The Turtles Of Bocas Del Toro

By BobbyRica | August 16, 2010

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Another tourist attraction worth visiting Panama for are the turtles of Bocas del Toro. What’s interesting about these turtles is that they come there not to frolic like most tourists, but to extend the lifespan of their species. During the most part of the year, four species of sea turtles go to the northern beaches between March and September to lay their eggs. The turtles who go to Bocas del Toro are the hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata), the leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea), the loggerhead (Caretta caretta), and the even rarer Pacific green (Chelonia mydas).

What’s more important about these turtles is that they are also endangered species. So having
them around is not only special for Panama, but has been one among many ways by the government to preserve their nesting grounds.

The turtles are sought for their tender meat and eggs. But they have been so aggressively “harvested” that their number have been reduced to a few thousands. When I do visit these areas, I try to do responsible thing by not buying anything made of tortoise shell.

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There are other ways, however, for tourists to contribute in harming these turtles. Nesting season is also tourist season. This usually takes place in Playa Bluff on the northeast side of Isla Colon and Playa Larga on the northern part of Isla Bastimentos. More often than not, man and turtle meet to compete for space.

Fortunately for the turtles, government and ecologist agencies have wisened up and have started creating laws that prohibit encroachment of people to the turtles’ habitat. But even then, there is a controlled influx of people who venture in these areas. Not just to observe the turtles but to enjoy the peace and calm of these parts of Panama.

So if you intend to visit these amazing creatures, here are a few things to remember. In these areas, people aren’t allowed to use flashlights, flashes when taking photos or even bright or light-colored clothing. The reason for this is that hatchlings are attuned to the bright light of the moon. The moonlight works like a homing beacon for the baby turtles to go to the sea. By using flash lights and other bright instruments, we not only confuse their sense of direction, but might steer them to another direction. A direction that might mean their death.

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Ask your travel agent when and how you can watch these amazing creatures complete their life cycles in the beaches of Panama.

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