The beauty of the early mornings in El Paredon with its alternating sound of the waves breaking on the beach and then a moment of complete silence before the next wave arrives, is as a dream come true that takes all your worries away.
Turtle tracks! Rusty tells that a couple of hours ago, a turtle has laid her eggs right here. It takes a turtle between 2 and 3 hours to lay around 100 eggs and that while doing so, she is completely in trance. Unfortunately, it is legal to poach turtle eggs in Guatemala and the eggs are already gone… A poacher has taken all the eggs as they are seen as an aphrodisiac and could be sold on the market. A dozen of eggs costs normally between 1 and 3 dollars.
After the sad news, Rusty starts to explain The Driftwood Surfer Conservation Project into more detail. For years they have been buying the eggs back from the poachers and make sure that they end in a save place: The El Paredon Turtle Hatchery. One of the other guests asks immediately: aren’t you encouraging the poachers to poach more by buying the eggs? While we walk further to the sanctuary Rusty goes on with his story. As long as the law isn’t changing this is the best way of saving the turtles. With the help of donations from tourists and online fundraisers, we have been able to save more than 40 thousand eggs last year alone. All the money went back into the local community which helped them to buy food and school supplies for their children and tourists pay a little money for an unforgettable experience. This way everybody wins.
Baby Turtle Release Guatemala