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; 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; Alternatively, a tour operator such as Audley Travel (01993 838500; 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; 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; flies from Gatwick to Port of Spain via Barbados.

In Sri Lanka, the Marine Conservation Society (01989 566017; 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; 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; 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 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;

Turtle-focused adventure packages are also offered by operators such as Explore (0845 013 1537; 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; 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

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
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
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Guru Careers: MI Developer

    £35 - 45k: Guru Careers: An MI Developer is needed to join the leading provide...

    Recruitment Genius: Fitness Manager

    £20000 - £22500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leisure organisation manag...

    Recruitment Genius: Visitor Experience Manager

    £25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Delivering an inspiring, engagi...

    Recruitment Genius: Learning Team Administrator

    £17500 - £20500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are looking for a great te...

    Day In a Page

    Major medical journal Lancet under attack for 'extremist hate propaganda' over its coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

    Lancet accused of 'anti-Israel hate propaganda' over coverage of Gaza conflict

    Threat to free speech as publishers of renowned medical journal are accused of inciting hatred and violence
    General Election 2015: Tories and Lib Dems throw their star names west to grab votes

    All noisy on the Lib Dems' western front

    The party has deployed its big guns in Cornwall to save its seats there. Simon Usborne heads to the heart of the battle
    How Etsy became a crafty little earner: The online market has been floated for £1.2bn, but can craft and capitalism coexist?

    How Etsy became a crafty little earner

    The online market has been floated for £1.2bn, but can craft and capitalism coexist?
    Guy Ritchie is the latest filmmaker to tackle King Arthur - one of our most versatile heroes

    King Arthur is inspiring Guy Ritchie

    Raluca Radulescu explains why his many permutations - from folk hero to chick-lit hunk - never cease to fascinate
    Apple Watch: Will it live up to expectations for the man or woman on the street?

    Apple Watch: Will it live up to expectations?

    The Apple Watch has apparently sold millions even before its launch tomorrow
    Don't fear the artichoke: it's a good cook's staple, with more choice than you'd think

    Don't fear the artichoke

    Artichokes are scary - they've got spikes and hairy bits, and British cooks tend to give them a wide berth. But they're an essential and delicious part of Italian cuisine
    11 best men's socks

    11 best men's socks

    Make a statement with your accessories, starting from the bottom up
    Paul Scholes column: Eden Hazard would be my Player of the Year – but I wonder if he has that appetite for goals of Messi or Ronaldo

    Paul Scholes column

    Hazard would be my Player of the Year – but I wonder if he has that appetite for goals of Messi or Ronaldo
    Frank Warren: Tyson Fury will be closely watching Wladimir Klitschko... when he wins it'll be time to do a deal

    Frank Warren's Ringside

    Tyson Fury will be closely watching Wladimir Klitschko... when he wins it'll be time to do a deal
    London Marathon 2015: Kenya's brothers in arms Wilson Kipsang and Dennis Kimetto ready to take on world

    Kenya's brothers in arms take on world

    Last year Wilson Kipsang had his marathon record taken off him by training partner and friend Dennis Kimetto. They talk about facing off in the London Marathon
    Natalie Bennett interview: I've lost track of the last time I saw my Dad but it's not because I refuse to fly

    Natalie Bennett interview: I've lost track of the last time I saw my Dad

    Green leader prefers to stay clear of her 'painful' family memories but is more open about 'utterly unreasonable' personal attacks
    Syria conflict: Khorasan return with a fresh influx of fighters awaiting the order to start 'shooting the birds'

    Khorasan is back in Syria

    America said these al-Qaeda militants were bombed out of the country last year - but Kim Sengupta hears a different story
    General Election 2015: Is William Cash the man to woo Warwickshire North for Ukip?

    On the campaign trail with Ukip

    Is William Cash the man to woo Warwickshire North?
    Four rival Robin Hood movies get Hollywood go-head - and Friar Tuck will become a superhero

    Expect a rush on men's tights

    Studios line up four Robin Hoods productions
    Peter Kay's Car Share: BBC show is the comedian's first TV sitcom in a decade

    In the driving seat: Peter Kay

    Car Share is the comedian's first TV sitcom in a decade. The programme's co-creator Paul Coleman reveals the challenges of getting the show on the road