Updated on March 14th, 2023
Seeing any animal in their natural habitat is a thrill and a privilege. To see an endangered species create more life is a true honour. Here I share my experience of doing just that. Leatherback turtles can be traced back over 100 million years & are the fourth largest reptiles on earth. To see them nest on Levera Beach Grenada is an experience I will never forget. If you want to do the same, here is everything you need to know.”
Levera Beach, Grenada
It has long been on my Life List to see wild turtles hatch. When I was on Langkayan Island in Borneo, we put signs outside our door asking to be woken if they saw any turtles starting to nest or hatch. Unfortunately, our sleep remained undisturbed.
Then when I arrived to live in Antigua for 6 months, I was thrilled to see warning signs on the road about baby turtles crossing. Alas, again, I never saw a single one.
So, when I was in Grenada & heard that I was visiting during the turtle nesting season, a tour to Levera Beach went straight on my to-do list. And while we’re on the subject of must-do activities, don’t miss the Underwater Sculpture Park either!
I love wildlife & any opportunity to see them in their natural habitat is always a thrill. Check out my blog post for my top 11 experiences so far. Pre turtles in Grenada, obviously!
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Leatherback Turtles on Levera Beach Grenada
Marine turtles are the living representatives of a group of reptiles that have existed on Earth for the last 100 million years. Leatherback turtles are the largest of the sea turtle family & are giants of the ocean as they can grow up to 6 feet long. They are the world’s fourth largest reptile. These turtles are characterised by their unique shell, not made up of plates like other species but instead it is as soft as leather.
Although their distribution is wide, the numbers of leatherback turtles have seriously declined during the last century as a result of intense egg collection and fishing practices. Globally, leatherback status is listed as Vulnerable, but many subpopulations (such as these in the Pacific and Southwest Atlantic) are Critically Endangered.
Leatherback turtles consume large numbers of jellyfish which helps to keep populations of these marine organisms in check. However, this also makes them hugely vulnerable to plastic bags floating in the ocean. If they consume one by mistake, it could kill them.
Leatherback Turtle Nesting
Leatherback turtles travel up to 10,000 miles a year to lay their eggs. They start their journey from as far away as Nova Scotia or Alaska to build a nest on Levera Beach in Grenada.
The females will always return to the exact beach they were born on & once she leaves her nest, she will never return to it again.”
The mothers will come to lay eggs between 3 & 6 times in a season, however they do not return every season. It may be 2-3 years before she comes back. Can you imagine navigating all that way to a single beach that you haven’t been to for 3 years? Nature can be mindboggling!
The gender of each turtle is dependent on the temperature of the sand where the egg is laid. Those closest to the centre of the nest, where it is warmest will become females. The turtles lay a combination of yolked & yolkless eggs. The infertile ones are generally produced to protect the others.
Heartbreakingly, only 1 in 1000 of the hatchlings will survive to reach adulthood. So, each one who does is a miracle in so many ways!”
Watching Sea Turtles’ nest on Levera Beach, Grenada – What do you need to know?
Where to stay
During some of my stay in Grenada, I was at the Petite Anse Hotel. It is only a 20-minute drive from Levera Beach & a perfect base for exploring the north of the island. As the tour occurs during night time hours, be aware that driving at night can be a challenge. I would advise staying closeby if you are driving yourself or getting a taxi for the evening. Petite Anse Hotel would organise any tour on your behalf.
Petite Anse is a family run hotel & was perfect for me. Although remote, it has a fantastic bar & restaurant overlooking the wild ocean & its own private beach. I had a bungalow overlooking the beach & the hammock on the veranda was my happy place. Melvin at the bar also mixes a mean cocktail!
If you are interested in driving yourself, check out my Top Tips for Driving in St Lucia. Grenada has similar challenges!
While you’re in Grenada don’t miss the chance to discover some of its stunning waterfalls or some of these other fantastic activities:
What to wear
For a night on Levera Beach, I suggest wearing trainers or walking boots. In the dark it is difficult to know exactly what you are stepping on. There is a lot of vegetation & the sand is not even. You will also need to walk quite quickly at times so I would avoid wearing flip flops.
It is unclear how long you will be on the beach. And although Grenada has a tropical climate, it can get cold & windy at night. The turtles also won’t be put off by the rain!
I recommend making sure you have layers to cover all potential weather changes. They also encourage wearing dark clothes to limit the distractions for the turtles.”
Tours are provided by SPECTO (St Patrick’s Eco-Conservation Tourism Organisation). They run from 1st April through to July. To book, contact SPECTO at least 2 days in advance (email firstname.lastname@example.org or call +1 473 405 8395 to reserve your space).
The tours start from Levera Bathway Visitors Centre on Bathway Beach promptly at 7.30pm. The turtles only come to the beach at night so it needs to be dark before they can begin.
The tour costs $EC80 or US$30. It is paid in cash on arrival where you are given a permit to allow you access to the beach. The charges are non-refundable. Different rates are applied for residents, children (half price) & students at the local university.
