Let’s talk about Turtles!

Travel

Bit more of a factual, conservation post for you today as I think it’s a really important subject that I’ve found certain inspiration for recently. Sea turtles are my favourite animals and always have been. They are such peaceful, gentle and intelligent animals and they need saving so they can save our oceans. There are 7 extant species of sea turtle and each one plays an important role in maintaining the diversity, habitat and functionality of it’s environment. Whether that’s grazing on sea grass, controlling sponge distribution, feasting on jellyfish, transporting nutrients or supporting other marine life. They are so important!

Green Turtle (Photo credit : National Geographic Kids)

All sea turtles are currently endangered which is such a scary thing. There are so many reasons why sea turtles are being threatened: natural threats, human threats, illegal sea turtle shell trade, commercial fishing, marine debris, artificial lighting….I could go on. Sadly, only an estimated one in 1,000 to 10,000 will survive to adulthood. One of the threats I have personally experienced is the recent hurricanes of Irma and Maria. They were so devastating for so many beaches and turtle nests. Going down to our local beach after the hurricanes, and where you normally see sandy tracks and carved out turtle nests, it has been replaced with tonnes of wood and debris from the ocean, all of the nests and eggs were gone- it was so heartbreaking.

Lime Kiln Bay (LKB) after Hurricane Irma

LKB: This used to be a sandy beach with turtle tracks and nests all over it.

So…what can we do?!?

Seeing sea turtles in their natural habitat is the best thing I’ve ever experienced. I’ve watched them nesting on a beach in Montserrat (I saw a green turtle and a hawksbill) and it was so special. If you go down to a turtle nesting beach at night, there are ways to help protect the nesting sea turtles and their hatchlings:

Keep your distance! If you get too close, you may scare them and they won’t want to nest.

• Use red LED flashlights on the beach at night, turn the brightness down on your phone- don’t take flash photos!

• Fill in holes that people have made in the sand during the day, so the sea turtles don’t fall into them and get stuck.

• Check the beach and correctly dispose of fishing line or anything that sea turtles and any other animals can get stuck in.

• It is illegal to harm, harass or take sea turtles, their eggs and hatchlings, including getting too close to a nesting female.

There are so many other things you can do from your home town no matter how far you are from the ocean. For example we all know plastic bags do not biodegrade. But we need to do more, currently less than 5% of plastic bags are recycled worldwide! Plastic bags that end up in the ocean get mistaken for food (such as jellyfish) by marine life including turtles and they ingest it. This causes blockages in their digestive system and eventually death. By reusing plastic bags or recycling them properly it could make a huge difference.

Reduce, Reuse and Recycle!

• Use reusable cloth bags when shopping instead of plastic ones.

• Don’t Litter

• Don’t release balloons into the air. They can travel very far and end up in the ocean, that turtles can mistake for food and ingest.

Green Turtle at Worthing Beach, Christ Church, Barbados

To finish on a happy note, yesterday I had the absolute pleasure of being able to swim with these magnificent creatures. I am currently staying on the West Coast of Barbados, so finding sea turtles isn’t that hard. I went for a snorkel on Worthing beach and there they were, peacefully grazing on the sandy ocean floor, in a pretty shallow area. It was amaaaazinggggg. I took some photos and videos, but at all times keeping my distance, respecting them and not touching them!! I strongly believe the current conservation work that is being done with the sea turtles is really making a difference but everyone can do their bit by respecting the turtles and just letting them be.

(I know my photos ain’t the clearest but for an iPhone in a waterproof baggy, I think it did pretty well. I am forever kicking myself I didn’t invest in a good waterproof camera before I went travelling, c’mon Hannah think!)

S A V E~T H E~T U R T L E S

Thanks for reading!

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My time in the Caribbean : Montserrat

Travel

Wow it feels so weird to be writing a blogpost again, I’ve had a pretty intense year since I last blogged so I needed to take a break from it and spend time with the people that are closest to me, but I’m so happy to be back and with so much more to share! I’m actually writing this on my phone from the comfort of my Air B&B in Barbados, I just couldn’t wait to return to the UK to share stuff about my trip. The first sector off what I’m going to call a ‘blog series’ is going to be about my time in the Emerald Isle of the Caribbean – Montserrat!

