Almost every tree you see on the island in the photo above has been planted in the past 30 years during the patient restoration process. The island was stripped for the guano in the years before that. But it is a conservation success story now, and safe again for the turtles to nest on.
Those buildings in the photo below are some cabins of the Eco Resort. See how close they are to the beach. We stayed in one of those. They are not fancy because this is a low-impact eco resort.
During our stay in November, turtles were heaving themselves ashore after years at sea. On our first night we sat by the seats you see above watching the turtle who made these very tracks. Ironically, she dug right next to the sign about turtles.
Laboriously she dug, then moved, then dug, and moved again, not satisfied with the particular holes. On and on she dug. We were exhausted, and we were only watching. We went to bed and left her still digging. In the morning we saw that she had not been happy with any of the holes. No eggs laid.
We rose before dawn and set off stumbling along the crumbly edges of the island peering for obstacles. We did not take torches because the lights can disturb the turtles. We were part way around the island at the point where the runway comes almost down to the water when we saw tracks. Our turtle seemed to have lumbered ashore, gone into the bushes, worked her way through them and circled back around towards the sea. It must have been a very long trek for her, and all of it over ground deemed unsuitable for laying in.
There was a mound by the runway edge that might be a successful nest. (We would report it to the staff who monitor all the possible turtle nests). But where was she? Oh no, Look there! Our heroine is that rounded shell in the middle of the photo being watched over by a heron. She had taken so long at her mission that the tide had gone out. She was stuck within the reef.
We watched over her for a while as the sun came up. Sometimes she circled hopefully. Most of the time she rested. She had worked all night to clamber up the shore, to dig, to lay, and to get back down to the water – she must have been exhausted.
We moved away to leave our “Dawn Turtle” in peace. On returning from our walk, we were delighted to see her checking possible exits through the rocks and coral. As the tide came in the water lapped higher and she got a bit further out. And then with a splash and a surge she made it over the big outer reef.
There she goes, one turtle taking on the vast Pacific Ocean. We were so happy to see her making her way out, but worried too. The scourge of plastic is out there, just waiting to uselessly fill her stomach. And the long nets of the predatory trawlers show no mercy. But if .. she can still find real food and if .. she somehow escapes entanglement, she will be return one day to Lady Elliot Island. Let’s hope so.
Swim, turtle, swim.
You are at Baffled Bear Books, the blog by Mark O’Dwyer, guardian of
Mawson, Writer Bear of It’s A Bright World To Feel Lost In.