While many tourists center their vacation around the sights of Cancun with only a short side trip to Isla Mujeres, the island is a vacation destination in its own right. Although life on the island is much slower paced than it is across the bay, the activities and sights of Isla Mujeres are well worth spending some extra time. Among the top attractions of Isla Mujeres is the Isla Mujeres Turtle Farm.
Although sea turtles are endangered, they are still hunted for their meat and eggs through Latin America. The efforts of a local fisherman during the 1980s led up to the founding of the turtle farm, or tortungranja, where breeding grounds and eggs are protected.
The farm provides a haven for hawksbill, loggerhead, and green sea turtles that range in weight from 150g to an astounding 300kg. Most of these turtles will only remain at the farm for a short time before being released back to the ocean. There is also a modest, but very interesting aquarium at the farm as well as marine life displays and a pen used to temporarily hold large nurse sharks.
The outdoor portion of the facility is home to many larger turtles that often have disabilities or injuries that would make survival in the wild difficult. A large sandy area is sectioned off and is home to many turtle nests. Rescued from around the island, the nests are brought to the turtle farm where they mature and hatch in safety.
The hatchlings are released immediately and they leave the beach to return each year to lay their eggs meaning that any offspring produced are protected as well. Around 125,000 hatchlings are released each year, but sadly only 1 in every 1000 baby sea turtles reaches maturity. The hatchlings are generally released around 7pm, July through November. The sight of thousands of tiny turtles scurrying to the ocean is amazing and you can call ahead to plan your visit on a day when hatchlings are being released.