Releasing Baby Turtles in Todos Santos

Want to get your kids to understand environmental conservation? Releasing baby turtles is an interactive educational experience.

If you find yourself in Baja California Sur around wintertime, make sure you stop at Todos Santos and help the local charities release baby turtle hatchlings into the Pacific Ocean. The activity is available from early December to early spring.

There are two spots you can participate in the release—one to the south of the village and one to the north. The entire process, including the educational talk and physical release process, will take around two hours.

Releasing Baby Turtles, What’s the Backstory?

Three species of Sea Turtle (Leatherback, Olive Ridley, and Black) nest on the beaches of Todos Santos. The Pacific Leatherback turtle is a critically endangered species that has seen its numbers decline dramatically over the last couple of decades. It is estimated that the population is down more than 90 percent as a result of fishing techniques such as long lines and gill nets.

In response to the growing crisis, environmental groups in Todos Santos have created safe havens for the mothers to come and lay their eggs. Incubated under the sand in specially-designed greenhouse-like domes, the sanctuary ensures the eggs have the best chance of hatching into healthy babies, safe from the fluctuating winter temperatures and the general footfall on the beach itself.

Every winter, once the eggs have incubated for 90 days and then hatched, they are released back into the Pacific ocean by volunteers. Over the course of the winter, thousands of babies are returned to the water.

What to Expect

When you arrive, a local expert will provide an educational talk. It covers the history of turtles in the area, the dangers they now face in the modern world, and the processes used to ensure the babies have the best chance of survival.

Throughout the talk, you can see dozens of the turtles in their boxes ready to be released, something that sent Harriet and Luca into a state of extreme excitement.

Once the talk concludes, each person in attendance is given a baby turtle in a coconut shell (touching the turtles themselves is a big no-no). Everyone lines up along the shore and when given the cue, simultaneously releases the turtles onto the sand.


Despite their tender age, the hatchlings have an instinctive knowledge of what they need to do, as they slither and slide their way into the surf. Given the size of the waves, there are inevitably moments when a baby that is about to make it to freedom gets washed all the way back up the beach to where it started from. Thankfully, after 30 minutes or so, all the babies have safely made it into the water.

Sadly, even after all the effort, the odds for the babies are not great. Only a small fraction of those released will make it to adulthood, as a combination of human interference and natural predators take their toll on the numbers.

Is This a Good Activity for Kids?

Absolutely. It’s a joy to see the kids stare in wide-eyed amazement at the little creatures. Seeing turtles is normally restricted to cartoons and zoo visits, so having the chance to see babies in the wild is something that will stick with them for a long time. The fact that children can physically participate in the process, rather than watching someone else do the releasing, only adds to their enjoyment and buy-in.

Harriet and Luca were obsessed with turtles for a good few weeks in the aftermath. And as any parent will know, anything that can hold a child’s imagination for that long has definitely made a lasting impact on them.

Where to Find the Turtle Release Shelters and How to Book

The group that operates the program is called Tortugueros Las Playitas. You can contact them by calling +52 612 108 8042 or emailing

You don’t need to book your trip in advance. However, if you have time, it is always a good idea to call before you leave. Firstly, this is a popular activity, so there might be more people who turn up than there are baby turtles available on a given day. Secondly, sometimes it is impossible to do the release on a certain day due to the strong surf. The last thing you want to do is get your kids excited about the activity, only to face last-minute disappointment.

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