On the Gili Islands, we are lucky enough to have a wonderful population of both green sea turtles and hawksbill sea turtles. Both species are endangered, in fact, hawksbill sea turtles are critically endangered and we want to make sure that these beautiful creatures are protected through their whole life cycle. Every year pregnant females make their way to our beaches to lay eggs which is a magical event to whiteness and a beautiful journey to follow. We put together some useful information regarding sea turtle nests so that you know what to do if you just so happen to come across one.
How Often Do Sea Turtles Breed?
Male sea turtles can breed year-round however female sea turtles are believed to breed only every three or four years.
When Do Sea Turtles Nest?
Sea turtles normally nest during the night when it is dark and quiet. Nesting occurs just a few weeks after the sea turtles have mated. Female sea turtles make their way to the beach and dig deep holes in the sand using their flippers. They lay their eggs in the egg chamber and bury them using sand to protect the eggs from predators. Once they have finished burying their eggs they make their way back to the ocean and leave the eggs for good.
What Do I Do When I See A Turtle Making A Nest?
If you happen to see a sea turtle making her way to the beach it is important that you keep your distance and allow her to find the primary location to build her nest.
Do not approach her! Sea turtle’s eyes are very sensitive to light and therefore it is important that you do not use flashlights or flash photography when observing them.
Once the sea turtle has made her way back to the ocean it can be beneficial to cordon off the nest to minimize the risk of damage due to human activity, this is particularly true in areas that are typically crowded such as beachside restaurants or resorts.
When cordoning off the nest make sure to place the barrier gently in the sand avoiding touching the nest when doing so (about a meter away) try to use a material that allows the hatchlings to make their way to the ocean with ease when it is time to do so, such as a couple of bamboo posts connected with a rope and marked with a sign.
How Does A Sea Turtle Nest Look Like?
Typically sea turtle nests are quite inconspicuous. The easiest way to identify a nest is by the tracks that have been left in the sand by the turtles making their way back to the ocean, just like a footprint on a sandy beach these tracks won’t stay for long.
The nest itself looks like a poorly built sandcastle which will become flatter as the days pass until it is the same level as the rest of the beach.
What Do Sea Turtle Eggs Look Like?
Sea turtle eggs are rather small and round, quite similar to the appearance of a ping pong.
How Many Eggs Do They Typically Lay?
Depending on the species of sea turtle a female can lay between 80-120 eggs per nest.
How Long Does It Take For The Eggs To Hatch?
It normally takes around two months for sea turtle eggs to hatch.
How Do Hatchlings Emerge From Their Nest?
The baby sea turtles normally hatch at the same time and dig their way out of the nest to make their way to the ocean. This is a critical moment for their development therefore should be left to happen as naturally as possible.
Research suggests that assisting hatchlings by digging them out of their nests and bringing them to the ocean can harm their development and alter their natural instincts.
What Do I Do When I See Hatchlings Coming Out Of The Nest?
If you observe hatchlings coming out of their nest it is important to refrain from using flash photography, flash lights and touching them. Allowing the babies to make their way to the ocean themselves is a critical part of their development.
If you must use a light make sure that it has a red filter as this is a lot less damaging to the turtle’s eyes. Ask nearby businesses to turn off or lower their lights so as not to disorientate the hatchlings. It is believed that hatchlings use the reflection of the moon to find the ocean meanings that heavily lit up areas can make them lose their way easily.
Can I Touch A Hatchling?
The short answer is no! Please respect the hatchlings boundaries and do not touch them.
Can I Take Pictures Of The Hatchlings?
It is okay to take pictures of the hatchlings provided that you do not use a flash. If you have a red filter then this will significantly minimize the risk of damaging the eyes.
What Do I Do If A Hatching Is Making Its Way Towards The Land Instead Of The Ocean?
If you notice that the hatchlings are making their way towards the land instead of the ocean then it is very likely due to the land being very lit up. Try to ask nearby buildings to turn off their lights allowing the turtles to orientate their way to the ocean.
It may also be beneficial to create a channel in the sand for the hatchlings to follow, making a sandy wall from their nest to the ocean.
Our Turtle Identification Program
Did you know that we run our own unique turtle identification program on The Gilis? The Gili Islands are marked as an important area for marine turtle conservation. If we can ensure that the turtles can nest and hatch safely here we can provide the best start for the turtles in a similar way that we do for the white tip reef sharks. You can read all about our program here.
Would you like to get involved? Apply for a spot in our research team today!
Code Of Conduct With Turtles
We believe lots of small individual actions can have a big impact on the planet. Make a difference by just following these simple guidelines.