Paul and Gayle are taking a year from their roles in Picton and Belleville and will be teaching at the Maple Leaf International School in Trinidad. We will use this blog to record some of our edventures!

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Not Just Another Moonlit Walk On The Beach

Sometime in March each year, the Leather Back sea turtles begin their annual migration to the warm waters and course sand beaches in Caribbean Islands to lay their eggs. The unspoiled northwest beaches of Trinidad are among the favorite landing sites.  Before we left Canada, the Nature of Things showed a documentary about Trinidad's sea turtles. We've been looking forward to "Turtle Season" ever since.

One of our teacher colleagues emailed in February that she was organizing a turtle trip so we jumped at it. Upon further consideration, we realized that March 6th was very early in the season and that we'd be very lucky to see turtles.  Despite being less than optimistic, we loaded up the car with another teacher and her mom on Friday after school and started the trek to Grand Riviere.

Trinidad is about 80 km wide if you can draw a straight line.  The road from Maple Leaf International School to Grand Riviere skirts the bottom of the northern mountain range, goes around the eastern end and about 18 km back west.  The total trip is 110 km each way.  In Canada, we'd allow about an hour and half including a stop a Timmy's!  Here, the mountain roads twist and turn. There are lots of pot holes and wash outs.  The trip took over 31/2 hours!  Needless to say, we were very happy to have reached our destination! 

Upon arrival, the owner of the guest house greeted us. She was helping to organize the turtle viewing permits and told us that the sightings that week were quite late and rare. The rest of the teachers and guests arrived, we ate, and settled in after dinner. I was just about to organize a game of cards when our turtle guide showed up at the door.

There was a turtle on the beach!  It was only 8:30!  The chaotic buzz of excitement was palpable as we put on our shoes and grabbed the cameras.

The nearly full moon guided our way to the nearby beach.  Five minutes on the sand and we found her!  Her shell was about 1.5 m long. She was amazing! 

We watched closely as she used her rear flippers to methodically dig a 60cm hole for her eggs.  Within about 10 minutes she was done and entered her trance.  During this time she lays about 50-80 eggs.  After the guide help to measure, insert an RFID chip and clip flipper tags, he showed us the egg chamber as it filled with slippery white orbs that were slightly smaller than tennis balls. Once that was done we were thrilled to learn that we could touch her! Cool!

After about 20 minutes, she started to cover the eggs and camouflage the area.  When she was almost ready to enter the water,  we noticed another turtle coming ashore!

What a treat!  We are hoping to go back in a few weeks to see the hatchlings!

Of course there are more pictures in the gallery!

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