The first turtles are hatching. Guests and staff gaze expectantly and hold their breath for fear of frightening these fit-in-your-palm-sized creatures. However, the miniature newcomers pay little heed to the audience they have attracted: they have work to do. The bravest will be the first to lift himself carefully over the rim of the nest, before making his way, tentatively in the beginning, towards a terrifyingly-enormous sea. As he gains confidence his flippers move more frantically, the ocean’s pull is overpowering. Slowly others follow, clambering over each other and across the sand, each bit of seaweed and cuttlefish shell an obstacle to overcome. Once they reach the water, the gentle waves are enough to push them half a meter backwards. They soldier on regardless and we must resist the temptation to scoop them into our hands, in a bid to protect these little warriors from all the dangers they will encounter out at sea. Eventually the last one successfully plunges himself into the chaotic break of a wave and is pulled out to join his army of siblings. We are left cheering on the shore like proud parents, and watch for as long as we can before the grey dots become indistinguishable against an impossibly large ocean.
We have seen four Green Sea Turtle hatchings already this summer, and there are 8 more nests hidden along our beach. Sand Island Beach is a sanctuary for these turtles which, due to hunting and the collection of their eggs, are endangered. Our beach provides much-needed refuge and nesting ground for the turtles, who migrate hundreds of kilometres to reach the shore to breed and lay an impressive 100-200 eggs at a time. Tragically, many of these won’t survive as young hatchlings are vulnerable to a host of predators on land and in the water. This is unsurprising considering they start out at only 5 cm big, before a tremendous growth spurt leaves them 1.5 meters long and weighing over 300kg. Their shell is what makes these turtles so impressive, and its dark olive colour gives the species its name. They are the largest hard-shell sea turtle in the world and can swim up to 56km/h.
And so it is easy to understand why Sand Island tries so hard to protect these remarkable creatures. We hope that our guests can continue to enjoy this incredible spectacle for decades to come – it is truly a performance not to be missed.
Posted by Hattie