"Time to get up, you're going to miss the light!"
The words pulled me out of a deep but brief sleep on the first day of my visit to Jiquilisco Bay, El Salvador. To call my condition at that moment "disoriented" would be an understatement. Luckily, I managed to gather my thoughts quickly enough not to fall out of my hammock onto the sand.
The wake-up call came from Alexander Gaos, executive director of the Eastern Pacific Hawksbill Initiative (known by its Spanish acronym, ICAPO) and a driving force behind one of the world's most exciting sea turtle conservation programs.
We had spent most of the previous night looking for hawksbill turtles around the bay; an hour before daylight, we had arrived at the ICAPO hatchery, where I'd found an empty hammock and managed a short nap. The hatchery is a key tool that ICAPO uses to protect turtles, a safe place where the eggs can be watched under optimal conditions until they hatch.
I pulled out my camera and went to meet three female hawksbills that the local staff was holding in preparation for their role in a scientific research program. After a few minutes, we learned that hatchlings had recently emerged and were about to be released into the bay. Once I had reached the limits of my companions' patience for taking photos of one sleepy hatchling, we hopped in a boat to head back to our base, the small island of La Pirraya.