Sanctuary at La Escobilla

I first visited the Sanctuary at La Escobilla, or Santuario, La Escobilla, in July 2015 to see the turtles come ashore to lay their eggs. It was mind boggling to see thousands of turtles coming ashore for as far as I could see.

The Sanctuary was created in the 1990's by the Mexican government to help promote sustainable eco-tourism. Before the Sanctuary was created, the local community harvested the turtle eggs and killed the turtles for food. It was becoming obvious to all that one day the turtles would be gone. In the early 90's the government outlawed the killing of sea turtles and the harvesting of the eggs. Now the local community works as guides and runs the restaurant and hotel/camp site.

The Sanctuary at La Escobilla also caters to birders. Guides are optional.

When arriving at the Sanctuary at La Escobilla, you must check in at the reception. I understand that at times it can be a bit disorganized.

Las Arribadas

Female laying eggs.

Olive Ridley Turtles are known for their behavior of nesting in mass numbers, this is known as "arribadas" in English and in Spanish. The evening I went to the Turtle Sanctuary at Escobilla, the guides were expecting some 12,000 to come a shore; the day before a similar came ashore; and the day before that a similar number.

  • Females coming on shore to lay eggs.
  • Females coming on shore to lay eggs.

Basic Olive Ridley Turtle Facts

The Olive Ridley Sea Turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea), also known as the Pacific Ridley Sea Turtle, lives mostly in the tropical waters of the Pacific and Indian Ocean but it also found in the Atlantic Ocean. Adults weigh between 25 and 45 kilos (60-100lbs.); their shells reach a length of 65 centimeters or two feet in length. Olive Ridley Sea Turtle is considered the smallest sea turtles and they are the most common. They are closely related to the Kemp’s Ridley Turtle.

The Ridley is largely a solitary animal. They are mostly carnivorous, feeding on such creatures as jellyfish, snails, crabs, and shrimp. They will occasionally eat algae and seaweed as well.[1]

Olive Ridley Hatchling.

Female Ridleys lay between 75 and 100 eggs. The incubation period is between 45 and 51 days. The females may nest up to three times a year. Females lay their eggs very same beach from where they first hatched.

Newly hatched turtles are called hatchlings.

Dangers to the Ridley Turtle

Although Ridley Turtles are the most common sea turtle, they are considered threated by the U.S. government. The worldwide population of nesting females Ridley Turtles is estimated at 800,000.[2]

Turtle hit by boat..

Although many governments are protecting the Ridley Turtles, they are still being harvested for their meat and skin in large numbers. Fishing nets frequently snag and drown the turtles. Adult turtles are also preyed upon by sharks. Turtles also are at risk of getting hit by boats such as the pictured.

However the largest threat to the Ridley Turtles are the arribadas where female Ridleys inadvertently dig up and destroy other nests of eggs. Hatchlings, are preyed on by crabs, iguanas, raccoons, pigs, coyotes, snakes, and birds; most hatchlings will perish before reaching the ocean.


Turtle eggs are considered to be an aphrodisiac in Mexico. Back in the day when eating turtle meat and eggs was legal I had a turtle egg. I can't say I cared for it. It had a gritty texture it. I never felt any aphrodisiac effects either. I have eaten Ridley Turtle meat too; it was tough and chewy. I can't really see why anyone would want to eat turtle eggs or meat.

Illegal harvesting of turtle eggs continues to be problem on the Mexican Pacific coast. I have heard of the eggs selling locally for a 10 peso each (U.S. .65 cents 09/15). At Tepito's black market in Mexico City, turtle eggs sell for 50 pesos each (U.S. $3.50 10/15). During the time the turtles come ashore to lay their eggs, the Army and Marines patrol the beaches and sometimes have road blocks to search for turtle eggs.

Contact Information

  • Centro Ecoturistico Restaurant y Cabañas
  • Sociedad Cooperativa "El Santuarío de la Tortuga La Escobilla" S.C. de R.L. de C.V.
  • Domicilio Conocido S/N
  • Escobillia, Santa María Tonameca, Pochutla
  • Oaxaca
  • Mexico
  • (045) 958 596 4408, (045) 958 585 8239 and (045) 958 583 5320.
  • La Escobilla has an active Spanish language Facebook Page: La Escobilla, Oaxaca. They probably would respond to simple English questions.[3]

Footnotes and Notes

  1. 1. Olive Ridley Sea Turtle. National Geographic. Retrieved 16 November 2015.
  2. 2. Ibid.
  3. 3. The website: Sanctuary at La Escobilla shows what services are available there and some photos of rooms that can be rented.