Sunday, June 6, 2010

Grand Riviere and its turtles

At night, on the beach at Grand Riviere, if you’re lucky, while you’re staring out at the waves crashing, suddenly, out of the white fluff, a giant, dark beast will appear and start climbing toward you. With some imagination, it feels like a scary movie, maybe even a nightmare, as the beast, painfully slowly, ascends up the beach. You have time to move, but the beast is mesmerizing—the closest thing to a dinosaur you’ll see. But then, the beast ambles past you and you realize you were merely standing in the way of her prehistoric instincts.

Leatherback turtles are endangered—their numbers have declined rapidly in recent years. This is despite the fact that the moms lay about 40 ping-pong ball eggs at a time.

Every few years, they dig giant holes with giant flippers and then spend hours camouflaging to protect their young from trespassers before returning to the sea.

These turtles can swim about a mile straight down. Their shells are flexible enough to withstand the change in pressure, when many of their predators cannot survive it. They also return to the same place where they were born to lay their own eggs, about thirty years later. (Last August we went to Matura to see the babies!) The biggest ones have about a ten foot diameter while average ones are about six.

The drive there is long, but beautiful.
We stayed at a cute little hotel right on the water that provided knowledgeable guides to tell us about the turtles while not disturbing them. (These pictures are our friend Tom’s, since this was mere hours after we’d finished the 20 mile hike and standing, not photographing, was my priority.)

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