Thursday, June 3, 2010

Sea Turtles, Sand Fleas, and So Much Stuff!

So I'm finally getting around to updating the blog. We have been busy moving into a new apartment, that so far has proven to be a much better place to live. Who knew we had acquired so much stuff in just 5 months in Grenada. This move took a lot of work! At some point I will post some details and pictures of our new place, but for now that can wait. I must write about our turtle excursion this past Sunday.

A few weeks ago we drove almost 2 hours with some friends to the northeastern coast of the island in hopes that we could watch sea turtles lay their eggs. We arrived at 8 pm and waited. We waited for 3 hours and not a single turtle came to shore! Thankfully our guide did not charge us and said to give him a call when we were ready to come back. It was a long drive and a disappointing experience but we decided to try again Sunday evening. Once again our family and our friend Zach as well as his friend Ali arrived at Levera Beach at about 8 pm. Right away we headed to the far end of the beach to see a turtle who was just finishing her task. On the way to that turtle Jerod spotted a Giant turtle coming out of the water right in front of us. We waited there and watched this turtle find the right spot, dig, lay her eggs, and descend back to the water.We even got to touch her after she laid and covered her eggs.

As this turtle was heading back to the water another one came out just a few feet away.  This was a new turtle that has never been tagged and so the guide and research team asked our group what we wanted to name her. Everyone agreed that we should name her after Emma since she was the youngest in the group. So now there is a 5.5 foot long leatherback turtle in the sea named after our little Emma. Pretty Special! When "Emma" began digging to lay her eggs she dug up another nest, breaking eggs with her back flippers and Jerod helped gather the baby turtles so they could be saved. Meanwhile our guide kept filling the hole back in to discourage her from digging any further. Eventually she got frustrated and moved down the beach to another spot. The entire time we were there turtles were coming out of the water to lay eggs. Jerod and Zach were having a competition to see who could spot the most turtles. This was truly one of the most amazing things we have ever done and totally worth the long drive and late night on the beach.

I will however share the down side of the experience, and that was getting eaten alive by sand fleas. Thankfully Emma avoided these nasty insects as she was in our arms most of the time. They come alive at night and because they are so small you hardly know how bad you are getting bitten. The welts they leave show up the next day and the itch is almost unbearable. The worst part is you can't scratch or shave because they scar easily. We did wear bug spray but this was not enough to keep them away and realize now why all the researchers were wearing long pants, jackets, and tube socks. Now my days are spent rinsing with bleach water, feeling loopy from benadryl, and applying calamine lotion to hundreds of the worst bug bites I have ever had. Besides the constant nagging itch and unsightly red welts on my legs, seeing these enormous sea creatures was an experience we will never forget!
Head of the turtle and shell covered in sand
(sorry the pictures are so hard to see, the turtles and only be illuminated
with red light and no flash photography is allowed.)

Jer and Emma touching the turtles head.
Emma has not stopped talking about "big turtles."

This turtle laid 98 eggs!

Note to self: Never sit in the sand at night in shorts. Ouch!!