Did you know that the little paradise Caribbean island of Tobago along with its larger brother Trinidad is one of the world’s premier turtle watching destinations? You can see turtles all year round in Tobago whether diving or snorkeling in turquoise clear waters and enjoying the coral reefs. I’m hard pushed to think of anything more awesome than watching turtles return to the beaches where they began life and lay their eggs for the cycle to begin again during turtle nesting season.
The turtle nesting season runs from January until September with most turtles coming ashore between March and June. This Caribbean island is home to three major species of sea turtle including the giant leatherback, the green sea turtle and the hawksbill turtle. Many turtles are endangered species so to watch them come ashore which they only do for nesting is a true privilege and a memory that lasts a lifetime.
To watch a giant leatherback turtle break through the waves and come ashore is humbling. The leatherback turtle is one of the oldest animals on this planet and can weigh up to 2,000 pounds and be as long as 10 ft Just imagine watching that break the waves and make its way slowly and deliberately across the sandy dunes. Despite journeying many thousands of miles over oceans they find their way back to the beach where they were born to lay their eggs. SOS Tobago is a turtle conservation group here aimed at protecting turtles and monitoring them. They do their best to keep the poachers off the beaches so that the turtles are left in peace. Environmental issues of the last years have led to a decrease in the number of leatherback turtles, so the importance of them being left alone to nest cannot be understated.
To watch the female create a pit in which to lay her eggs with her powerful flippers then laying 80-100 eggs is truly amazing. She will then cover and camouflage her nest with sand to try and protect it from predators before she returns to the ocean. Turtles mainly come ashore at night and the whole nesting process can take up to two hours. The same female can return to the beach up to nine times during the breeding.season. If you miss the turtles coming ashore to lay you may have the opportunity to experience the turtle hatchlings arriving 6 weeks after and making their way across the sand to the light of the ocean. The statistics say that 1 in a 100 will make it to adulthood.
Tobago has three prime turtle watching beaches, all of them on the west coast of Tobago. Poolside Apartments is close to all of three. Turtle Beach also known as Courland Bay, Stonehaven Beach and Grafton Beach are just 10 minutes from us and ideal for turtles coming ashore due to the deep water approaching the sand. There are many other beaches frequented by turtles nesting including Grange Bay, Bacolet Beach, Back Bay, Castara Bay and Charlotteville.
Turtle Beach is about a 10 minute drive from Poolside Apartments and is often where leatherback turtles are seen coming ashore, we can usually arrange for a phone call if you wish to see this awesome spectacle. Often you will find a member of SOS Tobago already on the beach making sure the turtles are not harassed by well-meaning tourists and locals and measuring and monitoring the whole process.
Tobago turtles can be easily disturbed when nesting and there are a few basics we ask you to take note of please. No flash photography, this can blind the turtle and confuse them getting back to the sea. Only red flash lights with red LED bulbs should be used and then only behind the turtles. Please keep noise to a minimum and motion. No touching or assisting unless asked for by professional guides who might be on site. If turtles are hatching please be aware as they are easily trodden on at the beach and lastly if you are relaxing on a turtle nesting beach please be careful leaving garbage or sticking things in the sand as you could be on top of a turtle nest!