Just before sunset on a beach near Todos Santos, an art-filled town in Baja, Mexico, people gather to release newly-hatched turtles into the Pacific. The program is operated by volunteers and depends on contributions; hatchlings are released December 1 through the end of April. One night Olive Ridgeley hatchlings—the size of a silver dollar with flippers—were sent on their way but Black sea turtles and Leatherbacks are also launched from this site. This is a link to the program with a good video: http://www.todostortugueros.org/
At the top of the beach in a plastic-surrounded enclosure all things sea turtle were explained before we went further inside to see an incubation nest.
Then the babies were scooped into colorful plastic basins and carried (mostly by kids) down to the ocean. At a signal, the hatchlings were dumped onto the sand a few feet from the incoming tide. The trip from dumping-off point to ocean took longer than I’d anticipated –about twenty-minutes as some babies stopped, some got flipped over and had to right themselves or get help from a wave– and the flotilla, (the formal name for a group of sea turtles), doesn’t move that fast even with instinct behind them.
Meanwhile, about fifty onlookers produced a lot of encouraging yelling, sort of a turtle Derby. As the man next to me said, our presence meant that birds weren’t picking off the babies who are also prey for crabs, certain fish, raccoons and feral dogs. Out in the ocean, sea turtles are a treat for large sharks. It’s estimated that only one hatchling in a thousand makes it to adulthood.
As amazing as the release was, I was fascinated to learn that when they mature, guided by magnetic force the females return to the same beach they started from to lay their eggs. (Turtle sex takes place in the water.) Once the eggs are in the nest incubation takes about sixty days although sand temperature influences the length of time.
Sunset in Baja was gorgeous but watching the hatchlings move from sand into open water made the evenings I went to watch even more magical.
Food (and drink) in Todos Santos was terrific. This recipe isn’t entirely authentic but the end result is great—and doesn’t require plane fare.
2-1/2 cups shredded cooked chicken
2/3 cup salsa (bought—not the same but no effort)
1/3 cup sliced green onions
3/4 to 1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
6 flour tortillas (8 inches)
1/4 cup butter, melted
2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese
Sour cream and guacamole (bought if you wish)
In a large skillet, combine the first six ingredients. Cook, uncovered, over medium heat for 10 minutes or until heated through, stirring occasionally.
Brush one side of tortillas with butter; place buttered side down on a lightly greased baking sheet. Spoon 1/3 cup chicken mixture over half of each tortilla; sprinkle with 1/3 cup cheese.
Fold plain side of tortilla over cheese. Bake at 375° for 9-11 minutes or until crisp and golden brown. Cut into wedges; serve with sour cream and guacamole.
Easy Margarita: use blender into which you put ice, Minute Maid lime juice, tequila. Hit the button to crush all together. Ask (or YouTube) if you want to know how to salt-rim the glass. Olé!