Thursday, 29 November 2012

Tembe and Turtle Nesting at Bhanga Nek

The Bhejane Nature Training students have had the opportunity this week to go and watch the Turtle nesting at Bhanga Nek and while in the area a drive through Tembe Elephant Park during the day.

Tembe elephant park delivered once again with some great elephant sightings. The Tembe bush is green and dense with all the rain we have had the past month and this makes game spotting slightly more challenging. It was nice to see all the young, new born animals that are around, from the youngest Impala ive seen to date, which was probably just approaching the end of its laying out period, to some really small warthogs we found hiding behind a dead branch next to the road. 

The students stayed over at the Rocktail Bay beach lodge, in the beautiful sand forest lying right next to the beautiful protected beaches of the area. From Rocktail we drove to Bhanga Nek beach along the challenging coastal sand roads to meet the guide to take us on our Turtle tour.  We walked 12km in total, but every step of the way was worth the final result we got.

At the 6km mark we found one loggerhead turtle making her way out of the ocean and up onto the beach. We sat for about 40minutes waiting for her to find the right spot where she will then start digging to lay her eggs. This particular turtle couldn’t find soft, suitable sand for her nest and then she turned around and headed back to the ocean. The nesting area must be selected cautiously because it affects characteristics such as fitness, emergence ration and vulnerability to predators for the hatchlings and if the female cant find a suitable area, she will return to the ocean and try again at a different spot along the beach.

About 100m from our tours starting point we found another Loggerhead moving up the beach and sat down once again to wait and see if she will find a suitable spot and start nesting. After about 30minutes she started digging and the guide took us in to watch the process. It was amazing to see how she can use her back fins for digging and how effective she is at using them as she digs down into the soft sand. After about 15 minutes of digging the egg laying process started. The turtles’ eyes are very sensitive to light and we used one red light to see what was happening, avoiding the head region. The last thing we wanted to do is to disturb the turtle and cause her to go back into the ocean without laying her eggs.

Loggerhead turtles nest in intervals of 2 to 4 years and will lay 3 to 6 nests per season, at approximate intervals of 12–17 days during the nesting season, on or near the beach where they hatched. They will lay an average of between 100 to 126 eggs in each nest, which will then incubate for about 60 days.  After the eggs have been laid the female will cover the egg chamber and body pit with sand and return to the sea. The whole process can take up to 2 hours!

This was truly an amazing experience to have been part of and 60 days from now there will be small Loggerhead turtles emerging from that exact spot!
The level 1 Marine and terrestrial groups will be going on turtle tours tonight and we look forward to hearing about their experiences when they return!

The video underneath is a short edit on the Experiences the Impi's had on the trip! 

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Rocktail Bay under the Night Sky

Creating Awareness Through Wilderness....

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