Saturday, May 12, 2012

Up Close to the Leatherback Turtles in Dominica

Getting up close to two very large leatherback turtles on a beach in Dominica, as they made their way to shore in an attempt to make a nest and lay their eggs, was a pretty amazing and special experience on my recent trip.

After Springer and Lynne managed to see turtles making their nests and laying eggs in Trinidad, and being so blown away by their experience, a group of us hired a driver after the cricket in Roseau, and were driving across the island country to Rosalie Bay and the eco resort there.

Getting to the Bay, were we taken down to the black sand of the volcanic beach, and trekked around in the dark for a bit, with the waves lapping, in search of some turtles. In between wandering the beach, our guide, Simon, told us how the turtles land on the beach, somehow drag themselves up to a safe place to lay their eggs. Going into a trace once they have picked the spot, they make a deep hole before delivering some 90 eggs, before filling the hole again. She will then set up a dummy laying site, to try and put any predators of her eggs off the trial.

Finding nothing on these first walks, we took the time to sit and wait while Simon scoured some more. Here, we were sitting under the stars, with the moon and palm trees aloft, in serenity with all but the waves continuing to come in. So amazing.

Just when the group was just about giving up for the night, disappointed, Simon returned from a final look down further on the beach, and reported back that there was a turtle. We followed him down, carefully, over seaweed and water, and there she was.

She was struggling, after the effort of getting up onto the beach at the waters edge. She was huge! This beautiful animal trying to complete her mission of the night.

Simon told us that she was clearly disorientated and that she was trying to get back into the water, as laying that close to the water was not safe. Plus she was too spend to make her way further up the beach at this time. We watched from a safe distance as she maneuvered herself back around, and into the water, and away.

As we walked along further, we came across another. So big! Here on the beach, and again, very close to the water. This one seemed to be trying to set up her nest right there, which Simon was very worried about. Again, we watched her for a bit, before she too decided to heave herself back towards the water, and away again, having not managed to find the right conditions for her egg laying mission.

These beautiful giants of the sea were actually fairly young turtles in the scheme of laying according to our guide and turtle-watching data recorder, one of them a new visitor to the beach, perhaps seeking to complete her first lay of eggs.

I was hoping that having a group of us watching them did not detract them from their mission, but Simon assured us that that wasn't the case. He was confident that these ladies would swim around, rest for a bit, and then return to the beach over the next few hours to try again. While we were making our way back over the mountains to Roseau, very wowed and happy that we had seen these amazing, massive creatures out there in the night on the beach.

Thanks to Kim for the use of her amazing photo from the night.

1 comment:

  1. What a beautiful experience. So glad you got to see the turtles and learn about them.


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