*insert a paragraph of me whittling on about how great Ben and I’s holiday to Cape Verde was, blah blah blah*
A huge contributing factor to why I wanted to go back to Cape Verde in all honesty was because we missed the loggerhead turtle experience last year by ONE day. People were setting off on the excursion the same evening that we were leaving to come home. And my lil heart shattered.
Boa Vista is a huge breeding ground for many types of sea turtles, but especially the loggerhead turtles. However, they’re facing some real trouble due to global warming. The nest of baby turtles is laid in a deep trench in the sand, the gender of the entire nest is dependant on the temperature of the sand as they’re incubating in it.
Cooler sands create baby girls, and warmer sands create baby boys. So as the temperature rises as the world heats up, it’s becoming a bit of a sausage party. Meaning intervention is desperately needed. As well as ensuring that the babies are not discovered and eaten by crabs or disrupted and sold illegally by people.
To get a real insight into what the volunteers and workers do at the nature reserve, the excursion is after dark, coming onto the beach, watching the turtles come onto the shore, dig their holes and lay their eggs and go back into the ocean. And then to see and hold (eek) newly hatched babies before they’re released into the wild.
The expectant mothers drag themselves onto the beach to lay their eggs and then use the moonlight to find their way back to the sea. Meaning that the flash of cameras can disorientate them and they can become lost and actually die. So, you guessed it. Cameras were strictly forbidden.
And I’ll be honest, as gross and icky as it is, I actually contemplated not going on the excursion if I couldn’t document the experience. I mean they’re turtles, of course I wanted a keep sake other than memories, it was a 3 hour round trip to get to the site and back and it wasn’t a cheap trip. But mainly as someone who is pretty bloody active on socials and Instagram especially. A photo of such a magical experience is the kind of content gold that I dream of. Vom at me.
Regardless of this first world problem set back, we went. We sat in the back of a jeep for an hour and a half and got thrown about as for 90% of the journey there were no roads. Numb bums galore. We arrived at the ‘headqarters’, which was a sizeable tent with all their equipment inside and almost immediately we were told that several turtles had started their way up the beach. Fast forward a 10 minute walk and there we were, stood directly behind 2 turtles laying their eggs under a starry sky.
It was honestly incredibly just how big these creatures were, how fast they could move across the sand and just how many eggs they laid in each nest. We watched a turtle give birth to at least 70 eggs, giving birth to 1 baby sounds traumatic enough, let alone close to triple figures with an audience.
As Ben and I were one of the last couples in the queue and one woman refused to bloody sit down regardless of how many times she was told (still salty), our view was pretty limited. So annoying woman in tow, we were taken to have a more private experience. About half the group sat in a semi circle around a turtle and we had a front row seat of the birth of 10s of baby turtles.
We had sand kicked at us as she covered back over the eggs, and as we turned around a turtle was pulling herself up the beach and plopped herself right beside us. A real magical moment. Until said annoying woman tried to touch her. I know, what a knob.
Once we had seen the births, we were led back to a little section of the beach where everyone was sat in a circle around one of the instructors and it was finally time. Finally time to see the newly hatched babies. She was handed a bucket and bam, next thing you know there are baby turtles scuttling around the sand in front of us.
3 of the babies were passed around us all, the red lights shining so we could see. They could have been no bigger than the size of a Jaffa Cake (Ben’s food related size comparison), and we had to hold them between our thumb and index finger.
I expected them to feel smooth and quite stocky in weight. Completely incorrect, they were almost quite poreous in texture, light as a feather and bloody wriggly. They were so precious and so delicate. Later on that evening they were going to be released into the ocean, and I still cannot fathom how something so small can survive something as harsh as the sea.
The fact that I was going to turn down this opportunity because I couldn’t take some photos makes me want to throw up on myself.
I was almost willing to let my need to share everything online get in the way of a once in a lifetime experience. The internet is a glorious place, with so much to offer, however the need to grow our following and actually focus on ‘the gram’ rather than living in the moment is getting a bit ridiculous.
As we weren’t even allowed cameras or our phones, everyone was present. Everyone was exclusively focused on what was happening in front of us, we all soaked up every second of it. And something I really didn’t expect to happen, I didn’t even think about photos. It didn’t even enter my head ‘oh I wish I could put this on Insta’. Ben held the baby for a good 90 seconds, and I got my whole face up in this baby turtles business. I saw his little eyes, the pattern of his shell, his flippers flailing about. Something I would have never really seen if I’d just stuck my camera up in his grill and blinded the poor baby.
Yes, ‘doing it for the gram’ is a big factor in many people’s lives nowadays. However, I know I’m definitely watching my experiences through my phone rather than actually soaking up what’s in front of me.
Being actively told I wasn’t allowed to document the experience was possibly one of the best things about it. There was no distractions, and it’s taught me a valuable lesson. To get the fuck over myself. Not everything needs to be a photo opportunity.