by Luke, in Grenada
21st April, 2009

It was an early start – 3am we had a call from Dario who was on night patrol to protect the turtles coming ashore to lay their eggs from poachers. To that end he has employed a team of locals to help guard the nesting beaches from 8pm to 5am every night between March and August each year. The man is simply a dynamo of energy and together with Marina, his wife, they have reached hero status in my eyes.

The nesting leatherback was breathtakingly beautiful. One of the most ancient species on earth (around when T Rex was cruising the shoreline looking for snacks), I felt sorry for her as we all crowded round but Dario assured us we weren’t disturbing her and since we were using infra red and red lights on our cameras and torches, our interference was kept to a minimum. Leatherbacks can dive deepest of all the turtles, over 4000ft into the depths, and they are also the largest and most endangered of the ancient species. Every 2-3 years, they lay clutches of eggs, up to 90 at a time in nests three feet beneath the sand. They do this up to ten times at ten day intervals, mainly a night, to ensure maximum chances of thei offspring surviving. Secreting salt from glands by their eyes, it looked a bit as if she was crying, but Dario explained this was a mechanism to keep the eyes moist whilst she went about her business. In sharp contrast to the elegance with which they can swim underwater, the walk onto the beach was clearly an effort for this huge 700lb turtle, but the power in her fins made short work of burying her nest and getting her back out to the open water after only about an hour on shore.

The drive to get to the turtle was of course, far from straight forward. We were running on fumes with an empty petrol tank, stress was high octane in the car and the crew were frantic with pressure for us to get there and capture the footage. If I’m honest, I think the fact there was so much stress did take away a touch of the magic of the whole event , but it was still an absolute privilege to witness this magnificent creature doing her part in the quest for survival of the species.

The rest of the day involved nipping back to check on a dog that we treated a couple of days ago and I’m glad to say has recovered well. Clive nailed a surgery at the clinic and we visited a fitting pig and a sheep that had been ‘bumped’ by a car. Thankfully, not ‘mashed’ (killed in Caribbean slang) and although a broken tibia, both Clive and I are very hopeful she will mend with our basic splint. Charlene is going to come and check on her tomorrow and keep us posted. There were a few background ptc (pieces to camera) that I had to nail and that was fun.
Evening dinner was the best fish of the entire trip – I recommend a red snapper at Lambi bar if you’re ever visiting – and now it is time to get some kip because even if we don’t get a call from Dario, we’ll still have to be up at 4.30am in order to get the ferry back to the mainland.

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