Sea Turtle Spectacle
In this three-part series, writer Bret Love explores the natural beauty and abundant wildlife of Dominica, a tiny ecotourism paradise in the Caribbean. Part One: Witnessing a spectacle of nature on the beach.
Bret Love and Mary Gabbett of GreenGlobalTravel visited the tiny, unknown island of Dominica in the Caribbean and discovered an unspoiled ecotourism paradise of outdoor adventure, incredible wildlife and pristine beauty. The remote island is ideal for travellers seeking sustainable pleasures off the beaten path. This is Part One of a three-part series from their Dominica Journal.
She’s arguably the most gorgeous thing I’ve ever seen on a beach. A bit larger than my usual taste, perhaps, but there’s something tremendously compelling about her sheer mass that refuses to let my eyes be drawn away from her body. Her legs are thick as tree trunks, but solid with muscle; her neck tense from the strain of her efforts. As the light of the full moon illuminates her backside, I realize I’ve rarely been so excited.
I’m standing on the black sand beach at Rosalie Bay Resort, an ecotourism haven tucked away on the east side of the Caribbean island of Dominica, right where the tranquil Rosalie River meets the crashing waves of the Atlantic Ocean. It’s around 8:30 p.m., and my partner Mary and I came rushing down from the resort’s restaurant after being told about this beautiful behemoth. The lady in question is a six-foot long, 1,000-pound leatherback turtle, and she is currently in the process of laying her eggs in a hole she dug in the sand, approximately 12 inches across and 18 inches down.
We’re here with two volunteers from the Rosalie Sea Turtle Initiative, which was launched by the resort in 2003 to help protect these endangered species from poachers (who eat turtles and their eggs), and which has proven a leading light in environmental conservation on Dominica. As “Nature Enhancement Team” leader Simon George notes the turtle’s size and distinguishing marks in a journal, his assistant sits near her rear end, waiting for the tennis ball-sized white eggs to begin dropping. As they do, he gathers them up and puts them into a plastic bag so they can be moved further up the beach (above the high water line) and buried in a safer spot until they’re ready to hatch and be ushered down to the sea.
In the course of an hour, she drops more than 100 eggs, including a few smaller “spacers” that help prevent them from being crushed. Once she’s finished, she uses her massive front flippers to throw sand over the hole, moving in a complete circle around it to completely camouflage the fact that she was ever there. Then, breathing heavily and pausing every few steps to rest, the monolithic mama makes her way back into the sea, with us and four other lucky spectators cheering her on every step of the way.