I've been all over the world but never turtle watching in my own country. That was until last weekend when I got to get up close and personal and experience this natural wonder.
The main nesting season for sea turtles in Trinidad and Tobago (and the wider Caribbean) runs from March to September every year. The beaches on the northern coast of Trinidad is especially popular, in fact beaches such as Matura, Fishing Pond and Grand RiviÈre are prohibited areas during turtle nesting season.
Sea turtles have been an important part of ocean ecosystems for over 100 million years and to me are fascinating creatures. They are after all travellers too, laying eggs on one beach and moving on to another to eventually lay more. Loggerhead, Green, Hawksbill, Olive Ridley and Leatherback sea turtles have all been recorded in the waters of Trinidad and Tobago.
The leatherbacks in particular are considered an endangered species given that sea turtles are increasingly being threatened by extinction due to factors such as illegal poaching, polluted coastal waters, entanglement in fishing nets, dwindling nesting habitats and beachfront lighting and construction.
Special permits are also required for access to nesting locations by locals and foreigners alike. Tours are led at night to educate people on the nesting process and how to treat these endangered species that lay on these shores.
Although they mostly come at night to lay their eggs in the sand, you can still catch a few during early morning sunrise laying their eggs. These leatherback turtles can be as heavy as 2,000 pounds and are specially tagged by a trained team so that they can be tracked on their nesting around the world.
The entire process of watching them come ashore, lay their eggs, properly cover them from predators and return to the ocean seems magical in real life, nothing like I imagined. I'm glad I finally made the time to experience turtle watching and right at home too.