When I told people I was going to Montserrat people thought I meant the mountain range in Spain, which to be honest is only fair as I had noooo idea where it was when until my friend recommended it to me. My boyfriend is a wildlife conservationist so he was looking for work in this field, while myself, I don’t have any experience in this area but I’ve always wanted to volunteer on a similar project. We found this organisation ‘Coral Cay Conservation‘ that did amazing work helping endangered coral reefs and tropical forests. They had a site over in Montserrat so my boyfriend applied for a job as a Science Officer and got it! It was such great news as we finally had a starting place for our travels! I joined him out there a few months after he arrived in May as a volunteer.

Views from my room

I don’t even know where to start when describing Montserrat. I’ve never been to any place like it. The whole island only has a population of 5,000 people so as you can probably guess there is a huge sense of community. Everyone was so friendly and trusting, there is (basically) no crime what so ever and everyone knows everyone. Montserrat is a mountainous island with an active volcano…yes meaning it could have erupted at any time, which was so scary to me at first but more I learnt about the volcano and the way they track and monitor it, I pretty much forgot it was even active, in fact if anything it made it more exciting.

Me showing my excitement for the volcano

Me being excited about seeing the volcano

Being a part of the conservation project meant I got to contribute to monitoring 30 different species of bird and 12 herptiles that lived on the island. Learning all these different animals was SO fascinating, I mean I’ve always loved animals but I never thought I would love bird spotting. It has quickly become a major interest of mine, everywhere we go now I’m pointing out birds and identifying what species it is from our book (yes we have bird book) and I love it!

Everyday on the project would consist of going on a trail in the morning then usually a shorebird survey in the afternoon. The trails were amazing, you really got to explore the depths of Montserrat’s tropical forests, it definitely was a challenge. Hiking in such extreme temperatures on top off the humidity is a real test, but ever so rewarding. One trail, called ‘Rendezvous’, ended in a beautiful white sand beach which you would have had no idea was there, so secluded and tranquil. Although this trail was a tough hike as it wasn’t the most covered from the sun and it took you straight over a cliff ridge, so it was fairly steep, it immediately became my favourite trail. Rendezvous Beach

Rendezvous Beach

Other trails were a lot more wooded, I’ve never seen forests like it, very Tarzan-esc with dozens of vines and roots of trees taller than 2 of you. These kind of trails were always more humid, as there is less of a breeze. Something I have learnt from doing all these treks is not to be embarrassed by sweat. I have never sweated so much in my life and you just learn to get on with it, my entire body just dripping, even in places I didn’t even know could sweat- just happens! So no more embarrassing sweat patches when I’m back in the UK as it’s nothing compared to this. On a less gross note, the ‘Oriole Trail’ was another one of my favourites, aptly named after the ‘Montserrat Oriole’ which is the national bird of the island. It’s a beautiful uphill hike to the top then a nice decline to the end. This trail also ended at a coffee shop which sold the MOST delicious chocolate milkshake! Not the most important reason to do the trail but I’ll tell you now after sweating and hiking like that, an ice cold milkshake is just what you need!

Montserrat Oriole (male)

Montserrat Oriole (male)

Views from the top of Oriole trail

Views from the top of Oriole Trail

So from Monday- Saturday our days were filled up with treks, surveys, daily chores and activities but as soon as the clock struck 6pm on Saturday it became ‘Beer O’clock’! Making sure all the science is taken care off we were free to spend our Saturday night as we please, whether it’s going out and having a night in with a few drinks. On the first Saturday I was there, we all decided to go out, I was so excited! I always think experiencing a place a night you really get to see a different side of the culture and meet new people. The first bar we went too, you wouldn’t even recognise it as a bar back home. It was a bright blue and green painted hut with dance hall music blasting out of an outside speaker with the owner sat on a plastic chair next to it. All along the back inside is the bar with a TV screen on your left where you can play FIFA on PlayStation. When you order a drink it was a completely unique thing again! It’s never happened to me before where you order a gin and tonic, for example, and in front of you they put the bottle of gin, a can of tonic, a full ice cube tray and a plastic cup- basically make your own! No measurements or limits and you pay the same price. Bartending is my trade back home so I think this so strange, but definitely not going to complain.

I could ramble on telling you about every experience I had in Montserrat but I highly doubt anyone reading will make it any further (if you’ve made it this far thank you). Overall I would recommend going to Montserrat if you’re are already in the Caribbean for a few days. There is not loads to do but definitely pop over if you are close. Hike! Swim! Snorkel! Dive! Also some beautiful sunsets (seriously I’ve never seen any like it). Being able to spend 2 months there working as a volunteer was truly an honour.

Sunset the night before Irma hit

Sunset the night before Irma hit

Thank you for reading.