Trinidad and Tobago, for such a small country, we have a wealth of Natural Resources unlike any other, and it is the duty of each citizen to protect their environment for future generations.
Annually, during the months of February to July, the leatherback turtles frequent the North Coast and Eastern Beaches. They travel under the sea for thousands of miles to their birthplace to nest. Matura Beach is 7 miles long and it is one of the best places to visit during this spectacular occurrence. The turtles mate every two-three years and can lay as many as seventy fertile eggs, along with some undeveloped ones used as a shield for their nest. The laying process takes an average of two hours, and in a season a female can incubate as much as seven times with intervals of nine days apart. During the nesting period, a turtle falls into a trance where she is vulnerable to predators. The egg incubation period can last from 60 to 70 days, and the sex of the hatchlings is determined by the sand's temperature. A turtle's die consists of jellyfish and can stay submerged for as long as an hour without re-surfacing for oxygen.
During the laying process, shining a light on their face can scare them away and cause confusion. It is best to stay silently behind the turtle and keep lights to a minimum. A filtered red or blue lighted torch is preferred since it is not as bright. After digging a hole, the turtle falls into a glaze signifying the laying process is ready to begin. A trained guide will know when it is safe to view the eggs as they drop into the nest. When completed, the turtle carefully covers the nest with sand and returns to the ocean.
Nature seekers of Matura are trained guides, who conduct tours and patrol the beach. They protect the turtles and their hatchlings as well as label them for future observation. During the nesting season, a permit is required by the Forestry Division to visit the beaches of Matura and Grand Riviere.
Unfortunately, vultures eat many of the hatchlings as they start emerging from the sand during daylight. Also, a number of unforeseen things can impact the turtle's survival. At one time, due to heavy poaching, the leatherback turtle once considered an endangered species, however due to the protective efforts and awareness, the numbers have increased.
We recommend visiting Trinidad during the time of the turtle hatching, it's really a great experience, an activity to check off your bucket list!