Hawksbill Turtle Nesting Season

By October 24, 2016Nature

We have spotted our first Hawksbill Turtle of the season as an enthusiastic female emerged on Honeymoon Beach to lay her eggs at the end of September. Sightings of this critically endangered species have picked up in October with the start of the nesting season that lasts until April next year. As Hawksbill Turtles come ashore in broad daylight, there’s ample opportunity for you to witness these incredible events on North Island. Their favourite spot also happens to be West Beach Bar – perfect for your sunset entertainment!

Based on our data over the past five years, we expect approximately 75 Hawksbill nests to be laid on North Island this season. So your chances of sighting this critically endangered species on North Island are high. What’s even more special is that you might get to see the same turtle returning to the Island as they lay three to five clutches of eggs per season and they often emerge a few times to find the most suitable location for their nest. They can be picky since only one in a thousand eggs is likely to survive. One particular female has really made North Island her home – she was first tagged on North Island in 2004 and has returned a staggering 30 times ever since. We don’t blame her, it’s easy to fall in love with this special place.

We identity Hawksbill Turtles by the tag on their flippers and crosscheck this against our database of sea turtles nesting on North Island. We also share our research with the Turtle Action Group of Seychelles (TAGS), a forum where Jeanne Mortimer, TAGS founder and life-long turtle conservation expert, and other turtle researchers in the Seychelles can collaborate and communicate.

While turtles are known for returning to their original nesting sites, ‘home’ on their hardwired inner GPS is a broad definition, which means that turtles move between nesting and feeding habitats and emerge on multiple islands in the Seychelles. Therefore, it is highly beneficial to the Seychelles to coordinate conservation monitoring efforts. In 1994 the Seychelles government passed a law protecting all sea turtles from slaughter, disturbance and trade of their products. Turtle monitoring programmes were introduced across the country and have proven to be an effective conservation tool. North Island has been monitoring turtles as part of our conservation efforts for almost two decades since 1998, soon after the Island was first acquired.

Every day our environmentalists and volunteers head out on beach patrol and when females emerge to lay eggs, they efficiently check their tags and/or tag turtles if they are untagged, as well as take their measurements. We let the turtle get into the digging process where she scoops large amounts of sand with her flippers to form a deep hole before plopping between 60 – 250 eggs into her nest. Once in the almost trance-like laying mode, there is very little risk of distracting her. This is also the time when you can get a closer look.

After the female has successfully laid her eggs and covered her nest (she fills the hole and spreads the sand to throw sly crabs off the scent), we display the nesting information on a coconut marker and place bamboo markers all around the nest to protect it from potentially harmful footprints. Not that there is much risk of this on North, a secluded private island with only 11 villas and quiet, pristine beaches. Also just to be safe, we mark potential nests where we haven’t seen the turtle itself, but have found fresh tracks along the beach and signs of nesting.

The turtle gracefully glides back into the ocean after covering her nest. But not before our environmentalists give your Guest Experience Host a call to inform you of the sighting so you can rush off in your buggy to witness the nesting firsthand. A truly memorable and authentic experience on North.