Turtle nesting project – Finding the turtle Eggs
Yesterday we talked about our first turtle patrol to Maziwe, which was part of our trip to Ushongo, Tanzania to follow a 5 year ongoing turtle nesting and relocating project.
The boat went out again the next day and this time they found a turtle nest and located it to safely on the mainland. We were diving that day, so we were on the diveboat and not on the patrolboat, so we didn’t get the chance to see the turtles that day.
Seeing a turtle nest for the first time
The day after our dive trip turned out much differently. The dive trip and the turtle patrol were on the same boat. Rajabo, from the patrol team, was on the dive boat and ready to take care of the nests.
When we approached Maziwe we could see turtle tracks in the sand, which looked like a huge number eight drawn in the sand. This meant there was probably a turtle nest to be found and surprisingly, with the help of Rajabo, we discovered two nests!
Like an egg in a haystack
The turtle first digs a “body” ditch, which is a hole the size of her body. After this she starts to dig the nest, making a small round hole going about a half to a whole meter below the body hole.
When the nest is dug, she lays the eggs in the nest. When she is done laying the eggs she moves away and starts to bury the entire hole using her flippers to throw the sand over the hole, covering it up.
The first nest we found was a big sand pile about 4×4 meters in size.
Rajabo took a wooden stick and quickly cleared the whole area, pretty much the same way land mines are located in old war movies.
He found the eggs and marked the area. This particular nest was at the highest point of the island, so instead of digging it out, we went looking for other nests.
The second nest was discovered and the eggs were rescued without any problems. All of the eggs were slowly and carefully placed in a bucket and brought away from the water and placed in the shade. However, as we moved back to the first nest, issues occurred.
Saving the eggs from the water
The first nest hole we discovered was not at the place we Rajabo first found, so as we dug around what we found was nothing but a broken eggshell. It was nerve-wracking as everyone on the turtle project was frantically digging around the entire 4 x 4 meter as the water moved closer to the area.
As the tides got closer and closer to the big sand pile, everyone on Maziwe panicked more and more. The group of us that didn’t know how to locate a nest started to build a wall of sand to try to delay the water from coming in so fast.
I don’t know how much a wall of sand can help against a whole ocean coming, but we tried our best, and the thought of the water destroying the little eggs was too unbearable.
The nest was eventually located quite a distance away from the first place Rajabu found it. The turtle had apparently laid one egg there and the rest at an entirely different location in the sand.
The process of getting the eggs up and away from Maziwe seemed very natural to the team of locals connected to the turtle project. Each egg was carefully picked up and placed in a bucket with sandy bottom layer. Then the bucket was covered with sand and a towel for shade.
The two nests were picked up and taken by the speedboat to the mainland while we stayed back to enjoy the beach and dive the reef around Maziwe.
The feeling of doing something great
Finding those turtle eggs and taking them away from Maziwe to be relocated gave us the greatest feeling – the feeling of helping endangered animals in one of the most critical moments of their lives.
Come back tomorrow for more on the turtle nesting project. You will read the exciting story about the turtles hatching and the baby turtles running towards the beach.
Have you ever seen a sea turtle lay her eggs in the sand or seen a turtle nest? If so, please share your turtle story in the comments below.