October 2015 – Turtle Season at Rocktail Camp in KwaZulu-Natal’s iSimangaliso Wetland Park has begun, offering guests front-row seats to one of the world’s most fascinating spectacles – the nesting and hatching of leatherback and loggerhead turtles.
Each year, from mid-October to March, magnificent loggerhead and leatherback turtles come ashore at night to lay their eggs along Rocktail’s 30 km stretch of pristine beach. Guests visiting the camp during this time of year can enjoy a Turtle Drive led by an experienced Wilderness Safaris guide, during which they may have the once-in-a-lifetime experience of seeing this, or later on, catching sight of the tiny hatchlings as they scramble down to the safety of the ocean.
Turtle hatchling, night drive viewing and swimming loggerheads
Of the five marine turtle species that occur in the Indian Ocean, only two – the loggerhead and leatherback – nest along the remote northern KwaZulu-Natal coastline, just south of the Mozambique border; this represents one of the most important western Indian Ocean breeding sites for both species.
“Conservation of marine species along this spectacular World Heritage Site is a strong focus for Rocktail. Since the mid-1990s, we have played a fundamental role in the monitoring of turtle populations of the Maputaland Marine Reserve and we will continue to invest both our time and resources to support the ongoing conservation efforts of Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, and to play our part in protecting this fragile ecosystem,” says Patrick Boddam-Whetham, Rocktail MD.
In addition to logistical support from Wilderness Safaris, over the years, funding to the tune of R1 million was provided via the Wilderness Wildlife Trust to the turtle research project. The results of the study have shown that both turtle populations are in fact increasing – one of the few populations in the world known to be doing so; loggerheads have shown dramatic increases while the leatherback trend is positive.
“Rocktail is one of the few places in the world where guests can enjoy exclusive viewing of turtle laying and hatchlings. Our passionate guides, some of whom have been involved in the turtle monitoring since the first Rocktail Bay lodge was built, share their personal stories with our guests and inspire a keen interest in turtle conservation”, added Boddam-Whetham.
Turtle viewing is as much of a privilege as diving the pristine offshore coral reefs of the Maputaland Marine Reserve, home to some 1 200 tropical reef and marine species. Other activities at Rocktail include swimming and relaxing on the beach, snorkelling at Lala Nek, and guided and unguided forest walks and birding in the Maputaland Coastal Forest.
For ‘10 Fascinating Facts about Turtles’, click here or to read more about Wilderness Wildlife Trust’s Maputaland Sea Turtle Project, click here.