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Nesting of the Giant Leatherback Turtles, Grand Riviere, Trinidad
This weekend, my husband, daughter and I took a road trip to the north coast of Trinidad for the nesting of the giant leatherback turtles in the village of Grand Riviere. From about May through August, thousands of giant leatherbacks return to the beach on Grand Riviere to lay their eggs -- currently, between 300 to 500 come ashore each night, each of them laying between 80 to 100 eggs in each nest.
It's an amazing experience to watch these giant reptiles lumber ashore to find the perfect spot for their nests. It is illegal to go on the beach at night without the company of a certified guide and payment of a license fee -- however, the nominal fee is well worth the excursion. Guides take groups of people out onto the beach with the help of a red light (regular flashlights disorient the turtles), and each guide is trained and knowledgeable about anything you'd ever want to learn about the turtles -- the fact that it is believed that the turtles return to the beach on which they were hatched; that they generally love the waters of the arctic and northern oceans, and actually travel thousands of miles to the Caribbean and South America to lay their eggs, so that the warm sands provide the proper temperature for incubation; and that while they seem clumsy on land, they are incredibly fast in the ocean, able to outswim sharks, and dive deeper than whales.
Because flashbulbs are prohibited at night, it can be very difficult to photograph the turtles after sundown; however, in the morning at dawn, the most intrepid of turtlewatchers can return to the beach to catch the last glimpse of the last of the turtles finishing their nests and returning to sea. The photos you see here were taken yesterday morning at dawn.
Vulture, waiting to scavenge for turtle eggs, or worse, new hatchlings.
Giant leatherback patting down her nest, before returning to sea.
On her way home.