A New Pastime: Turtle Watching
For the last three nights environmentalists/conservationists, turtle watchers, Canadian scientists, forest rangers and curious on-lookers have been flocking to the black sand beaches, stretching from Cabana to Melville Hall, just outside my village, to see leatherback turtles come ashore to nest.
The female turtles come in, dig a whole in which to bury thousands and thousands of eggs and then return to the ocean, leaving the eggs to hatch and the young turtles to brave the elements on their own.
There is much folklore about this natural phenomenon. There are those who point out the dark clouds in the sky, claiming that they are signs of the large amphibian coming ashore. They explain with conviction that when the clouds darken, the rain drizzles heavily and there is some lightning, it means that the creatures are near shore. They also claim that turtles prefer to lay their eggs in the black sands because the heat the sand provides high temperatures during the day to hatch the eggs. I am sure they have stories about the why the turtles come from the Atlantic waters as oppose to calmer Caribbean sea, but I guess I switched off after a while.
Whatever the truth about the natural occurrences that signal the turtles' arrival, people's interest has been heightened. Young and old come in the 100s to see for themselves. They wait long hours too, to get a glimpse of the creatures. Turtles coming on the sand to lay and bury their eggs has happened probably since the formation of the islands but for some strange reason people have taken keen interest in the natural wonder now.
The first night reports indicated that two turtles waited to come ashore until after most of the 100 or so on-lookers had left. The turtles seem to be spooked by the large numbers of people and the noise. The only lucky watchers were the watchers who were patient enough to wait.
For night two, even more people came but only one was seen and it came ashore to lay its eggs in the wee hours of the morning. On the third night I went to see too but in spite of the moonlit beach, several darkenings of the skies and drizzle, I still did not get lucky. The following morning I was told that indeed one had come in for nesting but it was about 2:00am in the morning when it made its appearance.
Check out Rosalie Sea Turtle Initiative (RosTI) the Dominica program for the protection and sustainable use of the sea turtles.