This photograph of a nesting green turtle (Chelonia mydas) was taken by me, Andrea Barden. I am a volunteer for the North Cyprus Society for the Protection of Turtles (SPOT) and also a member of the responsible travel and ecotourism team at Kaleidoskop Turizm, the whl.travel local connection in North Cyprus. This green turtle is of one of many green and loggerhead turtles (Caretta caretta) that come to nest every year on the beaches all around the coast of North Cyprus.
Having already spent eight hours during the night patrolling Alagadi Beach for nesting turtles, SPOT volunteers came across this stunning female in the early hours of the morning and were able to watch her crawl up the beach, dig out a body pit and egg chamber, lay her eggs and then cover them up with sand using her powerful front flippers.
It was a very memorable occasion for all of the volunteers, as most female turtles usually choose to nest during the hours of darkness with ‘dawn greens’ being very rare occurrences. This ‘dawn green’ enabled the volunteers, who spend many long hours working to help conserve and protect these magnificent animals, to sit and enjoy her presence in the early morning light for more than two hours as she worked to cover her nest. It also provided the opportunity to get some fantastic photos, which are normally impossible to get at night due to camera flashes disturbing turtles when they are nesting.
Tourists visiting North Cyprus have the chance to join the volunteers at Alagadi Beach during their nightly nesting patrols from June through to the beginning of August, and then also for ‘nest excavations’ from the end of July through to September, when the baby turtles are hatching from the nests. Joining the volunteers is a fantastic opportunity only available in a few places around the world, and all visitor who see a turtle leave saying they’ve had a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Kaleidoskop Turizm highly recommends turtle-watching as a must-do activity whilst in North Cyprus, not only because it is a memorable (and free!) experience, but also because it allows people to learn about the threats turtles are facing in the Mediterranean and to help take steps to conserve them, whether it be through a donation to help SPOT continue their fantastic research and conservation work or helping make other people more aware about biodiversity and conservation issues in the Mediterranean.
For those looking for more information on marine turtles in North Cyprus, the Mediterranean and the rest of the world, you can also visit the website of the Marine Turtle Research Group. Each year several of the nesting females in Alagadi have a satellite tracker attached to their carapace, so that conservation researchers can find out where they go at other times of year and try to identify feeding areas in the Mediterranean that might require protection from intensive fishing. You can watch where some of these turtles go via www.seaturtle.org.