This is one of the best things that happened to us on our overland trip.
Our first day in Barra de Santiago we went out searching for some restaurant grub and happened upon a little beachside place that was, of course, empty. The owner was hanging around and said he could cook us up some pork chops and lentils, which ended up being totally delicious. We came to chatting and he mentioned that just next door was a sea turtle egg sanctuary, and if we wanted to stop by in the evening, we could check out the release of baby sea turtles in the ocean.
Hell yeah, we wanted to see that! Coming back to the restaurant at night we found the place filled up with cops. We ordered some beers and watched what turned out to be a gathering for a community beach watch. The police and local volunteers patrolled the beach at night making sure no one came out to steal sea turtle eggs (which must be delicious?) and to collect the eggs to take into the sanctuaries.
After the group headed out on their patrol, we were called over to the sanctuary with another volunteer who led us through the netted-in protected area where nests were hatching! He put out a bucket and had me count in spanish the number of baby sea turtles that came out. They were adorable little squirmy things. Baby Olive Ridleys, I think, though the volunteer said they weren’t Olive Ridleys but there may have been a communication barrier as my spanish sucks. After we had counted out the nest, we took the bucket down to the beach and dumped them just before the wave lines. Local dogs seemed very keen to get them near their mouths but the volunteer said that they only liked eating the eggs. I still got nervous and held the dogs back.
When we got back up to the sanctuary two more nests had hatched and Billy and I counted out those nests and then the volunteer just sent us off by ourselves with the turtles to the beach. We were in disbelief. How could they just trust us two strangers with 300+ precious baby sea turtles?
It was the most magical experience and I was grinning ear to ear the entire time. The statistics that a baby sea turtle survives in the wild aren’t very promising but hopefully theres still one or two of “our” turtles out there kicking it in the El Sal seas.