Trinidad's Nesting Leatherback Turtles
Take an overnight hike and camp on the beach to view them.
We arrive at the beach in late afternoon, set up the tents under trees at the edge of the sand and filter water from a stream near our camp to refill our water bottles.
Only then do we have the chance to simply relax and do nothing, at least until the turtles (hopefully) begin crawling up on the beach.
The clean sand of Paria Beach squeaks as I walk along the beach, which extends for about 3,000 feet. At one end is a small lagoon that's even better for swimming than the ocean, while at the other end is the formation known as Church Rock, which has a huge hole through its base.
Near sunset a group of Trinidadians set up camp near the salt water lagoon. A couple of tin roofs on slender poles indicate this is a regular campsite, and this group seems quite familiar with it.
They turn out to be a half-dozen male forestry students in their late teens who invite us over to their to swap stories and help drink their rum; in a drastic oversight, we'd forgotten to bring any.
Along with a couple of their teachers, they are here to take a study break by playing cards, drinking rum, watching turtles and swimming, all in that order preferably.
They are so generous with their rum (or is it that we are so thirsty?) that I hope they have a good amount stashed away.
Following the impromptu beach party I walk the length of the beach several times until around 10 o'clock . Either it's still too early for turtles or the tide isn't high enough yet. The wind dies down completely but amazingly there are no mosquitoes, not a single one.
The no-see-ums have also been surprisingly absent. Our guide says that if I want to see how many mosquitoes can pack a single beach I should return at full moon, when they're always present.
With my alarm set for 2 a.m., I try to sleep but the snores of my tent mate and lack of any moving air inside the tent keep me on the edge of wakefulness.
At 2 the beach walk begins anew, and this time we're successful. The Trinidadians have located a leatherback that's almost finished excavating its egg chamber. Until she actually starts laying her eggs she could be spooked and sent back into the water, so we stand well away and wait until the sounds of her digging end.