After booking, I was sent some guidelines. These stated that no more than 13 people were allowed around a turtle & no touching would be allowed. There were eight of us in my group. However, what transpired on the beach was that another group joined us which must have been around 20 people. In addition, when the turtle was laying her eggs, we were told she was in a trance & therefore we were given permission to touch her if we liked.
Only one person in my group went forward for this (not me). The number of people on the beach & the touching being allowed were the two aspects which I felt most uncomfortable with. So be warned!
No white lights are allowed on the beach at night. This means no flashlights or camera flashes. The only light permitted are red torches, hence the red glow on my photos.”
White light will scare away the turtles. In our group, it was only our guide who had a red flashlight, so we needed to stay close to him.
Levera Beach is closed at night during the annual nesting season (February to September) to support all the conservation efforts. Therefore if you want to see the Leatherback turtles nesting you need to go with a tour. The only way to do this is with SPECTO.
Natures Miracle: Watching Sea Turtle Nesting on Levera Beach Grenada
Our guide was Kimran & he started by giving us a short presentation in the Visitors Centre. This gave us an understanding of the turtles we would hopefully be seeing & the do’s & don’ts for behaviour once we got to the beach.
The turtles use their front flippers to clear the dry sand first, then their back ones to dig a hole. Once they are happy with their efforts, they lay their eggs into the hole. The laying itself can take around 30 – 45 minutes. They then go through the same process to cover them over again before heading back into the water. From start to finish it can take anything up to 2 hours.
Obviously, as with any wildlife experience, there is no guarantee that you will see any turtles. However, if you time your visit right, you should be lucky enough to spot at least one. Of course, you could be waiting all night but hopefully the ladies will be prompt for you!”
We learned that we were very much second priority after the Ocean Spirits researchers. They tell us when to go to the beach & when we can approach the turtle. After heading to Levera Beach, we had to wait until the researchers spotted a turtle before we were allowed to enter onto the sand. There are picnic benches to wait on & watch the night sky, but as no lights are allowed, even phones for distraction are a no-no.
The priority on Levera Beach goes to the Ocean Spirits researchers. They are the official conservation body. Researchers parade the beach during the night monitoring all the turtle activity & tagging any new visitors. Once the season gets underway, they employ an army of volunteers to help them. If you are interested in joining the team, you will need to commit for at least two weeks. All the details can be found HERE.
The Ocean Spirits Team walk backwards & forwards along the beach. If they see no turtles, they wait at the end for 30 minutes & then start the walk again. Once a turtle appears, they watch, tag if required & count the eggs as they are laid. Occasionally the turtle chooses to dig their nest too close to the sea or the vegetation. If this occurs, they move the eggs. The researchers must do this at some point the same night or the eggs will never hatch.
Not long to wait!
After only 15 minutes we got the call. I was beyond excited! We hurried along the beach following Kimran as fast as we could. Our prize was off at the other end of the beach & once we got close, we were told to stop & wait at a distance until she had settled.
Once the researchers were comfortable that she was happy, we were able to move closer to watch her. And she was magnificent! Much larger than I had expected.”
Before each turtle leaves the beach, Ocean Spirits check her tag & measure her. This beauty was 5’9” (1.75 metres) long (almost as tall as me!) & 3 feet (1 metre) wide.
She was flapping her huge flippers & flicking sand, but instead of laying her eggs, she started to head back to the water. It turned out that what they believed was the start of her digging, was actually the end of the whole process for her. She had completed her business for the day & was off. I was in awe! I felt honoured to have witnessed her, even without the full egg-laying experience.
As she headed towards the water, Kimran pointed out another turtle coming into shore…& then another. What a treat! We kept our distance to allow the ladies to choose their spot & waited. One of them seemed to change her mind (apparently this is a frequent occurrence) & disappeared back into the water.
We were left with a youngster, much smaller than the first & it turned out she was untagged. This meant it was her first time.”
She did as expected, cleared the dry sand away by flicking it with her front flippers. Once she was settled, they beckoned us to move closer so we could see the whole magical event for ourselves. We arrived as she had started digging a hole with her back flippers. It looked like tiring & cumbersome work with frequent rests. But it was amazing how deep she got her hole.
Then she started to lay & we jostled for positions to try & see. Two of the researchers held a flipper each to keep them apart. Their leader caught all the eggs & counted as she laid them. She made it to 106!
We watched in awe as she covered them back over. They then took her measurements & tagged her.
What a night!
When she was in the final part of her ritual, covering up her progeny, Kimran suggested we leave as we had seen this process with the previous turtle.
I was happy to leave her in peace. What an honour to be able to see these magnificent beasts start more life.”
By 10pm, I was back in my car & heading home.
Fancy a trip to see the Leatherback Turtle Nesting on Levera Beach Grenada? Then why not also check out these other options for activities while you’re there:
Seeing any wildlife in their natural habitat is a thrill & a privilege, but to see an endangered species create more life is a true honour. I am still in awe of my experience on Levera Beach in Grenada. I hope if you choose to visit yourself, that you have as much success with your encounter with these magnificent beasts as I did.
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