Three environmentally friendly resorts where guests can help save sea turtles
Caribbean beaches attract more than vacationing humans. Each year, momma sea turtles travel thousands of miles back to their nesting ground on island sands. They are returning to the place where they were hatched, where they will lay their own eggs. The hatching process takes approximately 60 days from when the female first digs the nest until the hatchlings head for the sea. Turtles will lay hundreds of eggs, and may create more than one nest a year. That’s a lot of babies, but in nature, only one in a thousand will survive to maturity. And that’s before poaching, habitat loss, and other environmental factors take their additional toll. To even the odds, several Caribbean resorts have started conservation programs to ensure that more of these hard-shelled mariners survive and grow.
Rosalie Bay, Dominica
Tucked into the southeast coast of Dominica, this 29-room eco- resort fronts the Atlantic Ocean and has the Rosalie River flowing along the property edge. The resort’s 22 acres sustain the lush landscape that is the essence of Dominica, the nature island. Guest suites are in buildings that resemble an island village and are enveloped in indigenous vegetation and tropical fruit trees.
As part of its sustainable ethos, Rosalie Bay now provides proactive protection for nesting turtles and maintains a turtle nursery. This program was founded by resort owner Beverly Deikel 10 years ago when she recognized the black sand beaches at Rosalie’s doorstep were important nesting grounds for the endangered leatherback sea turtle that is native to the island. Thanks to her efforts and the training of staff and residents, over the course of a decade turtle’s nests at Rosalie Beach have grown from seven to more than 80 a season.
Turtle nesting season runs from May to October and at that time guests can witness 800-pound turtles crawling ashore to nest, or hold new hatchlings and help them along their first journey to the sea. Guests also help patrol the beach to protect nesting turtles, assist researchers in collecting data, and observe the relocation of turtles to the turtle hatchery. There is also the option to be “on call” when baby sea turtles hatch which could happen in the middle of the night.
St. Regis Bahia Beach, Puerto Rico
Long before the St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort was built in 2010, the beaches of Bahia Bay were under the watchful eye of biologists and environmentalist. These sands are key habitats for nesting sea turtles, including the endangered leatherback.
During the resort’s development phase, a team of engineers, environmentalists and architects were tasked with preserving as much of the flora and fauna as possible. This resulted in a property that includes just 129 rooms set on 483 acres, with more that 65 percent of this land maintained as green space. This led to Bahia Beach being certified as a Gold Signature Sanctuary by Audubon International-the first and only resort in the Caribbean to have such recognition.
The St. Regis partnered with existing conservation initiates and created a unique guardian program that encourages guests to observe or participate in protection efforts. Working within guidelines established by biologists, guests can report on nesting activity or monitor hatching events. It is after emerging from their shells that baby turtles are most vulnerable, as they must climb out of the sand and make their way to the water. This is when guests may be able to guide the hatchlings by making a runway out to the sea. Guests can also help by patrolling beaches and notifying biologists if they see a turtle or any turtle tracks, and they are sometimes able to ride along when the staff is patrolling beaches during the day.
Four Seasons Nevis
The Four Seasons sits on 350 acres of green rolling hills that blends into the natural environment, with Nevis Peak, the 3,232 cloud-shrouded sleeping volcano, in the background. This classic resort overlooks the four-mile stretch of Nevis’ Pinneys Beach. Endowed with golden sands and calm turquoise water, this is the island’s’ most popular beach—and it’s also a favorite with nesting sea turtles. To accommodate turtles, the beach bars scattered along the beach are set back from the water, and nighttime lighting is often muted.
During the height of turtle nesting season which runs from June through October, guests can join nighttime turtle watch walks, observe nesting and hatchlings. Guests can also assist marking nests and gathering scientific data, which may assist in tracking migratory paths of turtles. The Four Seasons provides an additional range of ecological-themed activities for all ages. During summer, children can attend Sea Turtle Camp, where they learn about these animals through a series of interactive programs.
The highlight of this program is the Sea Turtle Conservancy Weekend, held each July in partnership with the International Sea Turtle Conservancy and the Nevis Turtle Group. A range of additional activities is scheduled for the weekend, and guests of all ages are invited to join the program. While protecting turtles is high on the list, the resort also has other inhabitants, the socially active vervet monkeys. The best time to see a troop is on one of the Sunset Monkey Excursions with a resident monkey expert. These tours are a highlight for adults as well as kids.