Choosing your cruise excursions is an important decision. Not only do excursions add to your trip costs, but there are also usually many different options to pick from and you only have a short amount of time in each location.
Cruise lines don't always do a great job of explaining what these activities entail either. So, I've taken to sharing my excursion experiences and offering helpful details and a rating in order to make your decision an easier one.
For this post, I'll be reviewing the Save a Sea Turtle Experience in Cozumel, Mexico. Does it sound like a heroic activity? It should ... because it is!
What You'll Find In This Post:
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About The Activity
This experience can be split up into two parts: the first is the saving the turtles activity, and the second is the beach resort time. So let's begin with the most exciting part.
Did you know that some baby sea turtles get stuck in the sand after they hatch? This can happen because they're too weak, a storm came through, they simply start climbing out the wrong way, etc. So the purpose of this excursion is to dig out the babies that have been left behind.
Before I explain what we did, I want to mention that this job is carried out in a safe way for the animals and for the people helping as well. In fact, you work with biologists who explain to you the process of finding these turtles and dig alongside you.
So, you'll start by putting on gloves and getting into several groups. Each group has its own turtle nest to dig up, and these nests have already been located because the biologists have already been watching them. Why do they watch them? Not only are they keeping track of the sea turtle population, but they also have to make sure that all of the baby sea turtles that were able to climb out and get to the ocean have already done so. (That's why this is a seasonal excursion from the end of July to November.)
When your group is ready, you'll take turns digging in the sand in a certain way to not hurt any surviving baby turtles. Some nests might be close to the surface, but others (like ours) are much deeper, so it takes a lot more muscle and full-body movements.
Not only are you searching for baby turtles, but you'll also be taking out any eggs you find so the biologists can count them later and see how many turtles there were in the nest. This allows everyone in the group to find something in the nest as well, since nests have around 80 eggs in them, which is very exciting!
My group found 65+ eggs, one dead baby turtle (it was so sad!) and five live baby turtles. Five baby turtles may not sound like much, but every group in our overall group had more than five surviving babies, which means we saved at least 25 with just a little over an hour of work!
All of the surviving babies will go into a bucket with sand so that the biologists can hold onto them until nightfall. Then they will be released into the ocean and start swimming like the rest of their brothers and sisters! (For a better visual, here's a short video I created about this experience.)
The second portion of the trip is spent at a beach resort area where you'll find a restaurant to eat lunch at and some souvenir shops. One fun activity my husband and I did there was a tequila tasting. We also visited a coffee booth in which we got to try a variety of coffee products before my husband couldn't resist purchasing one of them.
Of course, there's also the beautiful ocean to enjoy just steps away. It's rocky in some parts, which is fun to explore when wearing water shoes, and sandy in others. There are also hammocks and chairs to relax on. After working hard to dig up the baby turtles, I will tell you that lying out in the sun on a hammock by the beach in Cozumel was the perfect ending to a delightful excursion!
We did this excursion during a Carnival cruise in August, but it's possible that other cruise lines also offer this excursion. For example, there's a Norwegian site about it, but it does cost quite a bit more. I've also seen several blogs talk about Royal Caribbean including it as an excursion but was unable to find it on the company's site.
The information below, however, is solely from our Carnival cruise, so if you're going with another cruise line, you'll want to double-check this insight. Additionally, keep in mind that this is a seasonal excursion, so it's only possible from the end of July to early November.
Time: 4 hours
It takes about 30 minutes from the port to the area where you dig for the turtles. You spend about 2 hours saving the turtles (this includes getting off and on the bus, listening to instructions and driving to the next destination). You have about an hour to spend at the beach area, and then it takes roughly 30 minutes to get back to the port.
The bus isn't a super nice or modern one. In fact, it reminded me of the bus you would take on like a Disney World safari ride or something. The windows will likely be open as you drive, so there's no air conditioning. However, there is a way to zip up the plastic that covers the windows (if the plastic is in decent condition) to avoid rain coming in or so you can hear your guide over the wind.
Tip: Don't leave any valuable items on the bus. While the guides and bus driver try to do a great job about watching the items, you never know what could happen!
This price includes the bus drive, a bottle of water, a wet towel after digging, gloves to handle the turtles and eggs and a digital participation certificate. Keep in mind that this money is also used for the bus driver's salary, the guide's salary and your entrance into the beach lounging area.
You have to pay for the photo they take of you with the turtles, but you can also take your own for free.
Anything you pay for at the beach resort spot like lunch or souvenirs is extra.
What To Bring:
Water shoes are a good idea because they can make things easier as you dig for the turtles and it's rocky on certain parts of the beach.
Bring cash if you're considering buying souvenirs or participating in the tequila tasting. Bring a lot of cash if you plan on buying some tequila.
If you plan on swimming at the beach, wear a swimsuit.
If you think you'll get pretty wet at the beach, then bring a towel. You should have time to dry off, however, if you don't want to bring one.
I'm a big animal person, and because of that, I absolutely loved this Mexico excursion! For me and my husband, it was a productive and magical experience, especially when you find a baby turtle that's still alive but couldn't get out of the sand — all of the hard work in the sun was worth it! Of course, if you're not a big animal person, I don't think this should be a top on your excursion list.
If you have kids, they'll probably love this activity! That said, if they're too young to follow the instructions on how to handle the turtles, then it might be difficult at times.
The variety of activities (saving turtles, the tequila tasting, hammocking at the beach) was also perfect for my husband and me, so if variance is what you're into, then this is a good option for you. The cost also makes sense since some of it goes to the nonprofit you're working with to release the turtles into the ocean and you get to go to a resort-like beach area.
With all of this in mind, I am giving the excursion 5/5 stars!