Bocas News

Proceed with Care ~ Protecting the Turtles

Proceed with Care ~ Protecting the Turtles

May 31, 2016

Local legend states that the lightning and thunder signal turtle nesting season in Bocas Del Toro, Panama. The elders in Bocas believe that the lightening shows the turtles where the beach is and the thunder is a sign that they arrived at their destination. A destination that was pre-determined on the day the amazing creatures first poked their tiny heads out of their shell. It is really only the months of April May and June that Bocas experiences the thunder and lightening in combination with the rain, so maybe the legend has some truth to it.

The archipelago of Bocas Del Toro has many beaches where Leatherback and Hawksbill turtles come each spring and summer to find the beach where they were born on so they can complete part of the circle of life and deposit their eggs for the next generation of sea creatures. Imagine witnessing a giant emerge from the sea, crawling up the orange sandy beach to find the perfect spot to make a nest. Right now, this is still possible, but if everyone does not take into account their safety, and dwindling numbers, soon, they will be gone.

Those of us who call Bocas home, live a life in paradise with nature as our front yard. At one time, just a few years ago, hundreds of turtles made the archipelago of Bocas their nesting place. But like so many other places in the world, the sea turtles have become endangered and we see fewer and fewer turtles each year. People are very concerned and have begun trying different things to help them

There are many dangers for these incredible animals. Destruction of nesting areas by construction, and hunters, along with natural predators, noise and unnecessary lights, and ATV riders making the turtles’ beach their private playground, have made it difficult for the turtles to complete their mission. There are ways that everybody can help protect these incredible beings. Regardless of whether you live here, or are just visiting, has some helpful hints.

One of the first ways you can help is by being vigilant in what you see when you are out enjoying the beaches. If you see someone riding an ATV directly on the beach, instead of the well marked traffic trails, snap a photo and take it as soon as you can to the office where the ATVs are rented. One of the more popular rental businesses will fine the drivers and donate that money to the turtle conservation group. If can get no cooperation from the company you can take your complaint to The Sea Turtle Conservancy office located on Main Street. They are very responsive to complaints and investigate immediately. As well, if you rent one of these vehicles, please take note of the posted signs, and the advice of the company to stay off the beaches with the machines, it only causes destruction, and it is against the law. Most of these are protected beaches!

If you come across someone hunting the gentle giants, immediately report it. Sergeant  Martin Sanchez of the Policia National can also help people by getting in touch with the correct agency to help violators. It is illegal to hunt by any means, including nets, or to sell turtle meat and eggs, so if you come across a restaurant that offers it, please boycott, and report to the proper authorities.

One of the most magical and awe inspiring things you will ever see is the giant leatherback turtles making their way slowly up the beach, digging in the soft sand with their enormous flippers and then depositing several eggs, that will become a new generation who will make their way back out to sea to begin their life. If you have the chance, it is a sight you need to see once in your life and Bocas Del Toro, Panama is a great place to do that. Just remember there are some very important rules you should follow to help protect this endangered species.


  • Wear dark clothing
  • Use a red flashlight (white light confuses the turtles)
  • Don’t wear sunscreen, bug spray and other strong scented lotions
  • Don’t take pictures with a flash
  • Don’t make a lot of noise
  • Do not go without an official guide.

With an effort by everyone who either lives in Bocas del Toro, Panama, or comes to visit, these fascinating creatures will continue to seek the beaches of our islands for their life’s mission. Be part of the solution!! The turtles need all of us to protect them, follow the posted rules, clean up your trash from the beach and let nature happen!