When arriving to this small paradise island you can expect a lot of things to happen, you might see a turtle crawling up on the beach to nest or you might see a mama shark waiting to birth her pups. What you have to know is that the timing is everything. Depending on what you want to experience you have to time your visit correctly, if you want to work with the mangroves or tortoise the summer month or early fall will be the safest bet but if you on the other hand want to work with sharks and turtles late fall till spring is the peak season. A group arriving in July will not have all of the same experiences as a group in December (not saying one is better than the other). I chose the period between September and December, during this time a lot of things has changed when it comes to turtle and shark activities.
Just these past two weeks it has spiked from a couple of shark pups per survey till over 15 in most cases. It is a good indication that peak season is about to hit us, and that it might be a good one. During a survey we will use different methods to catch the pups (seine net, gillnet, dip nets deployed in various areas) and will then continue to measure, weigh, ID tag and take a DNA sample and to then release them back into the water. This gives us a rough estimation on the Sicklefin lemon shark population around our island. To get to touch and work with shark pups is not a common thing to experience, so cherish it if you do. It is certainly a top ten opportunity for me, not many get it so it makes it a bit more special.
When it comes to the turtles it has been the same as sharks. Turtle activities in the past two weeks have become more frequent. We have even seen 3 turtles during the span of a couple of hours. To see the turtle’s makings their way up the beach is almost surreal, we have spent so much time studying the tracks they leave behind and then to see them with your own eyes make all the long hours worth it. What we do during this kind of survey depends on whether there is a turtle or not on the beach. Standard procedure is to measure the track width, decide if the activity is a nest, egg chamber, “just a wiggle” or a half moon (the turtle going back without doing anything). In the case of a turtle on the beach you hide until she is in a trance during egg laying or if she turns around before hurrying to do the measurements and ID tagging. The turtle season peaks in November through February so that is when you are most likely to have this opportunity.
These two months I have spent on this beautiful island has been amazing. Not many things can compare to seeing a turtle laying eggs or mother sharks waiting for the tide to rise. It is hard work with a lot of sweat, some (happy) tears and some blood (from mosquitoes), to expect an easy vacation is far fetched. You have to work for it but it will all be worthwhile, the opportunities counterweight it all.