If you have booked a vacation to the hotel this summer, chances are high that you will either spot a mother sea turtle crawling ashore at night to lay her eggs in the sand, or possibly see the baby turtles hatching and make their way to sea.
Mel, our turtle expert from the Oracabessa Turtle Project, has already come in a few times to mark the nests and track the expected hatchling dates.
A turtle’s journey
From the time the Leatherback sea turtle slowly makes her way ashore and finds the perfect spot on the beach to lay her eggs, you should realize the thousands of miles she has traveled. Turtles will always return to the same beach each year to nest, but usually it is also the same beach on which she hatched!
Sea turtles will most often only nest at night, but occasionally you may see some nest during daylight. Sometimes the turtle will crawl out of the ocean, but for unknown reasons decide not to nest. This is called a “false crawl” and it can happen naturally or be caused by artificial lighting or the presence of people on the beach. Most turtles will nest at least twice during nesting season, although some species may nest only once and others more than ten times. Sea turtles are generally slow and awkward on land, and nesting is exhausting work.
Digging the nest
Once the female turtle has found the spot where she will lay her eggs, she begins to construct a “body pit” by digging with her flippers and rotating her body. After the body pit is complete, she digs an egg cavity using her cupped rear flippers as shovels. The egg cavity is shaped roughly like a tear drop.
As the process of nesting and laying her eggs is so sensitive for the sea turtle, Mel cautions guests to please be careful and not use lights or flashes on cameras or cell phones as it may disturb the turtle.
Our Security guards and Beach patrol are trained to know how to react around the turtle and to wait patiently until she leaves so that the area can be marked properly. They will then call Mel Tennant to mark the area and track the dates.
Approximately 60 days from the nesting, the turtle hatchlings are expected to emerge. Because we have such a certain idea of when this will happen, we will let our in-house guests know ahead of time, so they can take part in the experience of releasing the baby turtles to the sea.
You will get to play a part in helping us prepare the beach by raking the area from the nest to the sea to flatten out the “bumps” in the sand. Mel will inspect all of the baby turtles and those that are deemed “healthy” are placed on the sand where they then waddle their way to the ocean. Some of the hatchlings may not be ready and are placed back into the nest for another 24-48 hours.
Many guests are now booking over certain times in the summer so that they can be here to witness this spectacular experience.
Stay tuned to our Facebook page as we post pictures when we can. If you have any pictures of the experience, please feel free to share them with us!