Witnessing a turtle laying her eggs, or a clutch of turtle hatchlings emerging from their nest and making their way to the open ocean, is one of the rarest and most rewarding experiences a visitor to the Seychelles can have. While the Seychelles’ turtle populations are certainly showing an encouraging increase since turtles became protected in these waters almost 15 years ago, these remarkable species are still considered endangered, and sightings of these animals in the wild are sporadic and down to pure luck.
Two species of sea turtle nest in the Seychelles: the hawksbill turtle and the green turtle. Hawksbill turtles have been known to come ashore and nest during the day, while green turtles nest almost exclusively at night. The best time of year to spot hawksbill turtles nesting is from October to April. Turtle eggs need to incubate for around eight weeks, with hatchlings typically emerging at night around the full moon, when they use the light of the moon and the stars to navigate their way to the sea.
Tips for responsible viewing:
In order to ensure that a turtle is able to safely lay her eggs and is not frightened away during nesting (when exhausted, heavily pregnant females are most at risk of drowning), please adopt the following behaviours should you be lucky enough to come across a nesting female:
- Keep perfectly still and remain at a safe distance (at least 3 m). Movement may frighten the turtle and cause her to retreat back to the sea.
- Turn off all artificial light and do not use flash photography. Turtles navigate by natural light, and artificial light sources could both frighten and disorientate them.
- Do not make any loud noises or attempt to touch her.
- Slowly try to position yourself out of her range of vision. She cannot see behind her shell and there is less risk that you will frighten her.
- Do not block her path back to the ocean. After nesting, the turtle will feel exhausted and insecure out of the water. She will want to return to the ocean as soon as she can.
- Report any sightings of new nests to your hotel, so that they can protect the area.
The south of Mahé has some of the richest nesting grounds on the Seychelles’ main island, with Anse Intendance and Anse Forbans both listed as nesting zones.