Our African shores are vast and like our wonderful land, hold many treasures. We are so lucky living here, exposed to all this from a young age. I travelled recently to the magical island of Madagascar. Wow – what a spot! Completely unique, there can’t be anywhere in the world like it. I wasn’t able to get to mainland Madagascar as I had limited time so I visited a couple of the islands off the north-west coast. One of these was the tropical paradise of Nosy Iranja!
Here I got to witness one of natures’ ocean miracles – the massive Green Turtle laying her eggs, and the birth of babies! We were woken one night by a hammering on our door at around 12:30am and didn’t know what was going on. Once we had woken up, orientated ourselves in the pitch dark and found our clothing, we were silently marched down to the ocean. It was tropical and warm in Madagascar, even though we were visiting at the end of the rainy season.
I must say, I wasn’t really sure what to expect, still trying to wake myself up. So when we arrived at the scene, I was totally shocked by the size of the turtle now suddenly in front of us! She was 3 feet (1m) long and 4 feet (1.2m wide)! She was huge…..and there she was, having dug this massive pit in the sand with her flippers to lay her eggs, now trying to now cover it up. It seemed like a hugely laborious process. They are elegant swimmers but not made for land, and with only flippers and a weight of as much as 700lbs (300kgs), digging pits and covering them is not the easiest of tasks. The whole process can take a few hours. Once the eggs are laid she silently makes her way back to the ocean. She lays 100 – 200 eggs which take about 2 months to hatch.
The hatching time is actually one of the most dangerous times. The babies are such easy prey for a multitude of predators which include crabs and gulls. It’s the most wonderful experience watching these tiny hatchlings pop out the sand and miraculously find their way to the ocean. They are so minute they cannot even see the ocean when they hatch, yet instinctively they know which way to go. And they don’t make a mistake! This is their most vulnerable time.
They are endangered, Green Turtles, with humans being one of their biggest threats! There is a sanctuary at Iranja that monitors and keeps data on all the turtles using the beach to nest. This is good work and will help conserve these ancient sea creatures for years to come. South Africa is also home to some wonderful Turtle experiences in the Kwa-Zulu Natal area. If you want to learn a little more and see some super footage – I found this clip which is worth the watch!