On this long stretch of sand on the Pacific coast of Mexico, about fifty kilometers north of Ixtapa, there are no umbrellas or lounge chairs. This is where baby turtles take their first steps into the ocean – a magical moment that is not only possible to witness, but also to participate in, and which even brought tears to our 5 year old son.

For 19 years now, the beach of El Petatillo, mainly frequented by the inhabitants of the nearby town of La Unión, has been home to a refuge for the Golfina sea turtles. Our guide from Ecotours Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo (one of the intermediaries that offer “baby turtle release” tours in the area), Julio Espino, explains that this “campamento tortuguero” – literally “turtle camp” – is born from the initiative of Felix and Chucha, a couple in their sixties who remain in the background while the group of tourists settles down.

During the turtle nesting season, which runs from September to May, Felix walks the beach at night and moves the nests to secure enclosures where they will be safe for 45 days before hatching.

Our guide Julio hands us buckets and gloves, while explaining that it will take 10 years for a turtle born on this beach to return to lay its eggs there. During this time, Chucha prepares behind her stove her specialty, sopes, these thick and corn-based tortillas, garnished with cheese, which will be tasted before leaving.

When the moment to welcome the baby turtles finally arrives, we move one family at a time towards the nest where tiny gray shapes laboriously come out of the sand. We grab one by the shell and place it in the bucket until it “wakes up” completely, following the advice of our guide.

All eyes are on these little beasts struggling to get out, and it is with excitement that the group heads for the beach, bucket in hand. Julio draws a line on the sand where the turtles are placed, under the gaze of the local children who have interrupted their swimming to come and gather around us.

After a few hesitant steps, the baby turtles slowly begin to head towards the water. The movement of the tides carries some of them away while others struggle to make this short journey which, without the presence of humans, would make them ideal prey for the many seabirds whose shrill cries tear the sky above. of our heads.

A new wave carries away the last turtles. My son turns to us, tears streaming down his face – “his” turtle is gone. Who knows who, her or us, will be the first to come back to this beach.