Cayo Largo del Sur: where Sea Turtles nest

At Jardines de la Reina archipelago, located on the southwestern coast of Cuba, the islet of Cayo Largo needs no introduction. Year after year, thousands of travelers choose to rest in this almost virgin paradise, famous its dream beaches. Imagine: kilometers and kilometers of white sands always cool, waters so crystalline that you can see fish and starfish … No wonder this cay scores among the most popular destinations in Cuba, according to the specialized website TripAdvisor.

But there is a less known side to the Cayo Largo vacation, and just as fascinating. Thanks to its wide biodiversity, the cay’s guests share the space with seagulls, iguanas, herons, hummingbirds, corals … all in a sustainable environment, effectively managed by prestigious scientific institutions. And among so many valuable species, sea turtles stand out, of which, three species have chosen this area as a nesting and reproduction place.

Baby Turtles going to the sea

Today, the loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta), the green turtle (Chelonia mydas) and the hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) are protected in a conservation project that involves both tourists and staff working on the cay.

It all begins in the spawning season (between May and September) when environmental specialists spend long nights waiting for the arrival of the female turtles to the beach, who come to lay their eggs inland. Once the mother returns to the sea, the conservators collect the eggs to transfer them to a Farm or Breeding Center, where they develop until the birth of the small chelonians. The reason? This seeks to protect eggs and hatchlings from predators that also lurk at this time: jutías, iguanas, crabs, seabirds and the inevitable action of man on the dunes.

The Turtle Farm is open if you want to visit it; And with the proper precautions you can take photos, videos and interact with the animals. When the baby turtles are ready for their new life in the ocean, the moment of greatest emotion arrives.Previously, in coordination with the hotels in Cayo Largo, the scientists encourage vacationers to participate in the release of the newly born to the sea. It is a unique event, which usually takes place in the early hours of the morning. Tourists and locals line up a few meters from the waves, and at a signal the hundreds of baby turtles that instinctively look for water are released. There’s time then to cheer on your favorite, redirect some of the disoriented or simply enjoy the show. Those who arrive at the ocean receive the applause of all, which implies the satisfaction of having contributed to preserve these nice species.No one – and we say it with confidence – no one, no traveler who has participated in the release of turtles is disappointed. On the contrary, there are many who program their getaway to Cayo Largo to coincide with this event. Thus, the holidays are no longer just a relaxing moment, but an experience of learning and connection with nature. Would you like to experience it?Actions to protect turtles are also carried out in other places in western Cuba, such as the Guanahacabibes Peninsula and the Isle of Youth. However, in Cayo Largo this project assumes a higher importance, due to the emotion and environmental awareness that it transmits to all the participants. Join the list! Who knows? Perhaps the little turtle you release will return in a few years to this same place to lay her eggs, and you will have helped her. Don’t you think this is worth it?