Nature is not a TV Program – On not seeing turtles

We enjoyed a spectacular trip last weekend to Sodwana Bay. We swam, relaxed, played, and celebrated Elsa Ruth’s 8th birthday.



We did not however, see the turtles as we had hoped and longed to do. Disappointing, yes – but in itself a good lesson. We searched the beach while riding in an open-sided vehicle from 11pm-3am, stopping periodically for our guide to pick up trash or impart information about turtle behaviour. I have never felt so alive in the middle of the night as we experienced dramatic changes from gentle, warm breezes to fierce winds to pelting rain.

At the end of our futile search, our guide passed on this wisdom, “This is the way nature keeps us humble.” Words to carry forward to be sure. Though we did not see the nesting mamas or the hatching babies the way we would if we turned on a television special, we were given the opportunity to see many things none the less. Here’s what we did see:

  • Tracks from two turtles who had nested just before we arrived. (This was to be our prize and indication that these rare creatures do come ashore to nest, if only I had realized this at the time and taken a picture! One was a Leatherback whose tracks, the width of an ATV, climbed up the beach and then returned in another line 10 feet farther on. The other turtle was smaller, a Loggerhead.)
  • Thousands upon thousands of white-colored ghost crabs lit up by the headlights; they raced back and forth in a hilarious scramble to get out of our way.
  • The Milky Way in a big sky studded with starlight (As the night progressed we watched it hide and peak out through wispy clouds, reappear, and then disappear in rain clouds.)
  • How the sea and the sky over it is in fact lighter than the land. (We had read that turtles can find their way to the sea because it is lighter in that direction, but were confused about how this could be. It is only a very little lighter I must say, so I can understand why artificial lights of hotels have been a problem in many nesting areas. Even on that dark night, under the moonless sky we could see that the sea and tops of the waves were in fact a bit lighter than anything on land.)

On another day we came across this gorgeous leopard tortoise crossing the road.


We felt sorry for him, moving across the hot tarmac about to encounter this obstacle – a serious razor-wire fence following alongside the road. (It occurs to me this is another casualty of such security systems here. Imagine how many additional paces this slow guy needs to take just to find a passage!) We decided to help him along by placing him near a sizeable opening. We learned from our turtle guide however, that we should not have interfered with him.  Tortoises often urinate under stress and thus lose precious moisture.  Now we know.



Hoping you find new things worth seeing today, even if they are not what you are looking for! Next time: fish, geckos, and waves.




4 thoughts on “Nature is not a TV Program – On not seeing turtles

  1. Pingback: Fish, Geckos, and Waves | sevennorthdakotas

  2. Pingback: Tanzania on Tuesday: Big Cats – part 1 | sevennorthdakotas

  3. Pingback: Trash | sevennorthdakotas

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