The Turtles of the Isimangaliso Wetland Park in South Africa laying eggs

The return of the Turtles:
Loggerhead and Leatherback turtles return to nest at the place of their birth
Loggerhead and leatherback turtles migrate thousands of miles across oceans in summer to lay their eggs on the beaches where they themselves hatched, and Mabibi is one of these nesting sites.

There is no better place in Southern Africa than iSimangaliso in north-eastern KwaZulu-Natal to witness one of the oldest rituals on the planet.

Every year, for the past 100 million years, female leatherback turtles have emerged from the ocean – mostly at night – to lay their eggs on beaches.

During summer about 70 to 80 female leatherbacks return from their epic travels across the world’s oceans, to find their way back to these beaches.

As we knelt down beside the turtle, our guide Sabelo Mngomezulu estimated that she was probably about 400 kilograms, an average weight for a leatherback female. Her size dwarfed all of us. Sometimes they can reach almost a ton.

But these supreme survivors that have dived the deep oceans for millions of years are on the verge of extinction. Leatherback turtles are now listed as a critically endangered species.

Not because they’re at the end of their natural evolutionary lifespan, but because we’re killing them. They swallow our plastic bags, thinking they’re jellyfish, then choke and drown.

They are highly sensitive to pollution, and are often hooked and drowned by long-line and net-trawling fishing vessels.

These days there are few untrammeled beaches where they can nest safely. On most beaches, their eggs and hatchlings are destroyed by vehicles, people, dogs and unchecked development.

After 100 million years they’re on their way out, and that would be a travesty of justice because they have every right to be here (they’ve been on Earth longer than any other large creature).

And because they are remarkable animals.

Visitors to iSimangaliso can sign up for an accredited tour with a licensed guide. Access to the beaches at night is strictly controlled, and it’s one of the reasons why this protected area is considered a prime nesting site globally. The turtles and their nests are safe from humans.

It’s not only turtles that thrive here. It’s paradise for 3 000 other kinds of animals which are protected in this World Heritage Site. By some estimates, iSimangaliso has more species of animals than any other nature reserve in Africa. The diversity of habitats, ranging from bushveld to forest and from lakes to coral reefs, is unparalleled in Southern Africa.

Thonga Beach Lodge at Mabibi runs turtle tracking tours for those whose spirit of adventure hopes to observe this natural wonder.

Book a stay at Thonga Beach Lodge from November to February to experience this unique adventure.

Leave a Reply

Product Enquiry