Beautiful Monterrico’s desolate black sand beaches make perfect nesting grounds for the rare Leatherback, Olive Ridley, and Green sea turtles. Guatemala recently established the Biotopo Monterrico-Hawaii to ward off poachers, who collect turtles for meat and their eggs for food. The harvesting of adult turtles is unilaterally seen as unacceptable nowadays, but egg-stealing hueveros continue to make a living selling turtle eggs. The turtle nesting season in Monterrico runs from July to December – adult females scramble up the beach in the middle of the night, frantically dig holes in the sand, and then deposit over one hundred eggs before slipping back into the water. Fifty days later, the Olive Ridley and Green sea turtle eggs begin to break open – the baby leatherbacks require another 22 more. When the tiny turtles finally hatch, it’s a mad dash to the water. Due to seabirds and other marine predators, only 1% will reach maturity.
During your visit to Monterrico be sure to check out CECON. CECON is a university-run organization that operates the Tortugario Monterrico, a nursery that aims to protect the wild sea turtles of Guatemala. Of principal concern is the giant Leatherback, which has all but disappeared from the area. Every afternoon from September to February, CECON puts on a sunset ‘turtle race’ where participants can pay Q10 to release a baby turtle into the wild. The race is questionably ethical at best, as turtles must be stored in small tanks all day before they can released, a practice that interferes with their hormone levels and natural homing mechanisms. Alternatively, you can pay Q40 for a site tour or Q25 for night walk in search for adult egg-layers. CECON also works to rehabilitate iguanas and crocodiles and readily welcomes Spanish-speaking volunteers willing to commit to an extended stay.