A blog by Pro Dive International
Plenty of empty shells of recently hatched turtle eggs were spotted by our divers at Sabalos. They had been washed off shore onto the reef after the baby turtles had dug out of their nest at night and swam off into the sea.
The turtle nesting season on the Riviera Maya and in Cozumel happens between May and October, which means that you may be lucky to see some nests or even hatchlings during your stay with us.
Six out of the seven sea turtle species worldwide visit Mexico every year. We are lucky enough to get to see Green Turtles and Loggerhead Turtles regularly during our dives, as they are in search of food and a good clean.
The reefs and ecosystems here provide a great number of tasty snacks for a turtle, for example seagrass, sponges, crustaceans and many more. And while the turtles pass through the reef, they receive a top-notch cleaning service from many of the local fishes who feed on their parasites and algae growth.
6 Turtle Fun Facts
- Green turtles are so named because of their green colored fat caused by their rich diet of seagrass.
- Green Turtles are the largest hard-shell turtles in the world. The largest known green turtle weighed 395 kg/ 871 lbs, with a shell that measured more than 152 cm/ 5 ft.
- Loggerhead Turtles are so named for their massive broad muscular heads.
- Adult males are normally easy to distinguish from females because of their long tails visible extending past their shell.
- Female turtles normally return to the exact same location where they were born to lay their eggs.
- The sex of a baby turtle is determined by the temperature at which the egg is kept.
Turtles are regular visitors to many of our dive sites, but they are most commonly found at Tortuga – this dive site is even named turtle in Spanish! It’s located just off shore from our dive center at the Occidental Xcaret and easily accessible by boat from any of our Playa Del Carmen locations.
Moreover, for those of you who are not divers, we are lucky enough to have some extensive seagrass beds where green turtles love to hang out and eat, which is an easy snorkel off shore during one of our tours with a guide who is licensed to enter those protected areas.
Besides observing them underwater, you may be lucky to find some turtle nests in front of your resort on the Riviera Maya or in Cozumel. Hotel employees usually rope them off to ensure their protection.
Turtle conservation projects are a great alternative to learn more about their behaviors, importance for the marine environment, how you can help protect them, and to observe nests or turtles first hand:
- Centro Ecológico Akumal – an NGO with a 28-year history
- Punta Sur Eco Beach Park – a 247-acre ecological park in Cozumel
- Sea Turtle Conservation Project Tulum by CONAP/ Flora, Fauna y Cultura de México
Every sea turtle species on earth nests on Mexico’s beaches (save one that is only found in Australia). Consequently, Mexico is known as the sea turtle capital of the world and its turtle protection laws are so important on a global scale.
Current Mexican law classifies all sea turtle species as endangered.
- Turtles can’t be killed for their meat, skin, shell or eggs.
- Native vegetation can’t be removed in nesting habitats, to stop erosion.
- New regulations call for moving, changing or eliminating any light sources that illuminate a nesting beach, as baby turtles can become disoriented from finding their way to the ocean.
- Vehicles can have a maximum weight of 300 kg on nesting beaches and only be used for patrolling and management of the nesting site.
- Recently outlawed were turtle release events, as many places kept the hatchlings in confinement for several days until a sufficient number of participants had signed up for this activity. Upon release, they were too weak to handle the surf and avoid predators.
All of these and many more regulations help protect beaches, nests, female sea turtles, their eggs and hatchlings to make it a safer place for them.
How to start your Turtle Adventure
Let’s discover some turtles together during our dives! If you are not a diver, why not sign up for a PADI course; or join our Mexican Snorkeling Adventure at 15% OFF starting from Playa del Carmen or Tulum, if booked online until 16/09 & redeemed until Dec 22, with reference to this blog!
Creature Feature: Oceanic Manta Ray
In this series, the Shark Trust will be sharing amazing facts about different species of sharks and what you can do to help protect them.
This month our Creature Feature is from guest writer – Yolanda Evans. 17-year old Yolanda has been passionate about sharks all her life, and this month she explores the world of the Oceanic Manta Ray…
The graceful Oceanic Manta Ray dances their way through the blue waters with a wingspan of 7 metres which can reach a maximum of 9 metres, making them the biggest ray in the world. These manta’s have a circumglobal distribution and are found in temperate, tropical, and subtropical. They have a deep black dorsal side with a white T marking on their back and the ventral side is white with black freckles. However, they can be easily confused with Reef Manta’s, but the two main differentiating features (despite their size) is that the white markings on the Reef Manata make a Y shape and there are no freckles on their underside.
Recognisable by the two mouth parts known as the cephalic lobes: extensions of their massive pectoral fins that are used for feeding, helping the ray scoop mouthfuls of plankton. They must eat 20-30 kg of plankton a day, which is only about 2% of their total body weight.
Oceanic Manta’s can have up to 4000 tiny teeth but they don’t use these for feeding, they use them for when they are mating as the males have to hold themselves onto the females! The cephalic lobes can either be flexed out-seen when they are feeding, or curled up for spiral swimming and doing underwater flips!
Having the largest brain to body ratio of any cold-blooded fish, it is thought that they are able to pass the mirror test, showing that they have self-awareness! They are also capable of creating mental maps using smells and environmental barings, helping on their migrations.
Gatherings of these manta’s are rare, but when they come together it is an elegant marine ballet! A group of manta’s, known as a squadron, typically gather for two main reasons: mating and feeding. Manta’s will do somersaults in areas rich in prey to maximise their intake of prey. They will also participate in chain-feeding, this is when each manta follows the other in a circle to create a whirlpool which traps their prey inside!
Cleaning and maintenance is very important to these fish as they will undergo special migrations to coral reefs where Cleaner fish come and groom off parasites and dead skin. These cleaning stations are so important to these rays that they will go back to the same spot for many years!
Out of all elasmobranchs the Giant Manta has one of the slowest reproduction rates, only producing one pup every two to three years and can be pregnant for 12-13 months! However, due to commercial fishing and bycatch, they cannot keep up with the extortionate rate that their populations are decreasing by. This has led to the Oceanic Manta Ray to be listed as endangered by the IUCN. Manta’s are targeted for their gill rakers by traditional medicines that can reach up to $400 USD per kg.
Not only are Oceanic Manta’s threatened by fishing, but also by pollution in the oceans. Microplastics and heavy metals accumulate in their tissues. This can unfortunately lead to serious illnesses like cancers.
SCIENTIFIC NAME: Mobula birostris
MAXIMUM WINGSPAN: 8.8m
DIET: Filter feeds for plankton, but also consumes deep water fish
DISTRIBUTION: Widespread distribution in tropical and temperate waters worldwide
HABITAT: Ocean-going. Surface to deep waters – 1,000m.
Images: Frogfish Photography
For more amazing facts about sharks and what you can do to help the Shark Trust protect them visit the Shark Trust website by clicking here.
Jeff chats to… Paul Cox, CEO of the Shark Trust about the Big Shark Pledge (Watch Video)
The Big Shark Pledge aims to build one of the biggest campaigning communities in the history of shark conservation. To put pressure on governments and fisheries. And make the positive changes required to safeguard awesome sharks and rays.
Rather listen to a podcast? Listen to the audio HERE on the new Scubaverse podcast channel at Anchor FM.
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