A hawksbill turtle swimming over a reef.

Experience Turtle Watching with SOS Tobago

Posted Jun 26, 2024

Turtle-watching knows no bounds in Tobago. As one of the world’s premier turtle-watching destinations, visitors from far and wide often frequent these immaculate shores from March to September to catch a glimpse of these spectacular creatures. As much as you’d love to immerse yourself in the island’s reefs and swim with hawksbills or sit on our golden sands and witness leatherback turtles as they grace our shores for nesting, it is vital that we do our part to protect our endangered friends of the sea. 

We’ve partnered with Save our Sea Turtles (SOS), a community-based organization whose ambitious mission is to conserve Tobago’s sea turtles as well as their coastal and marine habitat through research, education and eco-tourism, to share with you some insights about turtle watching in Tobago.

 

Which turtle species are commonly found in Tobago?

Tobago is lucky enough to have nesting populations of leatherback, hawksbill and green turtles in addition to the green and hawksbill turtles found in our nearshore waters year-round.

Where can visitors witness the turtle nesting and hatching ritual in Tobago?

Turtle Beach is the best place to see leatherback turtles nesting in Tobago. It is easily accessible and monitored nightly during the nesting season by the SOS patrol team.

What can visitors expect to experience during the turtle nesting and hatching ritual?

The nesting process can take up to an hour and a half from start to finish and most of that time is taken up with preparing the nest and then covering the eggs and disguising the nest. Throughout the process, visitors can expect to remain a respectful distance away from the turtle, so she has the space to complete her process. In the small window when she’s laying, visitors will sometimes be able to move closer to see the eggs with the permission and guidance of the patrollers, depending on the beach and crowd conditions.

What advice or tips can you offer visitors when visiting a turtle nesting and hatching site?

Safeguarding the beach and allowing the turtles to complete their natural process with as little interruption or threat as possible is key. In addition to giving nesting turtles lots of space, it’s important to refrain from lighting fires or driving on the beach as this can damage nests already buried in the sand. Hatching happens very quickly and it’s best to let hatchlings make their own way to the water rather than putting them in the sea directly since it’s an important part of their orienting process. Hatchlings and even adult turtles can be led astray by bright lights from buildings and the road. If you come across disoriented hatchlings, please contact the SOS Patrol Team or the Forestry Division.

How can visitors get involved in turtle conservation efforts while visiting Tobago?

WhatsApp SOS Tobago at (868) 328-7351 or email at [email protected] to find out more.

We all have a role to play in protecting our sea turtles, including ensuring that our beaches are clean and plastic-free, keeping nesting beaches dark and safe, and volunteering with organizations like SOS Tobago. See a sea turtle in Tobago? Join the Turtle Spotter Challenge by sending info, pictures and videos of any sea turtles you see to SOS and their partner SpeSeas at https://speseas.org/projects/turtlespotter/.

Add turtle-watching to your Tobago bucket list to witness these magnificent creatures emerge from the water under the cover of darkness to lay their eggs at common nesting sites.

Discover turtle-watching in Tobago and get involved with SOS here.