Our two-miles of sandy beaches are home to many beautiful creatures, but every year at this time, we have the privilege of being a nesting site for the leatherback sea turtles. These gorgeous endangered animals come back year after year to our pristine beaches to lay their eggs, and we are proud to have 14 active nesting sites this year on our property. With the exception of a small section of Florida, Puerto Rico is home to the only leatherback sea turtle nesting sites in the United States, so it is a true honor to be given the responsibility of keeping these sites safe for the young leatherbacks to make a successful transition into the sea.
Leatherback sea turtles are fascinating. They are the only turtle species that does not have a hard shell, yet their rough, rubbery skin that earned them their name is reinforced by thousands of bone plates to keep them protected. Leatherback sea turtles are an average of five feet in length and weigh about 800 pounds—yet the biggest one ever recorded neared 10 feet in length and weighed over 2,000 pounds.
While leatherback sea turtles head to warmer climates like that in Bahia Beach, Puerto Rico for nesting, they surprisingly spend the rest of their time in colder waters—usually around Europe, Canada, and New Zealand—because these areas have an abundant supply of their main food source: jellyfish.
As far as their nesting rituals are concerned, females usually only nest every two or three years. It takes them that long to build up enough energy to be able to nest again. And they are very particular about where they lay their eggs. If they approach a beach that has too much debris or dirt, they will head back to the ocean to try again. Another interesting fact: once female leatherbacks have aged to approximately 20 years, they will return to the beach where they were born to nest their own eggs.
As mentioned, we are fortunate to have 14 nesting sites at Bahia Beach this season. Each one contains between 80-100 eggs, and 60-80 of them will actually hatch into baby leatherback sea turtles and return to the sea. At Bahia Beach, we follow extremely strict criteria to make sure that these endangered species are protected while nesting and after they hatch. We work directly with a certified environmental specialist who oversees the sites activity to ensure their safety, and our team monitors the nests to alert everyone of when the hatching process begins. Since our nestings started in April, the baby leatherbacks have already started to hatch and will continue to hatch through the end of the summer.
Once the leatherbacks hatch, they head out into the ocean to begin their own journey. Viewing these hatchings is a true once-in-a-lifetime experience, and we want to give our guests this opportunity. The Soul of Bahia Foundation gives our Bahia Beach members and the St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort guests the opportunity of signing up for a watch list. Since most of the activity takes place in the evenings, we will be able to notify our guests so they can witness the natural miracle taking place.If you are a member of Bahia Beach or guest of the St. Regis this summer, check with your concierge to see how you can witness this phenomenon first hand. It is an experience not to be missed.