The leatherback turtle is the largest sea turtle and even the largest reptile in the world that is not a crocodile. These magnificent beasts can grow up to 7 feet long and weigh 1500 pounds. Their flippers can be up to 8.9 feet long and are the largest in relation to body size of any sea turtle.
As amazing as the above facts are nothing compares to actually seeing these massive creatures crawl up the beach at night. A female leatherback turtle can lay over 100 eggs at a time, 7-8 times a season, every 2-3 years. Once they crawl higher than the high tide mark they will find a spot on the beach with soft sand and start digging a hole a foot and a half to two feet deep with their back flippers. Once they do this they start dropping eggs into the hole one at a time. During the egg laying period the female enters a trance like state and this allows scientist to approach to take measurements and count the eggs. Once she is done the female will fill in the hole and then spend half an hour moving sand around a wide area, so predators can not tell where on the beach she laid her eggs. I am told that once she is done we could have a party right on top of the nest and it would not be hurt at all. That is how well she buries the eggs.
I loved watching a female leatherback turtle lay her eggs, but what I like even more is seeing a tiny little hatchling making his way to the ocean. These hatchlings are only about two inches long and hatch 60-70 days after they are laid. They usually wait until dark to crawl out of the nest and head to the water and I felt so lucky to see some. I have to admit they mesmerized me with how small and cute they are.
Grenada is one of the best places in the Caribbean to see this amazing act of nature. The season is April to July and I went in late June, which is the best I think because the baby leatherback turtles that were laid at the beginning are hatching and you have a chance to see them. If you are in Grenada and want to see them call Patrick “ShadeMan” at 473-420-5639 or on VHF chanel 68. Patrick is a great guy who loves working with cruisers. He always parks his van in the shade which is how he got his nickname.