Miles of white beaches, clear blue waters and the perfect balmy climate make the Bahamas a paradise on Earth. However, its status as a tourist destination for decades now means that many of the Atlantic archipelago’s indigenous animal species are at risk due to the continued interference of humans. One of the animals on the endangered list is the sea turtle. There are four distinct species of sea turtle that call the Bahamas home: the Loggerhead, the Green, the Hawksbill and the Leatherback. Every one of these stunning species is now on the endangered animals list, with both the Hawksbill and the Leatherback unfortunately categorised as critically endangered. Whilst the Bahamian government has declared that catching these beautiful, gentle creatures is illegal, there are still plenty of man-made threats jeopardizing their existence.
Both turtle eggs and shells are highly sought after, with turtle shell jewellery and souvenirs frequently being bought by tourists and visitors to the islands. Other threats come from local fishermen’s nets, which can sadly cause turtles to drown, and the ingestion of waste products such as plastic bags, styrofoam and other non-biodegradable debris. These ancient and noble animals have been around for over 65 million years and yet their very survival is now at risk due to human negligence. So, as a visitor to these exquisite islands, how can you help rather than hinder the humble sea turtle?
One idea is to throw yourself headlong into the conservation effort and get involved with a local research project. International environmental charity Earth Watch brings together environmental scientists and members of the public to work together on scientific research in situ. They have one such project based on the islands of Eleuthera, Abaco and Andros in the Bahamas, helping to maintain the sea turtle population through tracking individual animals, protecting their habitats and conducting further research around them. The charity offers visitors nine-day excursions where you are able to swim with and even catch both Hawksbill and Green turtles and contribute to the scientists’ ongoing conservation of the species. This is a unique opportunity to get up close and personal with such rare and extraordinary animals, safe in the knowledge that you are contributing to their survival rather than causing them any harm.
During this one-of-a-kind trip, you’ll spend time at various research centres on each of the featured three islands. There’s plenty of chances to get involved with a whole host of activities, ranging from habitat surveys to video analysis to collecting data from captured turtles. The pure joy that comes from swimming peacefully alongside these benign and deceptively delicate creatures is rivalled only by the satisfaction derived from the knowledge that your actions will help to preserve them for many years to come.
If you’re looking for a less immersive but equally beneficial experience, there are plenty more things you can do during your trip to help the Bahamas’ sea turtle population. Back in the capital of Nassau, the Atlantis Paradise Island Resort aims to give back to the surrounding ocean environment that inspired its name. This spectacular complex is famous for its first-class casino, boasting 85 gaming tables and over 700 slot machines; that’s a number to rival even the enormous selection at PokerStarsCasino! However, the buzzing atmosphere, fantastic entertainment and free play options at this resort offer something that online play simply can’t match.
As mentioned, the organisation has a charitable side too and has partnered with the Tour de Turtles scheme to sponser an adult leatherback turtle called Soca in this year’s ‘marathon migration’. The race begins on 1st August and follows groups of the four species of sea turtle found in the Bahamas as they leave their nesting grounds and migrate to new feeding areas. