Once on the brink of extinction, olive ridley sea turtles are enjoying a population resurgence, thanks to the tireless work of researchers and volunteers committed to keeping this ancient species alive.Less than a mile from the entrance of the bay near Zihuatanejo, Mexico, not far from the lighthouse his grandfather once tended, Ramon Oleaje slows his 25-foot panga and points straight ahead.
It is not immediately apparent what has captured the veteran fisherman’s attention, so Oleaje extends his arms forward and begins thrusting his hips as if attempting to imitate John Travolta circa Saturday Night Fever. Sure enough, there is a pair of olive ridley sea turtles getting intimate perhaps 20 yards ahead of the boat and paying no attention to anything but each other. Turtles being turtles, it is hardly a graceful exercise as the lovers bob in gentle waves, the male occasionally slipping and losing his balance but always touching his mate.
From the moment you arrive, you will be pampered with everything from damp, cooling face towels at check-in to complimentary hibiscustea upon reaching your room. Coffee — good coffee — is delivered to your door each morning. Ornate arrangements of flower petals are left atop your bed each day. When the staff here says callus if you need anything, they mean it.
Balconies affording spectacular views of the Pacific are as private as your own home, thanks to strategic placement of tropical plants. Factor in the balcony plunge pools that overlook the ocean,and the romance quotient is off the charts. Simply put, the Tides is a hotel — and a location — for the ages. For booking, visit www.tideszihuatanejo.com
At one point, the two go side by side, with one of the creatures extending a front flipper over the back of the other in a just-good-friends pose as both face the boat. It is impossible, but these two appear to be smiling.
Minutes later, Oleaje shouts again. This time, he has caught two turtle couples in the act, both closer to the boat than the first pair. Though he has seen this countless times, having plied these waters since he was 11, he still laughs.
“It’s a hotel here,” he says.
During a seven-hour fishing trip, Oleaje has encountered at least a dozen olive ridleys, which are called golfinas in Mexico. Not bad for a reptile considered so precious that killing one or taking an egg from a beach can bring jail time. Oleaje is old enough to remember the way to prepare turtle eggs: Boil for eight minutes, sprinkle with lime juice and a little pepper, pop it in your mouth and wash down with a swig of cerveza. But not anymore. These days, you need a license from the Mexican government to disturb a turtle nest, and those who disturb with the state’s blessing do so to save eggs by reburying them in safe spots.
One such person is Jose Eduardo Gonzalez, the security manager for the Tides Zihuatanejo, one of the area’s most luxurious hotels, which is actively involved in the sea turtle–preservation movement. “It’s an act of love,” he says.