About halfway through my second semester of medicine, a group of term two students and myself, took a much needed break from studying to go to Levera National Park in Grenada.
St. Georges University was about two hours from Levera National Park! My taxi driver and friend, Ray, took us to the other end of the island for 400 EC divided 8 ways. He also took care of the bookings for watching the Leatherback Turtles lay their eggs. If you ever need a ride, I recommend his services (Find him on WhatsApp – 1(473) 406-3991). We wanted to see Levera National Park in the daylight, so we left around 4 pm. Below are pictures of the beach, and you can see Sugarloaf Island!
Around 8 pm, after getting our passes for the beach ($20 a person – the proceeds help the turtles) we waited to hear from the conservationists, hoping to see the Leatherback turtles. This is the only beach in Grenada that is protected from March to September for the turtles to both birth their eggs and for the eggs to hatch. During the day, the beach is open to the public, however around 8 pm the beach is closed off to guests without passes to see the turtles. Currently, leatherback turtles are vulnerable to endangerment, and that is why there are efforts in place to protect these amazing creatures. If you buy a pass, you have a 95% chance of seeing the turtles. We went in March, which is early in the season. The turtles may arrive anywhere between 8 pm and 12 am. We all had studying/sleeping to get back to (and a two hour drive back to school), so we were really hoping they would arrive early. Within ten minutes of waiting, one of the tour guides came back from the beach and told us the first turtle had arrived. My heart literally skipped a beat. I was so excited. You have to walk quite a distance in the sand to see the turtles, so definitely be cognizant of that when choosing shoes/clothes. It was really windy, and I wish I would have brought a jacket of some sort. First, the turtle started by digging a deep hole using her back extremities so that she could bury her eggs. The guides shine a red light on the turtle and flash photography is not allowed, because they don’t want you to interrupt the turtle or knock her out of her trance; we even got to feel the turtle’s shell! After she has successfully dug a hole, she begins laying her eggs. Our turtle laid close to 120 eggs, and they measured her shell. Her shell was 156 cm long and 117 cm across.
This was a truly amazing experience. We were told that only 1 in 1000 turtles survive. I was not expecting the turtle to be so large, they may grow more than six feet long and weigh up to 1400 pounds. When we got to see her up close, we could see that her face and shell had been through so much, they were both scratched up from attacks. When only one in a thousand are surviving, you have to wonder what we can do to help them, or if what we are doing is hindering their survival. Leatherback turtles eat twice their weight in jellyfish, and we waste a shit ton of plastic and contaminate our oceans. Our guide told us that the turtles may see a plastic bag in the water and think it is a jellyfish and eat it, which is problematic for this nearly endangered species. From what I have read about these turtles, it is unclear how much plastic it takes to kill them, but it is well understood that absolutely no animal can digest plastic, so reduce, reuse, recycle and keep our oceans clean!
I also hit up Ray to go to Welcome Stone with my friend Laura. It was on the other end of the island close to Levera National Park and it took about two hours to get there. Not only did we get to go to Welcome Stone, but Ray let us stop at the Rum factory and check it out on the way there, and on the way back, he stopped at the old airport so we could check that out. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.