Loggerhead Sea Turtle Watching in Boa Vista

Cape Verde is home to one of the largest nesting populations of Loggerhead Sea Turtles (Caretta caretta) in the world.

Loggerhead Sea Turtles are considered an endangered species and are protected by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. To help ensure their survival, Cape Verde has established extensive turtle conservation hatchery projects. Visitors to Boa Vista can also participate in guided tours to observe the turtles laying their eggs. These tours take place nightly from June to mid-October, with the peak spawning season occurring in August.

Loggerhead turtles are oceanic turtles that can be found in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans, as well as the Mediterranean Sea. When fully grown, the average Loggerhead measures around 90 cm long, but larger specimens of up to 280 cm have been discovered. Adult turtles weigh approximately 135 kg, with the largest specimens weighing more than 450 kg. They spend most of their life in saltwater and estuarine habitats, and females briefly come ashore to lay eggs on or near the beach where they hatched. They reach sexual maturity within 17–33 years and can live for 47–67 years. However, they have a low reproductive rate; females lay an average of four egg clutches and then become quiescent, producing no eggs for two to three years.

During the nesting season, females return to the beach to lay eggs at intervals of 12–17 days. After exiting the water, they climb onto the beach and scrape away the surface sand to create a body pit. Using their hind limbs, they excavate an egg chamber and deposit their eggs. The turtles then cover the chamber with sand and return to the sea. This process takes one to two hours. Loggerheads are particular when choosing a suitable nesting site, and various factors can cause them to retreat, including the feel of the sand, unpleasant sounds or annoying lights. Once the deposition process begins, however, the turtles enter a trance-like state and are not easily distracted. The eggs themselves resemble battered table tennis balls and are roughly the same size.

Visitors to the nesting sites can observe the turtles up close and even touch them. Biologist keep records of each turtle they encounter and collect the eggs, which they transfer to a designated hatchery for safekeeping. Moving the eggs to the hatchery is necessary because they are extremely vulnerable in the nest.

The prolonged time it takes for Loggerhead turtles to reach sexual maturity, combined with the high mortality rates of eggs and young turtles due to natural phenomena as well as human activities, create complex challenges for population conservation. The protection of the turtles not only contributes to the survival of the spices but also helps educate the inhabitants of the archipelago about the importance of preserving these sea creatures. In the past, turtles were hunted and sold for their bones and meat. Unfortunately, turtle eggs are still illegally consumed in some areas of the archipelago. Schoolchildren are regularly involved in conservation efforts, especially during the hatching period. Seeing the cute little turtles wobbling in the sand while trying to reach the sea is likely to discourage anyone from hunting them or eating their eggs.

Know Before You Go
When visiting a hatching site, visitors should be prepared to move quickly in the pitch black on a sandy beach.


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