Tortuguero National Park
05.05.2012 - 30.06.2012
Last Monday (June 25) four of us (Robyn, Jan, Sophia and I) left base camp at 5 am to do what we thought would be a standard nest check. Little did we know that we were in for a surprise visit…… About a quarter mile into our walk, we encountered the first turtle track on the beach and as we approached closer to get a better look, I noticed something moving up near the vegetation. At first I thought maybe it was just a bird or something, but when I looked more carefully at where the movement is coming from, I saw a turtle!!!!!!! What is a turtle doing on the beach at this hour??!! (Sea turtles come up on the beach to nest mostly only during the night.) This is not the first (live) turtle encounter we had during day time. Just a couple of weeks ago, the morning nest check team came upon a green turtle as well.
We approached the turtle slowly so that we don’t startle her. Her carapace was covered with sand. Clearly she had already laid her eggs and was now disguising her nest. We have all seen a turtle nesting at night during one of our night patrols on the beach, but to see it during day light, it was quite a different experience. Wow! How lucky were we to have this encounter. Sea turtles are remarkable creatures that spend its whole life out in the sea except when it is time to nest. What I found so intriguing is that research has shown that some turtles come back to nest on the same beach where they were born. That’s after travelling for thousands of kilometers over the years it takes to reach maturity and yet it can still find that same beach. How amazing is that!!!
Robyn checked to see if the turtle is tagged and it was. We recorded the number so we could monitor its nesting activities. We watched her for about 15 minutes before she turned and headed straight down the beach, back out to sea. While we all thought we had just witnessed a green turtle nesting, Robyn’s knowledge of the sea turtles confirmed that it was in fact a hawksbill! A hawksbill!!! We have only seen one hawksbill so far this season. What a great start to the morning for all of us.
The more surprising news though came later that day when Robyn told me that when she checked the tagging number of that turtle on our database, it was tagged 16 days ago on June 9 by Kim. I was there on night walk with her that evening! Up to this point, we had no idea that we had seen a hawksbill. Nevertheless it was still a very memorable night not only because it was the first turtle seen and tagged by Kim but it was also when I counted eggs from a nesting turtle for the very first time (an unforgettable experience). I was so surprise when I realized that it was my second encounter with this turtle, I even got a bit emotional, few tears swelled up in the back of my eyes. This was one reunion I will certainly never forget…..