There was much excitement last week as the first hatchlings of the 2018 turtle season were caught on camera emerging from their sandy nests in Sodwana Bay.
Guests of Ufudu Turtle Tours, one of the licensed turtle tour operators within the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, were lucky enough to witness this miracle.
Turtle monitoring, research and protection over six decades by Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife has helped establish our coastline as a prime breeding ground.
The coastline of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park is the only remaining major nesting site in Africa where Loggerhead and Leatherback turtles still lay their eggs.
Turtle season usually lasts from November to March.
Before laying, the female turtle emerges from the sea and rests in the wash, alert for danger.
She then moves to the high tide mark to find a suitable nesting site.
She lays a batch of 80 – 100 eggs, closes the nest and conceals it from foragers such as jackals, genets and honey badgers.
The eggs take up to 70 days to hatch and the hatchlings make their way to the Indian Ocean under the cover of darkness.
The Loggerhead turtle is endangered, while the Leatherback turtle is considered vulnerable.
It is thought that a mere four in 1 000 hatchlings reach maturity.