Sea Turtles Are Precious: My Experience Volunteering At Our Marine Conservation Project

I spent one red-eye morning combing the dark beach by flashlight, in search of one thing: turtle signs. My guide, a young but sage staff member, patiently explained what we were looking for: certain patterns in the sand left by mother turtles on their way to lay their eggs on higher ground, the hidden places where they make their nests amongst the dunes and ocean debris. We would be relocating these nests to protect them from predators and poachers alike. We walked for over an hour that morning but found no nests to save. Instead I learned the Spanish word for the most beautiful sunrise I have ever seen (el amanecer), the name of the city where my guide was born, and how to recognize the leaves of a tree too toxic even to sit under for shade. We returned to the main project site to find two other staff members cutting swaths of green mesh, hard at work repairing the walls of the nursery where rescued nests are protected and cared for until they hatch. As we approached, another group of volunteers emerged from the main house and we congregated around the entrance to the nursery. The program director, finished with the task at hand, greeted us with a knowing smile and announced, “This morning we will have a release”.

The director brought out a small white bucket from the sands of the nursery containing dozens of newborn turtles. He explained that one of the nests had hatched during the night and it would be our job to collect important information about the hatchlings before returning them to the sea. Our little group of volunteers huddled together around the bucket in awe, and each took turns measuring the length, width, and weight of exactly twenty perfect baby turtles. Finally, we took count of every turtle that had hatched from the nest (nearly sixty) and divided them into separate buckets. We carefully picked up our buckets and, turtles in hand, followed our guide along the beach until we found the perfect undisturbed spot.

Our guide stopped short of the water’s edge and drew a line in the sand with his hands roughly four yards long. He then asked each of us to approach the line where we should tip our buckets into the sand, but to take care never to cross it. As we watched fifty-eight baby turtles instinctively flipper their way towards the water, I asked our guide why he had drawn the line in the sand and what purpose it served for the turtles. He explained that the line he drew was not for the turtles, but for us - a line we must stay behind to respect the journey the turtles must make alone, undisturbed by humans. For a few brief moments, all of us sat together in silence on the beach, watching the painted sunrise until the last baby turtle disappeared beneath the waves.

By Amanda Hare


The sea turtle project is just one incredible part of our Marine Conservation program, which also includes dolphin/whale monitoring in local marine areas. If you are interested in participating in this amazing volunteer program, please email or visit our website at: for more information.

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