Black turtles in the waves

There is a beach in Michoacán where the waves are so rough that not even the indigenous children custom swimming, where the stories about narcos’ traffics have scared tourists away and where the Nahuas community still lives maintaining their ancient traditions. Colola is an extraordinary village as it is the capital of the black turtle. Every night between October and February, hundreds of turtles touch land on its shores to lay eggs in the fine sands.

I visited the beach during a trip with my family. I woke up early on the first morning of our stay at Sergio’s cabanas and ran into the sea to drift next to two turtles. In my idiocy stared at them, thinking “how cute, baby turtle is on top of her momma!”. Later that evening, as I received an education on turtles, I discovered that the mothers abandon their eggs to their 46 days of under sand incubation and never find their babies. It is the smaller males that spend their days by the shore trying to climb on a lady turtle to crab them by the shell and rape them.

Sergio came running down to the beach as I started by morning yoga session with my stiff father, shouting in Spanish “Don’t swim! There’s riptides and big waves its very dangerous!” Oops, too late. We jumped in and out of the waves all day, since Sergio had decided to repaint the pool exactly during our stay and it was too hot to even lie in the hammock in the shade.

We went to look for more tranquil waters where my mother would also be able to swim in. As we reached the village of Maruata, a truck overtook us beeping and indicating. We had spent the travels up the MX200 joking about the dangers of the region, indicating everyone and tagging them “narco” “bandit” “juera”! So we got a little scared, but I realized they were alarmed themselves and pointing at our roof, so I creeped out of the window to find my father’s wallet sitting on the top of the speeding car. I guess that was when we stopped joking about the local threats.

I counted at least five different tunnels carved by the sea off the spectacular beach of Maruata. My mother still did not find the courage to swim, which was justifiable since my sister almost got killed as the crazy waves washed her against the rocks. They set off to climb the cliff and tried to start a conversation with a peaceful old man contemplating the sea, without much success. As Aila gave up and started to walk away she felt a horrible pain on the ass and turned around to find a dog with her puppy staring at her in anger.  We were at the small beachfront restaurant eating garlic shrimp when she arrived showing the dog’s teeth on the cheek of her ass.

That night we got picked up at Sergio’s by a professor from the Turtle Foudation who took us about a mile north up the beach to their community centre for turtle protection. We were shown around by two biologist from the university who answered all our questions with admirable patience. We got the chance to see baby turtles crawling up their nest and then release them by the sea. Then we followed the lights along the beach to watch the local children steal the fresh eggs right as they were being laid, to take them to the nursery and re-nest them safely- that we also got to do. The kids receive small payments from the association and spend all the nights in the week end working on the beach, so they have become quite some specialists in turtle matters and generally environmentally aware.

This community-lead initiative to guard the natural patrimony was born over twenty years ago when the black turtles where almost extinct on the beach due to illegal egg trade, dogs’ appetite, tourist’s stupidity… That night we found many turtles leaving their quad-looking tracks looking for the right spot to clear, dig a hole to nest, and enter a trace while laying 50 to 80 eggs. They then spend hours hushing sand about in an attempt to discard the burial which they don’t notice when mostly it is in fact empty. Up by the camp the association protects an immense nursery of nests, mainly from the predatory threat of birds. For our last day on the Michoacan coast we drove up just a few miles to the wonderful beach of Palma Solar, where we rented yet another cute and cheap cabana right on the beach from a fisherman family. Once again we experienced the warmth and hospitality of the local and simple people, their amazing food and their relaxed manners…

I love this Pacific region of Mexico still untouched by tourism, consumerism and waste. So I only recommend you visiting if you are conscientious, aware eco-traveller who enjoys holidays lying on a hammock listening to the waves as the hot afternoon slowly drifts by.

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