Mexico has seven of the world's eight sea turtle species. Three of those species live in and around Banderas Bay. The fastest growing and earliest to mature of the Pacific Coast turtles is the olive ridley, or golfina, which are more numerous than the Careyes and the even less frequently sighted leatherback. Researchers estimate there are 1 to 10 leatherbacks for every 1,000 olive ridleys in the Puerto Vallarta area.
After the female turtle creates a nest in the sand, the eggs incubate for approximately 60 days. The babies must bust out of eggs and earth on their own, and with luck they will head for the ocean under cover of night. Birds, crabs, and other wild animals are relentless predators. For every 1,000 baby turtles born, only 1 survives to adulthood. Fortunately the average nest holds several hundred eggs.
Tours run from summer through late fall. Wear shoes or sandals that are comfortable for walking in the sand. Bring a sweatshirt or light jacket, and plan to stay out late in the evening for most turtle repatriation programs, as that's when predators are less active. Most tours cost $46-$50 per person, last three to four hours, and combine educational programs with hands-on activities.
Ecotours. Three-hour turtle tours August through mid-December cost $48. Depending on the time of year, you may walk the beach searching for females depositing their eggs in the sand and help remove these eggs for safekeeping. Whether or not you find egg-laying females, there are always little turtles for releasing to the wild at the end of the evening. Tours are Monday through Saturday. Ignacio L. Vallarta 243, Zona Romántica, Puerto Vallarta, 48350. 322/223–3130 or 322/222–6606. www.ecotoursvallarta.com..
Wildlife Connection. This Mexican-owned company uses two-motor skiffs equipped with listening equipment to find pods of dolphins in the wild blue sea. You can then jump in the water to swim with these beautiful creatures in their own environment. The most common destination is around the Marietas Islands. The cost is $76 per person for a three- to four-hour tour; tours are conducted April through December only. There's no guarantee, however, that the dolphins will stick around for the fun. There's also a combined tour ($80 per person) searching for both whales and dolphins between December and March only. Calle Francia 140, Dpto. 7, Marina Vallara, Puerto Vallarta, 48310. 322/225–3621.