Our family was introduced to the turtle project two years ago when my wife Louise dragged us all off to the Hilton beach in the middle of the night to follow members of the Barbados Turtle project as they hosted a turtle watch. At first I was not particularly enthused, although on the bright side I had zero chance of getting sunburn. As we learned more about these fascinating, ancient and vulnerable creatures we became hooked. The highlight of our evening arrived when the sand beneath our guide's feet started to erupt with hatch-lings. He had unknowingly been standing on a nest site and was forced to remain absolutely still as they crawled over his feet and 'flippered' towards the sea!
Since then we have been attending turtle watches whenever we are able.
Sometimes a nest of sea turtle hatch-lings may get confused, and instead of hatching at night they will hatch during the day. In these cases, the BSTP will carefully collect the hatch-lings, place them in a dark moist container, and then release them that same night.
If you are interested, you can sign up to be notified when the BSTP are having a "turtle release", or you can check their Facebook page.
During the release, in support of their efforts, the BSTP staff also have some very cool t-shirts and pins for sale.
Interestingly, the sea turtles that tourists swim with while on various west coast catamaran cruises are in fact themselves tourists! They are green turtles which have probably hatched in Costa Rica. They spend their days hanging out on our shores, feeding and having their pictures taken by visiting paparazzi - what a life! they are stars on the west coast of Barbados and don't even know it.
Our family's most recent participation in a turtle release was a few weeks ago at the Drill Hall beach next to the Barbados Hilton Hotel. Earlier in the day a nest had unusually and unexpectedly hatched in the morning during daylight hours. The BSTP were called, they collected the hatchlings and kept them safe until they could be released at night.
A large crowd of us gathered in the dark with three buckets of energetic hatchlings ready to go, and I mean ready, those little things were moving! As we made our way to the launch site one of our party noticed a baby turtle in the sand. Our first thought was that it had accidentally fallen out of the bucket, we quickly found more and realized that a nest had hatched nearby. There were many red land crabs in the area who were actively pursuing and hunting the turtles. Several small skirmishes developed as we separated crabs from their turtle meal. I managed to rescue two turtles from certain digestion by tapping the crabs on their back causing them to drop their meal and defend themselves. The turtles were o.k. and we added them to the growing collection about to be released on the beach.
Check out the BSTP's Faq for more fascinating sea turtle facts...
Only one in a 1000 turtles makes it back to nest in the area near where they hatched, with any luck it will be one of the turtles I prevented from becoming a crab's dinner!