Life Lessons From Turtles

We had been looking forward to seeing the sea turtle release ever since I found out it was nesting season on Cozumel.  This year has been extremely abundant which makes me very happy.  Having seen green turtles in the water while snorkeling and diving, I have a great appreciation for their beauty and grace.  There have been a lot of efforts made at turtle conservation around the world, but especially so here in Mexico.

A typical nest has about 100 eggs.  While 97% of the them will hatch, only 50% of those survivors will actually make it to open water.  Part of this is due to the fact that Mama buries them under at least 3 meters (some as deep as 10 meters) of sand.  The first group to hatch spend about three days climbing their way to the surface.  This brings sand down on top of the late bloomers, and many of them will not make it out of the hole.  Once they’re out in the open, they then have to run a gauntlet of birds and other predators just to make it to the sea.  Then they will swim for three days before stopping to eat.  They have no real way of knowing the percentage of babies that will survive past that point, but they have plenty of predators in the ocean as well, including humans.  Because of local efforts, almost every single turtle that hatches will at least get into the sea.  The presence of humans during releases keeps predators away, volunteers do “search and rescue” of nesting sites to free trapped babies, and eggshells are removed from the site to decrease the chance of attracting predators.

A “preemie” turtle

Some of the babies hatch prematurely, and their nutrition sacs are still exposed from the belly which is like an open wound.  Those turtles are brought back to the office and cared for while they finish maturing.  The sac continues to provide the hatchling with food while it grows, and then it will continue to nourish them for their first three days of swimming.

While I was watching their mad dash to the sea, a few things struck me as being really good life lessons:

  • Once the babies escape from their nest, they tirelessly sprint for the water.  They don’t know the meaning of the word “obstacle.”  They will keep going and keep working ceaselessly until they reach their goal, even if they fall in what amounts to a pit deeper than their length.
  • They are so focused on their goal that if you put them in a box, they will keep moving around trying to get out.
  • Sometimes there is quite a big ledge they have to drop off to make it to the surf.  When they get to the edge, they have no idea how far they will fall.  They don’t stop, they just launch themselves off.  This usually means they tumble head over tail a few times before ending up on their back, but once again they don’t bother to even dust themselves off.  They right themselves and keep running to their goal.  “Leap, and the net will appear.”–John Burroughs
  • They don’t look back. They get their goal in sight, and they won’t stop until they achieve it. “Chase down your dream and make it your bitch.”

“Leap, and the net will appear”

Which of these lessons from our turtle friends speaks to you the loudest?

Share This Post On


  1. WOW!!!!! what an experience to have in life!!! This is just awesome! Never knew they were that tiny. Great photos Talon!

    Post a Reply
  2. When I was running trips to Costa Rica in the 90’s and aughts, I witnessed the seasonal nesting of the giant Leatherback sea turtles many times. Wandering the beach after dark, the mothers would emerge from the sea like huge boulders (often up to 5 ft. long and 500 lbs!), then slowly make their way up the beach, laboriously dig a nest and lay their (ping pong ball sized) eggs.

    Once, as I sat barefoot in shorts on a dune watching the moms emerge from the surf in the moonlight, suddenly the sand erupted next to my thigh and… a bitty turtle hatchling clamored out of the sand!

    Clearly you must step carefully along the beach when these magnificent creatures are nesting, and yes, many life lessons to be learned – both from the tenacity of the wee ones, as well as the moms who labor so in the moonlit sand.

    Thanks for the walk-down-memory-lane, Talon. Especially love your John Burroughs quote: “Leap, and the net will appear.”


    Post a Reply
    • We most definitely are!

      Post a Reply
    • Definitely a great lesson!

      Post a Reply
  3. Thanks for giving the turtles their due. My hubby works for the International Dark-Sky Association here in Tucson. The turtles who don’t get any help reaching the sea rely on moonlight glinting off the water to make it. If there are other lights around, they may become disoriented and go the wrong way and never make it to the water.

    Post a Reply
    • We’re lucky that way in Cozumel. There are NO lights on that side of the island, and the mamas make their nests next to berms, so they naturally head the other way.

      Makes sense about the lights. That’s good info to know.

      Post a Reply
    • Thanks! It was pretty awesome for sure.

      Post a Reply
  4. I love this, so very much. Not only because of the turtles (and people working hard to save them), but the life lessons are spot-on. 

    Post a Reply
    • Thank you! I was so inspired by them as soon as I got home I wrote this post. Some definite great lessons.

      Post a Reply
    • So very true. And they don’t sit around pondering it to death. They see the ocean and boom that’s all they focus on.

      Post a Reply
  5. I absolutely LOVE this post Talon – cute little guys (the turtles as well as you and Tigger) and such good life lessons 🙂

    Post a Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *