Turtle Beach

Regular readers to my blog will know that Saturday evenings have turned in to my day of discovery as I stumble across various cultural and exotic goings on. A few weeks back I found myself in an art gallery watching a famous artist draw a picture of a cat (and buying art, who knew?), then it was the youth cultural exchange program that was taking place outside a big temple by the sea.

This Saturday just gone was no different. Myself and my friends had actually planned to go to a place called the Theosophical Society, not that we were particularly interested in Theosophy but they have some really nice gardens (God, yes I’m getting old) and when you live in a dusty, polluted city like Chennai you start to yearn for a bit of greenery and fresh air.

The Theosophical Society in Chennai occupies a large area near to a moving pile of ooze, sometimes referred to as the Adyar river and is the nearest greenest space to where I live.

Since the mercury is steadily rising and we’re starting to hit 34-35 degrees we tend to wait until gone 4pm until we venture out, our pale white skin being fried to a crisp otherwise. We arrived at the main gates at 4:30pm and were promptly denied entry since they only open the place between 2 and 4 – conveniently at the time when it’s hottest and no one wants to come. OK, we thought, this is India, lets try the side entrance and go in looking confident and aloof and make out as if we were meant to be there.

Yeah, that didn’t work either and we were stopped shortly after parking the car.

Cue the scene from Disney’s Jungle Book with the vultures sitting on a tree.

“So, what do you want to do?”

“I don’t know, what do you want to do?”

“I don’t mind, what ever you want to do is fine.”

“Eee, now don’t start that again”

(apologies if you had a terrible childhood and never watched Disney movies)

In the absence of anyone making an executive decision, I said let’s go down to the beach since it was just around the corner and we were close to a place called Broken Bridge which I’ve heard about in the folklore of Chennai, so named because there is a bridge. And it’s broken. An unimaginative folklore you could say.

With the car parked and a payment of 10 rupees (about 16p) given to a guy who promised to tell us upon our return if our car had been stolen we made our way through a fishing township towards broken bridge. I’d have loved to get some pictures of the fishing village but I feel like the intruding foreigner if I get my camera out to take pictures of people, I feel like they think I’m judging them some how because I want to take pictures of the way they live. The other reason was that the smell was so bad with the open sewers, I didn’t particularly want to stop!

As we walked towards the broken bridge, we came across a fenced off enclosure and the curiosity got the better of us so we went over and found a guy sitting inside surrounded by upside down wicker baskets. Fortunately we were with a guy who could speak Tamil (obviously I can speak Tamil as well, but only to tell people that I’m hungry or that I can only say a very small amount of Tamil!) and we found out that the enclosure was to protect the eggs of sea turtles.

Basically volunteers stay on the beach over night and wait for the turtles to lay their eggs, then the eggs are relocated to within the fenced off enclosure otherwise the feral dogs that populate the city and beaches will come along and dig them up for dinner. Even if the dogs didn’t manage to find all the eggs, the crows would eat the baby turtles shortly after hatching, and if the crows didn’t get them the line of crabs waiting in the surf would have a go. Even if the new born turtles managed to negotiate all of that, a million and one dangers still lie within the sea.

It must suck to be a turtle.

Anyway, we were allowed to come in to the enclosure, a real lucky experience because my friend went back the following evening and there were more people and no one was allowed inside.

Once in the enclosure we were able to watch newly hatched turtles make their way to the surface (with a little help from a human hand) and then attempt to make their way towards the sea. However, since there were crows and dogs stalking around the fence the turtles were kept under the upside down wicker baskets we’d seen earlier, then around dusk time they are all transported down to the sea where they had to make the final 10 metre perilous journey by themselves.

Even as we watched, swarms of crabs were stalking the baby turtles, but they didn’t seem to do too much other than getting close, poking them and then running off.

As I mentioned above, my friend went the following evening as well where there were not only more people, but maybe one hundred plus turtles being released, the beach was literally full of them, she said. However, the people watching didn’t get to go in to the enclosure and handle them, so I count myself very lucky that I got this pretty rare opportunity!

Baby Sea Turtles

Baby Sea Turtles

Baby Sea Turtles

Hand included for scale reference!

Baby Sea Turtles

Two of the turtles try to make a bid for freedom when they think no one is looking!

Baby Sea Turtles

Freshly hatched turtles making their way to the surface

Baby Sea Turtles

The baby turtles got a helping hand to get closer to the sea!

Baby Sea Turtles

And off one of them goes to freedom, or maybe the jaws of death

Baby Sea Turtles

The crabs gang up on one of the turtles, but they didn't seem to do much harm

Baby Sea Turtles

I really wasn't sure what the crabs were doing, it's not like they actually attacked any of the turtles, just got very close before scampering off

Baby Sea Turtles

I stole this photo from a friend because it's so awesome!

Hope you enjoyed the pictures and video! It was a really unique experience, you see this kind of thing in nature documentaries, but to see it up close and actually touch the turtles (even though you really shouldn’t, but we were being supervised!) is just amazing.

I thought I’d wrap up this post with a news report I came across where a Sea Turtle is accused of abandoning her eggs, the report comes from The Onion 😉

4 Comments Turtle Beach

  1. Tom

    I am more than a bit jealous of a number of the experiences you’ve been having of late. Please stop and send them my way instead.

    Reply
  2. Carolina Parisi

    Peter your story inspire me even more! I’ll do my best to experience it this weekend. I hope there are still some hatching eggs and baby turtles waiting for my me! Thanks for the tip!
    Ah! I loved the way you write!!!

    Reply
  3. Yasil

    The Baby Turtles are looking very beautiful. We have a proverb that (Paruvahula panni kuttiyum alagaathan irukkum). That proverb has been proved with this baby turtule. Peter you became a discovery channel photo grapher. Nice pictures as well video.

    Reply

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