As a child, my parents took me to see the leatherback turtles on Matura beach in my homeland of Trinidad. It was an experience that has traveled with me through all my years. I would recant my adventures to my husband over and over again about the times when I was a wee little thing running along the beach with my older brother stopping to watch these majestic creatures come ashore to lay their eggs at night.
After over 20 years of stories and memories, I finally arranged the trip of a lifetime for myself and my husband. I was going to share an experience with him that would change his life and alter his view on what people can be capable of.
This is my gal, Lulu. I named her Lulu because she hangs out in the red light district of Matura Beach in Trinidad. Lulu came ashore to lay her 80-120 eggs in hopes of them hatching and coming back to Matura with eggs of their own. You see, leatherback turtles come back to the same beach they were born on to nest, if they make it to adulthood that is. That means that Lulu was born here and returned to her familiar spot to lay her eggs.
The only way to see the leatherback turtles in Trinidad is with a licensed guide. Back in my youth, you could just mosey on over and walk along the beach for viewing. Not anymore!!! You need to purchase a license and come out here with an official guide. The fine for not complying with this is great and can also involve jail time. Why the sudden change to such strict rules? Well, leatherback turtles are highly endangered. They face many predators such as opossums, dogs, birds, and many sea creatures as well. The most deadly though is man. People think they are cute and pick them up, disorienting them from getting to the sea. Lights distract these 1000 pound mamas from coming ashore and laying their eggs. The red lights we used were safe though. A turtle has a 5 day period to lay or her eggs are let go in the sea and it is a wasted clutch. Fishermen hack up these beautiful creatures for bait, even the babies. Ignorant people chop them up for stews and soups. The females get caught in nets on their way to shore to lay. This breaks my heart. All they want to do is come to shore, lay their eggs, and head back to sea.
Conservation of this extraordinary giant is necessary if we want future generations to have the chance of enjoying these amazing creatures in nature. Educating people and putting laws into place (and enforcing these laws) will keep these creatures safe from human hands. These giants have inhabited the earth for millions of years, for humans to wipe them out as bait or soup makes me sick to my stomach. Protecting nature should be a priority so that you can one day bring your spouse or kids or grandkids to see the leatherback turtles of Matura Beach in Trinidad.
1 in every 1000 eggs make it to adulthood. Lulu is that 1! Ain’t she a beauty!?! :)
Small side note: No turtles were harmed in the making of this post :) Turtles go into a trance when laying eggs. They don’t see you at all or feel you touching them. The only time that the guides allow you to touch or even get near the turtles is when she is actively laying and in the trance. Even then, you should not approach the turtles from the front (head) and you should not flash bright lights at them.
Details for Leatherback Turtle Viewing in Trinidad & Tobago
Toco Main Road
Trinidad and Tobago
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