|Dawn – five minutes after six in the morning|
Exhausted. Her scraped and bleeding limbs drifting uselessly in the waves Teresa lay on her back unable to move. Her mouth and nose covered by the shallow water she struggled to breathe. She had lain in this painful position for hours.
In the dark of the night Teresa had mistakenly stepped off a rocky ledge, landing hard on the beach below. She knew she was in trouble, big trouble. Dawn was breaking and soon the hot tropical sun would bake against her body slowly killing her if the lack of oxygen didn’t do her in first. If she could just get one decent breath of air, perhaps she could survive a bit longer. Just a little bit longer.
|Turtle hole at top right of photo – she flipped over here|
A noise! She heard a noise that sounded like two voices with a background of sharp and excited yips. Trembling with fear Teresa again futilely twitched her limbs.
“Oh god, she alive!” shouted a voice.
“Awesome”, I exclaimed, “let’s flip her over!”
“How the heck to you flip a large turtle?” asked my neighbour Amy, with a bemused smile on her face.
“Carefully, very carefully!” I laughed, set my camera down on the rocky outcropping, and ran to one side of the turtle.
Shaking her head at the absurdity of the situation Amy joined me.
“Okay,” she said, “on three. One, two, three!” And we flipped a large, heavy Loggerhead turtle right-side up.
|Different tortuga – Gaspar helping her dig a deeper hole|
With a flurry of splashing flippers Teresa the Tortuga struggled to turn around – paddling, pushing, soaking both Amy and I with a slurry of seawater and sand. We were euphoric; laughing and shouting happily when the turtle managed to speed off into the deeper water, and away from her night of torment and terror. I had mistakenly put my camera too far out of reach, and by the time I grabbed it and pointed at the fleeing tortuga she had gone. Damn!
The dogs were very quiet. They stared at the departing creature unable to comprehend how it would swim out that far, that fast.
|Teresa the Tortuga – swimming fast to freedom|
Tortuga flipping is not my normal routine at five minutes before dawn. Sparky and I usually do his first walk of the day at half-past six along the sidewalk to the gas station and back, fifteen or twenty minutes tops and then it’s time for morning coffee.
This morning I woke up at half-past five and decided to head out early. Because it is turtle nesting season I tucked a small camera into my pocket, hoping maybe, just maybe I would get lucky with photos of a mama turtle laying eggs.
|Tortuga dug this up – looking for the perfect spot|
From mid-May to October the female turtles typically arrive after sunset and search for a deep stretch of sand, digging one, two or even three test holes before settling on a location and depositing over a hundred eggs.
The turtles are normally gone well before dawn, however, occasionally a female will still be laying eggs at sunrise having spent too long searching for a perfect nesting site during the night.
|A bucket full of baby turtles about to be released by turtle farm employees|
Before the creation of the turtle conservation program, and the Isla Mujeres turtle farm, la tortugranja, the chances of a turtle egg hatching and the new babies surviving were miniscule. Dogs, birds, and humans all preyed on the eggs. If the eggs did hatch then large fish and more sea birds would gobble up the delicious hatchlings as they dashed for the ocean.
Every year the volunteers and employees of the turtle farm gather the eggs, then raise and release up to ninety thousand baby turtles. The turtle farm facility is pretty basis but worth a trip if only to support their conservation efforts by paying the inexpensive entrance fee.
|Wet and sandy from helping the turtle|
On this morning Sparky and I did our usual amble along to the gas station, and then I decided to walk back home along the beach. About half-way home I noticed our neighbour Amy was out with her dogs. Bosch was excitedly barking at something in the ocean so Sparky and I headed over to see what the excitement was all about.
As Amy and I stood discussing how sad it was to see a dead turtle, and wondering if she had been hit by a boat propeller the turtle twitched her flippers. And that’s when the fun started.
We can only hope that Teresa the Tortuga survives to return, again and again, to this beach.
|Sea Turtles mating in front of our casa|
But, she will likely have an aversion to that particular stretch of sand where she back-flipped off a rocky ledge onto the sand below.
While she was struggling to survive, her mate was probably drifting off-shore at south point wondering where she was, and why his breakfast was late.
Murder and mayhem! Revenge and romance!
Isla Mujeres Mystery series available as e-books on Amazon, iTunes, Kobo, Nook and more. Paperback copies, available on Amazon or at Jenny Penny Beach Boutique on Isla, are a perfect souvenir for island visitors.