About Us

Tortugas Playa Venao, AKA Save The Turtles Playa Venao, is a Non-Profit (OBC -Organización con Base Comunitaria = Community Based Organization) registered in the Regional Offices of MIAMBIENTE in Las Tablas as “Tortugas Playa Venao” dedicated to helping revitalization, increasing the survival rate, and conservation of marine turtles – mostly Olive Ridleys (Lepidochelys olivacea). We achieve our results by developing community programs and outreach activities, involving local & international volunteers, in an effort to raise awareness of sea turtle conservation in Playa Venao, Panama and around the world.

Sea turtles play a key role in the marine ecosystem at global level, especially because some species exhibit a migratory pattern traversing the national boundaries of many countries. But, they are facing threats including: poachers, natural predators, pathogens, unsustainable coastal development, and climatic change. Worldwide low numbers indicate these species will not survive unless efforts are put in place to conserve the marine ecosystems, especially those considered as key habitats. It is our duty as guardians of nature to make a change and protect nature so that animals, plants and humankind may all live in harmony.

Tortugas Playa Venao was founded by Scott Crystal  at the end of 2020 with the aim to protect one of Panama’s most vital nesting sites for the Olive Ridley Sea Turtles. Over time, a group of local and international volunteers developed. We are committed to the care and conservation of sea turtles through protection initiatives, public education, and regenerative tourism. Over the past two years, we built three nurseries with over 300 nests relocated for a better chance to live. Ultimately, our dream is to increase the survival rate for these majestic creatures and ensure their return to this beach for all the years to come.

Our Founders

Scott Crystal, Founder of Tortugas Playa Venao

Scott Crystal’s journey is a fusion of diverse experiences and a deep love for the arts, nature, and culture. Hailing from the picturesque state of Maine, Scott’s early life was a canvas for his diverse passions. He’s a proud alumnus of Tufts University and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, where he honed his artistic prowess. Today, Scott is not only a practicing artist, but also the co-founder and Vice President of American Translation Partners.

A multifarious individual with a chameleon-like adaptability, Scott’s interests span fine art, poetry, culinary arts, languages, and literature. His love for nature ignited his desire to make a positive impact.

Polly Chan, Co-Founder of Tortugas Playa Venao

Polly Chan’s remarkable journey began when she moved from Hong Kong to Panama at a very young age. A graduate of Tufts University and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Polly is a testament to the potential of a bi-cultural upbringing. Today, she serves as the President at American Translation Partners, combining her love for language, culture, and art with her professional expertise.

Polly’s life took an extraordinary turn when she met Scott Crystal, her future husband, at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. Together, they decided to provide their daughter Clara with a bilingual education, leading her back to Panamá.

The COVID-19 pandemic, which locked Scott, Polly, and Clara down in Panama City, became the catalyst for their transformative journey. The months of confinement in their city apartment being too much to bear, they made their way to the tranquil surfing and fishing community of Playa Venao on Panamá’s Azuero Peninsula. It was there, laying on the beach under the starlit sky, that Scott witnessed the miracle of a mother turtle laying her eggs. This profound moment awakened his resolve to protect these magnificent creatures. Thankfully, Polly and Clara were equally enthusiastic and the passion project of Tortugas Playa Venao was born.
Despite lacking a scientific background, Polly and Scott’s shared dedication and passion have transformed them into staunch advocates for sea turtle conservation and resulted in the success of Tortugas Playa Venao. Since their arrival in Playa Venao just a couple of years ago, they have established a sea turtle nursery and saved countless turtles with the help of enthusiastic volunteers and community support. Tortugas Playa Venao has also received grants to expand their efforts, including community educational programs and eco-tours, aiming to create a harmonious balance between nature’s wonders and our world. They are currently expanding their conservation efforts to help protect three local species of monkeys through the construction of “monkey bridges” across the main thoroughfare.
Scott and Polly’s journey is a testament to the power of determination and love for nature, and their commitment to educating future generations underscores their far-reaching impact.

Take Action

Get Involved

Although sea turtle nesting is seasonal, our work with conservation, education, and community outreach is year-round. Click below to see ways you can get involved!




Visit Us

Getting Here

By Car

Playa Venao is about a 4.5 hour drive from Panama City. If you’re flying into Panama City’s Tocumen Airport you can rent a car for an easy drive. The closest major town is Pedasi. In Pedasi you can rent a car from AutosPanama.net +507-6662-4418

By Shuttle

Take Beach Break Shuttle from Panama City or or the airport and relax on the trip. Book your ride in advance by contacting ShuttleBeachBreak.com or +507-6927-9611

By Bus

Take a $10 bus from Panama City to Las Tablas from the Albrook bus terminal. The bus trip should take about 4.5 hours. In Las Tablas, either catch the 1:30PM bus to Playa Venao or take a taxi for $35-40.