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Turtle Watching—It’s The Thing To Do This Weekend

by Lou-Ann Jordan Jun 7, 2019

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Photo courtesy J’s Tours

If you’re looking for something to do over the weekend, we’ve got the perfect activity—turtle watching.  If you haven’t done it before, this is the year to do so.  It’s a fantastic experience, one which you can only look on at with awe.

It’s remarkable that these huge amniotes make their way across the ocean, come ashore on our beaches and using their rear flippers, dig nests approximately 18” deep.

Since March, and through to August the female leatherbacks appear on Caribbean shores having engaged in their seasonal migratory journey.  Nomadic, marine animals, the largest living sea turtles, they cover great distances between their breeding and feeding areas.  The leatherbacks swim the Atlantic Ocean laying their eggs on various beaches throughout the region.

Throughout the islands, significant measures have been taken by local authorities to protect the creatures.  However, it is sad to know that pollution, climate change, and human predators are causing their numbers to dwindle.  The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List identifies the leatherback turtles as vulnerable.  IUCN’s classification means the leatherbacks face a high risk of extinction in the immediate future.

That is truly unfortunate, as anyone who has ever witnessed the marine turtles in action knows the sheer wonder they experience as they become party to this pre-historic ritual. Still, all is not lost as knowledge is power.

So, let’s review some amazing facts about our friendly visitors, who loyally return to our shores.  And, in case you’re wondering, why do they?  It’s a well-known fact that leatherbacks, when nesting, return to the shores on which they hatched.

Photo courtesy J’s Tours

Amazing facts about Female Leatherback Sea Turtles

  • Weighs between 660 pounds to 1,500 pounds.
  • They can grow to between four feet and nine feet in length.
  • Jellyfish is their main diet. Their jaws would be damaged by a diet of anything other than soft-bodied animals.
  • Mainly nests every two or three years. Instances of annual nesting are possible, but not common.
  • They nest up to seven times during the season with an interval of approximately 10 days.
  • At each nesting lays an average of 80 fertilised eggs, and 30 unfertilised eggs.
  • The eggs take six to eight weeks to hatch.
  • They live up to 50 years when in the wild.
  • Unlike other marine turtles, their shell is soft, flexible, and leathery.

In Trinidad, you can visit the beaches at Matura, Toco or Grande Riviere to view the nesting.  At all three locations, the tours are supervised, and a permit is required.  The licenses can be acquired at the sites, or through the Forestry Division of the Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries.

You can also book a tour guide; the guide will take care of all permits and fees on your behalf.

Here are a few things to keep in mind before you visit the turtles.

No flash cameras are allowed. The flash of the camera can blind the turtle.

Refrain from making loud noises. Especially around the nesting site, keep things quiet so as not to disturb the turtles.

No drinking at the nesting site. Alcohol consumption at the site is strictly forbidden.

Do not litter. The anti-littering policy is to be strictly observed.

Wear dark clothing.  Also, a sweater is a good idea as it can be cold.

Enjoy your turtle-watching trip, and do let us know if you enjoyed the experience.

 

Sources: World Wild Life, Britannica, and National Geographic