Turtle nesting project – Our first patrol
When I arrived in Tanzania I was contacted by Wim and Kerstin from Kasa Divers in Usongo. They said they had great diving and, in addition to this, a turtle project that was in it’s fifth year, doing relocation for endangered turtle nests. You see, Tanzania is a known turtle nesting place, However, as with any other place for turtles, nesting places are declining.
Before I tell you about the project you need to know why anyone would ever get the crazy idea to relocate a turtle nest.
Maziwe was once a small atoll with white beaches, trees, palms and a perfect place for turtles to lay their eggs. About 30 years ago all of the trees were cut down, causing sand erosion, which moved the sand down and out into the water.
Now Maziwe is only visable duing low tide, with only 100 meters /300 feet of it showing above the water, which is just enough for a turtle to come to and lay her eggs.
When the high tides move in the atole is flooded and the turtle eggs get wet and then begin to rot, destroying the eggs and the unborn embryos inside.
Getting the nests
It is crucial to find the nests and get the eggs off the atoll before these tides come.
We went on a nest “patrol” one very early morning long before sunrise. The little eggs needed to be saved and high tide was predicted to be early that day.
So we got into the waiting speedboat and started sailing towards Maziwe.
We were sitting in the boat while one of the local guys in the turtle project named Mungia was driving. He carefully maneuvered the boat, using natural references instead of GPS navigation, out past the reef, about 100 meters off the coast.
About a half hour after leaving the coast we started to see a speck of land. The sun was just starting to peek out above the horizon, making the small piece of land more and more visible.
This was the first time I laid my eyes of this small atoll and it was amazing. I could feel that there was something special about this little 100 x 10 meters of sand located in the middle of the ocean.
The sun was steadily rising, making everything a lot easier to see as we got off the boat and onto Maziwe. If it hadn’t been for the speedboat and my traveling companions, I would have felt like the real Robison Crusoe.
We all started searching for turtle tracks and for nests. Walking rapidly from one end to the other, we found two long tracks from the turtles, but unfortunately not any nests.
It was apparent the turtles had been on the tiny island, but for some reason they had decided not to lay their eggs the previous night. This really disappointed us because we had hoped to find a turtle nest so we could see how they relocate the eggs.
Still a chance to see the Turtles
Fotunately we were staying in Ushongo for another eight days so we still would have a chance to see some nest relocations.
And hopefully some already relocated on land that were just about ready to hatch.
If you would like to see how it went, read how it went when we foud the turtle nest, or a Turtle Nest Hatching. In the meantime if you want to read more about the turtle project in Ushongo visit: www.friendsofmaziwe.com or www.kasadivers.com .
Have you ever witnessed a turtle nest hatch? What was it like to see those little guys running toward the water?