Leatherbacks In The Morning, Heading South In The Afternoon.

Grande Riviere Travel Blog

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The night's last egg-laying Leatherback heads back to the sea.
Hello All,

It was raining like crazy last night, and the sound of the rain pounding against the hotel roof was very loud.  My alarm went off at 5:15am, andit sounded like it was pouring out.  I relaxed in bed waiting for the rain to stop, but it wouldn't.  The sound would get quiet as the rain tapered off, then it would come right back.  I finally decided that rain or not, this was my only morning here to see the Leatherback Turtles in the daylight so I was heading out.

The rain was actually very light, although the heat and humidity was very uncomfortable.  I guess I should have looked out my balcony door to check on the situation.  Then I would have had alot more morning viewing of the turtles.  I got out to the beach just in time to see the last female Leatherback smooth out her nesting site and head back into the Caribbean.
Another shot of the night's last Leatherback. I wish these pictures would have turned out better.
 It was certainly an amazing thing to see in the daylight, and I was able to get a few pictures before she crashed back into the surf.

The big attraction of the morning was the many little Leatherbacks that were hatching and attempting to make their way to the water.  These little turtles are adorable, and they look like little wind-up toys the way their front flippers work tirelessly to move them.  It was at this point that I realized why the little turtles journey is so difficult.  I looked around and noticed dozens of large black vultures patrolling the beach looking for food.  Oh my God!

This realization made me sick to my stomach so I searched around for as many of the little turtles as possible, and at the same time tried to chase away the multitude of vultures.
The only baby turtle shot that really turned out.
 Now I know that vultures are also animals, and that they are just doing what their instints are telling them to do.  I don't fault them for that, but of course we humans want to save cute babies.  That's why babies are cute, so people want to protect them.

On my patrol down the beach I also ran into a few seemingly stray dogs wandering the beach.  Now I also know that there are alot of dog lovers out there, and I am one too.  But the thought of these animals harming the little turtles also made me ill.  The dogs got the hint to move on pretty easily.  Just a bit of sand kicked in their direction gave them the clue to get lost.  The vultures responded very well to a throwing motion in their direction, and if not a couple of small rocks did the trick.
A Leatherback Sea Turtle heads for the water at dawn after laying her eggs.
 I never actually hit any of the birds, but I think my intentions we clear.

I stayed on the beach for about three hours more doing my part to save as many of the little guys as possible.  Temporarily freed from the predators attacks, the hardest part for the turtles was that last bit into the surf.  The best technique I saw used was to get just far enough down into the sand so that a wave would hit them, then they would try like crazy to stay facing forward with their front flippers dug in.  Then as the wave went back out to sea they would try to surf it out to a point that they could submerge.  From there they have a whole other set of predators to deal with.

As I left the beach I had a very bad reaction to the situation.  It was obvious that the small town did what they could to help and inform people of the Leatherback's plight.
In the dawn light at Grande Riviere beach three different newly hatched Leatherback Sea Turtles head for the water.
 I certainly admire that.  Not so many years ago the same people killed many of these critters.  Turtle meat, and turtle eggs are both still considered to be a delicacy in T&T, and the eggs are a very widely suspected aphrodisiac.  But it seems it would not take too much effort to save many more of the babies fromt this morning vulture/dog feast.  I know it would be very localised, and may only end up saving a few, but it is likely there won't be any more Leatherbacks in a hundred years.

I know I sound like a gushing environmentalist, but I really just wanted to get away from the situation as quickly as possible.  I gobbled down a delicious breakfast and hit the Kia running.  The drive back was pretty easy since I had done it before, and the Rio was a much better vehicle for the up and down T&T driving then the older Nissan wagon I had on Tobago the day before.

My goal today was to find a hotel as central as possible, in order to best facilitate my next four days of island sightseeing.  Trinidad is certainly not huge, and anywhere on the island can be reached pretty easily round trip in a day.  The most difficult part is traffic jams, and hilly terrain, which take much longer when you hit them.  My first couple of attempts were met with dismal failure, including the Holiday Inn Express that wanted $239 US per night!  Most of the hotels here are geared for business travel, and especially the ones that have my sought after Wi-Fi internet.

I tried many more places as I headed to San Fernando, a distinctly non-tourist town in the south.  The first two places there were both well above $100, so I regrouped and consulted the Rough Guide again.  I ended up at a residential villa that had a two-day minimum stay, and even though it was not mentioned in the guide, there was Wi-Fi to be had.  This room was esentially an apartment with full kitchen and dining area for about $80/night.  Things are certainly a bit more casual than at a hotel, but I have no problem with that.

After heading out for some food, and getting lost, I made it back and headed to bed.  Tomorrow I will do an exploration of southern Trinidad.

Later, Phil
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The nights last egg-laying Leathe…
The night's last egg-laying Leath…
Another shot of the nights last L…
Another shot of the night's last …
The only baby turtle shot that rea…
The only baby turtle shot that re…
A Leatherback Sea Turtle heads fo…
In the dawn light at Grande Rivie…
Grande Riviere
photo by: seamerry