Best Experience So Far, Leatherback Turtle Crawl!!!
13 July 2009 | Levera Beach, North Coast of Grenada
It didn't take long before a huge family of cruisers started bonding! How easy it is when this common ground plays in our favor! Pepe and Big Bear, Lucie and Richard, Pat and Richard, Isabelle and Eric, Margarit, Bernard and Louic and many more, all agreed to take advantage of this time of year when the Leatherback Turtles migrate here to Grenada and to Trinidad to lay their eggs!
Fourteeen of us got together and organized the famous "Cutty" to take us at l0p to Levera National Park at the northeastern most corner of Grenada. Cutty organized and picked up a guide named Dora, near to our destination some two hours away up and over mountains, across valleys all in the dark of course so we had no idea where were were. We stopped just shy of the beach where Dora explained a little about the leatherback turtle species and shared one recorded marathon swim of l6,000 miles in one season. They gain sexual maturity somewhere between 15 and 30 years and their life expectancy is between 80 and 100 years old. On arrival we walked down the very dark beach until we met wardens Kester and Becks. Kester had worked for the last four years protecting his charges. Becks was on a one month stint awaiting the start of her law Degree course at Edinburgh University...How very cool to have this opportunity to study these levethians. Becks said the most she has seen in one night sharing nature's finest act was 27 ladies. Now the average is four this late in the season.
It wasn't long before we spotted our first lady and we had to wait a while for her to get settled in before we were allowed to approach her. We were only allowed to use red light torches so as not to put off any other 'moms' that might journey up the beach, nor do they want to interfere with any babies en route to the sea should we be lucky enough to see any hatchlings that would choose tonight for their epic struggle for life.
Our lady was called WC#5573 as her tag stated. Becks and Kester on midwife duty recorded her statistics, measuring 1.83m in shell length and l.l8m wide. Dora claimed she was not a big leatherback by any means. They saw our lady was digging too close to another nest so they began gently filling in as she was methodically digging her spot. This digging and filling finally inched our lady far enough away from the existing nest for her to begin laying her eggs. Once she began dropping her eggs, which were the size of tennis balls and very 'leathery', funny that, eh, Becks caught them and dropped them in the bucket. Our lady was now in a trance-like state and we were allowed to stroke her and touch her flippers if we choose. WE CHOSE! Very, very cool. Being so close to the mammoth gentle giants from the deep was truly the most remarkable and sensational event of this journey. We will never ever forget this special night.
While we watched our lady use her powerful flippers to fill the hole and neatly pat it down we watched other 'moms' approach. We all were crowding so close to the 'action' that we didn't mind the rain of sand she was 'splashing' in every direction. Sadly it was time to leave. We had to make our way gently back down the beach, not knowing where the nests were and we watched as Becks and Kester repostitioned her eggs in a new spot not far from the place she'd chosen initially. Kester and Becks had their work cut out because two more moms began their path up the beach as we were leaving and they had to begin their documentation and research on these two new arrivals. Just then someone spotted a wee tot climbing to the surface from it's nest, which obviously paved the way for it's siblings. Who knew we'd see both the laying of and hatching of baby leatherbacks in this one evening.. WOW. Kester was now rushing between us, the ladies and the babies, where we were allowed to guide these youngins to the sea with our red lamps. I was successful in turning a wee one in the right direction a couple of times until a wave finally reached him or her and off in the dark night for who knows what fate would lie ahead. Statistics are not good.
We got back to Altair at 0130, too excited to sleep. I immediately got on-line to research these amazing creatures.
WHAT AN AMAZING, SPECTACULAR AND REMARKABLE EXPERIENCE!
Love to All our Family! Dudley and Bec