Barbados is fortunate to have three main species of turtles in our waters. However, only two (Greens & Hawksbill) use our waters frequently. These can be sighted whilst diving, swimming, snorkeling, or just standing at the waters edge. The third species (the Leatherback) is rarely seen and only the occasional nest can be found.
Hawksbill TurtlesMarine, but dependent on the land to reproduce, they may spend decades migrating over vast areas of ocean before homing back to the beach where they were born to lay their own eggs. Witnessing the emergence from the sea of one of these mysterious creatures or watching hatchlings disappearing into the waves is an unforgettable experience and hopefully you will be lucky enough to witness this during your stay with us. Some years we have up to 40 nests on our beach.
About 80 Hawksbill turtles come up onto the beaches of Barbados to nest each year and then return to the water. Southern Palms stands on one of the beaches used by these fascinating animals. Hawksbills are distinguished by a narrow pointed beak with which is used to pry sponges and other soft bodied organisms from the reef. The shell is often posteriorly serrated and the shell scutes overlap, like shingles on a roof. Adults rarely exceed 80 kgs and a shell length of about 90 cms. Bright mottled coloration (brown, orange, gold) is common.
The 80 turtles that nest annually on Barbados' beaches are part of a population of about 180 breeding females using the Island. Each will lay as many as 750 eggs in a season, depositing up to 150 eggs at a time. Nesting takes place normally between May and October but they may occasionally still be seen as late as December. Their physiology demands that they drag themselves out of the water onto a satisfactory beach about 3 - 5 times in a season and they do this every 2 - 4 years, returning regularly to the same beach on which they were born. If a suitable spot cannot be found on the first try the female will return on subsequent nights to try again. It is laborious work, and made more since a nesting female will sometimes dig more than one hole in which to deposit her eggs.
Leatherback TurtlesLeatherback turtles are the largest of all the Sea turtles (nesting females often weigh 300-500 kgs) and they have the most extensive geographic range of any turtle. Aside from their great size, leatherbacks are easily distinguished because they lack a bony shell, the smooth black skin is spotted with white. Their shell can measure 130-165 cms in length and is raised into seven prominent ridges. Powerful front flippers extend nearly the length of the body. Adults are excellent divers, having been recorded at depths exceeding 1000m in Caribbean waters. Leatherbacks feed prominently on jellyfish and other soft bodied prey.
Nestings occur each year between May and October. Every year about 10 leatherback turtles nest in Barbados, generally on the more open East coast beaches. Leatherbacks leave a characteristic zigzag up-track from the water and their nesting pit is much larger than the hawksbill turtle.
In 2011 Southern Palms was lucky enough to have a Leatherback turtle nesting twice on our beach. It is assumed that individual females return on 2-3+ year intervals and deposit up to 9 clutches per year. Each clutch averages 80-90 yolked eggs. Nests are made on 9-10 day intervals.