Family travel: 'Where can we see wild turtle hatchlings?'


Q. Our family would love to see turtle hatchlings in the wild. Do you have any idea of how far and when we would have to travel to be guaranteed to see them? We don't want there to be only "a good chance" of seeing them. L Baxter, via email

A. Witnessing the emergence of turtle hatchlings is one of nature's great treats. However, hatching takes place at different times depending on location. Furthermore, the exact time of hatching is hard to predict. With six of the seven species of marine turtle on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List of Threatened Species, you'll be hard pressed to find a destination that can absolutely guarantee you a sighting.

Since the world's best rookeries (nesting beaches) are found primarily in tropical regions, you'll most likely have to travel some distance for your holiday, so you're right to be choosy, but plan carefully and the odds are favourable.

To maximise your chances, head to a rookery during nesting season and hire a guide when you arrive. In Gabon, Central Africa, the Sea Turtle Trust (028 44 830537; seaturtletrust.org) works with Aventures Sans Frontières to protect leatherbacks at Pongara beach.

As one of the largest leatherback rookeries in the world – also home to nesting hawksbills, olive ridleys and green turtles – this is a hotspot for emerging hatchlings. Pongara, a national park, is just 11km across the Komo estuary from the capital, Libreville, which means it's easily accessible. However, many of the local hotels only open at weekends and the peak hatching season in February and March falls within the rainy season, which would potentially limit other activities.

Flights to Libreville are available from a host of UK airports via Paris with Air France (0870 142 4343; airfrance.co.uk). Alternatively, a tour operator such as Audley Travel (01993 838500; audleytravel.com) can tailor a personalised trip to Gabon for you.

A better bet for your family might be Rincó*Beach at Matura in north-east Trinidad.

Leatherback turtles nest here from the beginning of March to the end of August, each laying five to seven times during this period. Eggs incubate for about two months, so you could, with a guide, locate hatchlings any time between May and October.

The beach is a protected area and you will need a permit (T$10/£1) to access it. Both a permit and guide (US$10/£6.70) can be organised through Matura-based Nature Seekers (001 868 668 7337; natureseekers.org). You'd probably have to stay at least two weeks to maximise chances of a sighting, but in the meantime, Nature Seekers offers the chance to get involved in conservation work such as tagging.

Responsible Travel (01273 600030; responsibletravel. com) recommends a 13-day leatherback volunteer scheme in Matura, which starts at £1,195 per person, excluding flights. British Airways (0844 493 0787; ba.com) flies from Gatwick to Port of Spain via Barbados.

In Sri Lanka, the Marine Conservation Society (01989 566017; tiny.cc/s3QBY) runs a community-based protection scheme in Rekawa, on the south coast. To further recommend it, this unspoilt beach is where the BBC's Saving Planet Earth 2007 turtle documentary was filmed. Five species, primarily green and olive ridleys, come to nest on the beach here year-round, though activity peaks from April to June. Informed guides monitor when hatchlings are due (June to August) and the MCS suggests that even with only a few days here, you would be unfortunate not to get a sighting.

Book into a nearby hotel such as the luxurious Amanwella (00 91 47 224 1333; amaresorts.com) in Tangalle, around 20 minutes' drive from Rekawa; you can organise a guide directly from any of the hotels in town.

Alternatively, you can head straight for the beach at Rekawa, where the Turtle Conservation Project (TCP) guides are constantly present (00 94 38 567 0168; email:turtle@sltnet.lk). Passes can be purchased from the TCP beach hut on arrival for Rs600 (£3.50).

A different approach is to take part in a short volunteer programme.

Many of these projects don't cater particularly well for families, but the Turtle Protection Organisation (contact Rainforest Concern UK: 020-7229 2093; turtle protection.org) is a notable exception. Its scheme in the Pacuare Nature Reserve, Costa Rica was set up to protect leather-backs. Work involves beach patrolling, tagging and disguising or even relocating nests to deter poachers.

The programme runs from mid-March to the end of September, but the Turtle Protection Organisation recommends May as the best month to see both hatchlings and adults.

A comfortable lodge has been set up here specifically for holidaying families, which is around a three-hour journey by bus and boat from the capital, San José. Prices start at $80 (£51) per person, full board including boat transportation from La Trocha. You can reach San José via Madrid with Iberia (0870 609 0500; iberia.com).

Turtle-focused adventure packages are also offered by operators such as Explore (0845 013 1537; explore.co.uk). Its 16-day Costa Rican rainforest tour combines visiting turtles at Tortuguero National Park on the Caribbean coast with additional activities such as white-water rafting and snorkelling. The price, including return flights, transfers and accommodation starts at £1,943 per person.

If you want to avoid long-haul travel, consider Alagadi in northern Cyprus. The Marine Turtle Research Group (00 90 533 866 2860; seaturtle.org/mtrg) bases its studies here and organises hatchling releases and nest excavations between July and mid-September – coinciding with school summer holidays – which you can visit free of charge.

Send your family travel queries to The Independent Parent, Travel Desk, The Independent, Independent House, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS, or e-mail crusoe@independent.co.uk

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
booksPhotographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years - but he says it wasn’t all fun and games...
News
i100
Sport
Aguero - who single-handedly has kept City's Champions League dreams alive - celebrates his dramatic late winner
footballManchester City 3 Bayern Munich 2: Argentine's late hat-rick sees home side snatch vital victory
News
Muhammad Ali pictured in better health in 2006
peopleBut he has enjoyed publicity from his alleged near-death experience
Arts and Entertainment
Tony breaks into Ian Garrett's yacht and makes a shocking discovery
TVReview: Revelations continue to make this drama a tough watch
News
news
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
News
peopleSinger tells The Independent what life is like in rehab in an exclusive video interview
News
The assumption that women are not as competent in leadership positions as men are leads to increased stress in the workplace
science... and it's down to gender stereotypes
Arts and Entertainment
Inner sanctum: Tove Jansson and friends in her studio in 1992
booksWhat was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Singer songwriter Bob Dylan performs on stage
films
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Investigo: Financial reporting Accountant

    £40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits : Investigo: One of the fastest growing g...

    Sphere Digital Recruitment: CRM Executive – Global Travel Brand – Luton – £25k

    25,000: Sphere Digital Recruitment: CRM Executive – Global Travel Brand – Luto...

    Investigo: Group Financial Controller

    £50000 - £55000 per annum: Investigo: A growing group of top end restaurants l...

    Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisor

    £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Excellent opportunities are available for par...

    Day In a Page

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

    Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
    Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

    Putin’s far-right ambition

    Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
    Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

    Escape to Moominland

    What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
    Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

    24-Hour party person

    Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
    Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

    A taste for rebellion

    US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
    Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

    Colouring books for adults

    How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
    Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

    What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

    Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
    Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

    Call me Ed Mozart

    Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire
    10 best stocking fillers for foodies

    Festive treats: 10 best stocking fillers for foodies

    From boozy milk to wasabi, give the food-lover in your life some extra-special, unusual treats to wake up to on Christmas morning
    Phil Hughes head injury: He had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

    Phil Hughes had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

    Prolific opener had world at his feet until Harmison and Flintoff bounced him
    'I have an age of attraction that starts as low as four': How do you deal with a paedophile who has never committed a crime?

    'I am a paedophile'

    Is our approach to sex offenders helping to create more victims?
    How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

    How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

    Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
    Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

    From a lost deposit to victory

    Green Party on the march in Bristol
    Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

    Winter blunderlands

    Putting the grot into grotto
    'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

    'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

    London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital