Greetings and Salutations,
As the whale season winds down, so the turtle season grinds to a fairly squeaky start. Generally the first part of November is not the best time to witness turtles nesting. Although the season in Kosi Bay started really early this year. We saw our first turtle on the 18 August. There was no intention of doing so and the appearance of this turtle was totally unexpected. But we took full advantage of this rare event. Observing the delicate process of egg-laying. Now that the season has started, turtle tours are made great by the fact that there is a lot of interaction between guest and this ancient "marineress".
To get a full understanding of this human/turtle interaction it is necessary to briefly discuss the whole nesting process. Plus boggle your mind with a priceless comment. Witnessing a nesting turtle takes patience and an understanding that you are working with pregnant females. They appear when they are ready. IT IS NOT NEGOTIABLE. This is just the way it is. Generallly after dark the females arrive in the surf zone either two hours before or two hours after low tide. Slowly in the dark, balmy night they huff and puff their way up the beach until they seem to reach the correct nesting location (rookey). If they decide it is the wrong location they simply return to the sea. When this happens as a guide, you are left with a bunch of rather blank faced guests clicking their heels on a dark and empty beach. Remember they are pregnant females! The female turtle will find another spot somewhere along the beach. This usually take place later in the evening.
Once a female turtle has reached a suitable location she will prepare the site for digging an egg pot or chamber. Egg laying starts shortly thereafter, contractions are visible as she gently lifts her rear flippers a cm or two prior to depositing between one and four eggs. When the ovipositor descends - we know it is possible to get really close to the female and witness her egg-laying. The female at this stage is in an egg-trance. Something I refer to as a "genetic epidural". Once the eggs have been laid, she covers the nest hole. Carefully compacting loose sand into the chamber, thereafter flashing sand all over the nesting area to disguise the exact location of the egg chamber. Once complete she heads back to a gravity free environment - the dark warm enticing Indian Ocean. On one particular night we had seen the "full Monty". We arrived as a giant leatherback emerged and two and a quarter hours later we witnessed her departure. Most people are stunned and silenced by this ancient ritual. However, in this particular instance an American voice came from the back of my group and asked: "How would you know if that was a male or female turtle". More silence followed. No one uttered a word. We walked back up the beach recounting the recent reptilian events and "the" comment. I thought that Hollywood script writers have a remarkable ability to create stories, but this was beyond any imagination. You just had to be there! Teehee - Priceless.
Hasta la vista
THe Knait Wrydah.
Greetings and Salutations,
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