Come Watch with Us…

One of Nature’s most Fertile Rituals..

Vampire Diaries heartthrob Ian Somerhalder, gave up his busy Hollywood schedule and snuck into Trinidad and Tobago a few years ago just to catch a glimpse of one of the world’s most precious spectacles, that of a mother giving birth.

With the help of a local conservation group, Somerhalder joined other men and women huddled against the brisk sea breeze for an opportunity to witness a sacred nocturnal reproductive ritual that is not hidden away in a hospital.

Each year from March to August, hundreds of endangered leatherback turtles leave the embrace of their watery habitat to give birth, dragging heavy bodies filled with new life, onto powdery soft sand beaches of Trinidad and Tobago’s coastline. Often surrounded by awed humans during their most private moments, these gentle reptilian mommies dig deep nests into which they lay hundreds of glistening white eggs as moisture that resembles tears, fall from their eyes.

Leatherbacks are just one of five species of marine turtle that nest on Trinidad and Tobago’s beaches, but the gentleness of these gigantic pre-historic creatures, who ensure the continuance of the species with a new generation, continue to tug at the heart strings of animal lovers and conservationists.

In Trinidad, the protected beaches of Matura and Grande Riviere are considered two of the most important leatherback nesting sites in the world, positioning the island as one of a few places on earth where these living dinosaurs lay.

Meet a Dinosaur

For most people meeting a living dinosaur is the stuff of movies and science fiction, but in Trinidad and Tobago from March to August you can do just that. More than just a once-in-a-lifetime experience, a turtle watching getaway to these islands offers both a history lesson into one of the world’s oldest living creatures and a front row seat to their reproductive rituals. From spotting the giant shadows as they rise from the deep ocean, to meeting a docile dinosaur on soft sand as she digs her birth pit, it’s an amazing experience for everyone, not only the rich and famous.

Before planning a trip, there are few important things to note. Firstly, visitors should book their tours and a hotel for the night as early as possible. For locals, that shouldn’t pose a problem, but for out-of-towners, there are several options, from swank to simple, as turtle watching primarily takes place at remote locations and well after sunset, as this is when the turtles come ashore.

During the turtle nesting season the laying sites are protected and require a permit, issued by the Forestry Division, to be accessed. It is also recommended that all visitors engage the service of a tour guide.  An experienced and reputable tour guide can arrange permits and direct you on how best to enjoy the experience without destroying fragile nests or engaging in behaviour that disturbs or frightens the turtles.

Secondly, wear comfortable clothing that will keep you warm in the wee hours of the morning or save you from insect bites. Thirdly, while taking photos of these elusive beings is permissible, flash photography is strictly prohibited as the light can cause the turtles to panic and abandon their nests.

Turtle watchers should also be prepared to be as quiet and still as possible, to avoid startling the turtles. And for the lucky visitors who may happen to witness hatchlings coming out of their birth pit and feel the need to help the wee ones along, please don’t.  No matter how darling and vulnerable they seem, these tiny babies are well-equipped with their own internal GPS and for thousands of years have been making their way home, on their own.

Turtle Watching Info:

Types of sea turtles:

  • Leatherbacks
  • Hawksbills
  • Green Turtles
  • Olive Ridleys
  • Loggerheads

For more information on obtaining permission to turtle watch please visit:

Nature Seekers

Papa Bois Conservation

Turtle Village Trust

Information on obtaining Turtle Watching permits can be found here.

 

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