Posted by: Thida | October 16, 2012

Heroes in a Half Shell

With some of my volunteer friends we like to go to El Cuco, a small town and beach in El Savador. By car, it’s just a couple of hours away from San Lorenzo, so it’s perfect when one needs to relax, swim, sun bathe and surf. Yes, that’s right! I’ve tried surfing! I’m terrible at it, and my body is always covered with bruises after each time, but I love it!

When we go to El Cuco, we stay at a hotel called La Tortuga Verde. It’s pretty, it’s quiet, it’s friendly and it’s cheap! The hotel is also a turtle sanctuary. The owner, Tom (or Don Tomas, as he is called by the hotel employees) is a far-out New Yorker, passionate about turtles. We heard that he saves turtle eggs from being stolen from poachers and he had mentioned that it’s possible to see turtles get out of the sand and help release them to sea.

Even though we know that incubation time for turtle eggs is approximately 40-50 days, it’s really hard to plan our weekends to coincide with when the eggs hatch. You kind of have to be there when it happens…One day we were!

That Saturday afternoon, two weeks ago, we were about a dozen people at the hotel. Suddenly, Don Tomas (or Tom), told us that it was time! So we all rushed to the beach. We watched Tom as he got ready to do a promotional video. With his thick American accent, he spoke to the camera in Spanish and told viewers…err…to be honest I’m not sure what he said! It probably had to do with turtles and how El Salvador is great. He was very enthusiastic though, I can tell you that!

Tom, the owner of La Tortuga Verde, getting ready to make his promotional video

We all observed in awe as Tom was digging out the turtles and putting them in a paila (a plastic container). Then we brought the turtles closer to the sea and let them out one by one. We watched them crawl towards the water and seconds later get swallowed by the waves. There were a little more than 100 turtles. I couldn’t believe what I just witnessed!

Turtles getting dug out of the sand

Later that night, Josiane (a friend of Fabrizio’s, visiting from Montreal) and I were chilling near the beach when Tom came to see us again with his paila full of baby turtles. What?! More?! We followed him and helped him release one hundred more turtles. So in all, we released a little more than 200 turtles.

It was night. The moon was huge and bright. I was still in a state of wonder. Josiane looked at the sand beneath our feet and said to me: “Hey! Look! We have a moon shadow!” Yup, turtle power is magic!

Still seems like a far way to go, right buddy?


  1. Wow, what a great chance in a lifetime, Thida! This is a wonderful story. Love that last photo of the baby struggling towards the water.

    • Thanks Frances! I felt really lucky to have lived this experience!

  2. I love turtles. They are soooooooo cute!!!

    • I love turtles too! They were adorable!

  3. Love this story Thida. You have some amazing experiences!

    • Hi Lynda!
      I know! I’m so lucky!

  4. Thida … what a magical experience. Envy you!

    • Hey Suzanne! Thanks for the comment. It was magical!!!

  5. omg, that is so-o-o-o-o-o cute! Amazing Thida!!!! Look at how small those little guys are and think of how HUGE they get! Quick question though…why does Tom dig them up and carry them to the water? Don’t baby turtles naturally dig themselves out and make there way towards the sea? Or is it to avoid predators? I love that last pic with the turtle making it’s way out to the ocean – hahaha!

    • Hey Lisa!
      Amazing, right?! I wondered about that too. And yes I think it’s to help out the turtles from getting snatched by predators.

  6. What a great story! Thanks for sharing!

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