Along a stretch of pristine golden sand in Nayarit, Mexico lies Playa las Tortugas visited frequently by Ridley turtles which return to their place of hatching to lay eggs. Each year, an estimated 250,000 hatchlings emerge from nests called arribadas along this beach to crawl into the ocean. Shepherding them is a turtle sanctuary directed by a dedicated veterinarian who combs the beach in search of nests, and each time one is found, he and his staff and volunteers transfer the eggs to the sanctuary to protect them for a month-and-a-half incubation before releasing the two-inch hatchlings into the ocean. In the short crawl to the water, females imprint on the sand to return years later to lay eggs for another generation, only now the odds are increasingly against them due to climate change and other hazards.
After discovering this sanctuary in 2019, I promised to provide one of its remote outposts with solar power because it lacked electricity. In 2021, I completed the project. Fueling my desire to help was a visit I made to a beach on Mafia Island in Tanzania in 2017 where I watched staff from a turtle-rescue organization release hatchlings to the Indian Ocean, but before they could do so, they first had to remove layers of plastic debris washed ashore; only then could the baby turtles find their way to the sea. In Nayarit, Mexico, staff and volunteers at the Playa las Tortugas sanctuary honor the eons-long ritual of female turtles laying eggs to give way for future generations of these beautiful creatures.