Trinidad's Nesting
Leatherback Turtles
Part 1

Trinidad's Paria Bay is excellent for watching nesting leatherbacks.

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Many endangered species inhabit remote, out-of-the way places, and it's rare to see them roaming freely in the wild. Moreover, the larger animals usually aren't fond of intruders. Try walking up to one and it might have you for lunch.

Fortunately, sea turtles don't have those kinds of tendencies, not even the huge leatherbacks that can weigh up to 1,300 pounds.

Except for a handful of hatchlings, I'd never seen a leatherback, much less encountered one on the beach laying her eggs. The chance to see the Godzilla of all sea turtles actually nesting is the reason I'm hiking to remote Paria Bay on Trinidad 's north coast.

Sea turtles favor many of the beaches on both Trinidad and Tobago, but Paria Beach is usually a reliable spot. Besides, it's one of Trinidad 's most popular day hikes.

Hiking on the neighboring island of Tobago receive so much publicity that over the years I gained the impression that Trinidad either didn't have any nature walks or they aren't worth the effort.

Actually, Trinidad has quite a selection of hikes, over two dozen that range from leisurely ambles to strenuous mountain climbs.

But what's really unusual about Trinidad hiking is the option to overnight on many treks, still something of a rarity since most Caribbean hikes aren't long enough to justify an overnight campout.

Furthermore, on some islands camping is frowned upon because someone sleeping outdoors doesn't help the hoteliers.

Our outfitter, Wildways, takes an unorthodox approach to hotel situation. The night before our hike we stay in homes and guesthouses in the Paria area, which allows locals in the remote countryside to benefit from ecotourism.

It's the first step in what may eventually lead to the development of upscale lodging, a research center and even a walkway through the rain forest tree canopy.

My hike to see the leatherbacks is normally done in a single day, and includes a 3- to 4-hour walk to Paria beach and nearby waterfalls, a lunch break and then the walk out. However, lugging tents and sleeping gear in our backpacks can turn the normally enjoyable walk into an ordeal if, as I did, you overload.

My shoulders, in their unaccustomed role as beasts of burden, complain about the extra strobes and camera bodies and other photo gear but I'd rather put up with the discomfort than worry about leaving something important behind.

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