Heading north on Trinidad.
Grande Riviere Travel Blog› entry 26 of 27 › view all entries
June 27th, 2008 – by: gopackjo
Today I woke up early enough to do a leisurely job of packing. It was still pretty early, so I hopped in the rental car for a little drive. I drove down to Pigeon Point to check it out, and then headed back to the airport. I dropped off the car, and ended up giving away a half a tank of gas back to the rental agency. Oh well, that was about $8 down the drain. It could have been worse.
The Air China 747 was now parked on the tarmac at the Crown Point airport, so that means the Chinese delegation is doing the T&T two-fer. The Caribbean Airlines plane was a different model, a Canadian built Dash 8, so that was a bit interesting. The flight was a short 15 minutes, and the sky was partly cloudy, so the views of the ground were very good.
My plan was to first head east along the Eastern Main Road to Toco, then to head west along the north coast to Grande Riviere. Grande Riviere is among the best places inb the world to view Leatherback Sea Turtles laying their eggs. I have been very close to a few places that were know as 'turtle beaches' before, but have never seen the process. So I was very anxious to observe the whole thing.
I arrived at the hotel in the early afternoon, and found a hotel right on the beach. One thing that I discovered is that hotels on Trinidad were certainly more expensive than the ones on Tobago, and I paid more then double what I had budgeted for the hotel here.
Shortly after that, the power went off. I checked into things, and the outage was city-wide. I waited for a while, and then decided to take a drive to the end of the road at Matelot to kill some time. I picked up a hitchhiker on the way, and we talked about life in Trinidad while we made our way west. There were several really questionable bridges along the way that were very fun to cross, and the views of the coast were outstanding.
I was having some real trouble understanding my passengers Caribbean-accented English, but picked up most of it. There was a fisherman's festival taking place tomorrow along the north coast, and that certainly explains the hotel's insistence that I leave before tomorrow.
I went down to check out the beach, and was struck by the massive amounts of empty turtle eggshells. The beach was very broad. The waves were crashing onto the shore of the shallow bay with great power, and the sand along the shore rose almost two meters before leveling off into a massively disturbed looking mess of sand. Apparently, this is an ideal beach for turtle nesting. They love the extra push of the waves to come ashore, and the wide stretch of sand is great for digging in and laying those eggs.
At 6pm I headed over to the tour guide association headquarters to register for my guide for the night.
I take a nap to deaden the anticipation of my turtle tour. I wake up at about 8:30pm and head outdoors. The beachfront is alive with activity, and there are red lights off in the distance along the water. I hook up with a tour, and there are four massive Leatherbacks very near us in different stages of the procedure. The turtles hitting the beach in the surf is an amazing sight. You'll be looking somewhere else and hear the surf crash.
Once ashore the female turtles use their big front flippers to maneuver around and prepare an area of sand. Once they are comfortable they start to dig with the rear flippers. We centered on watching one Leatherback that was digging her hole. It was amazing how effective the process was. The hole was at least a meter deep, and this particular hole was dug in the same spot as a previous hole. Because of this the eggs from the previous nest were destroyed.
According to the guide, this happens alot on this beach. There is only so much space in this ideal location, and there is bound to be overlapping. The eggs are then laid. They are soft eggs, a little bigger then a ping pong ball, and a Leatherback will lay about 80 of them in one nest.
Because the season is well underway, the beach is also the sight on many little Leatherback hatchlings. Upon hatching, the tiny turtles have to make the harrowing journey to the sea. It is estimated that only 1 in 500 turtles make it to adulthood, and this beach journey is a tough one for the young ones.
Many people find babies along the beach and we are told that we can help them, but the turtles have to make the last bit into the sea on their own. If they do not do this they are not likely to make the trip back to nest later in life. It is really amazing that any turtles make it at all. They are sooooo little.
Of course flash photography is right out during the night, but the guides advise us that we can get up very early in the morning to observe the evenings end. We may be able to get some photos in the morning light if we do this. I set my alarm for 5:15am and head to bed at about 11pm.
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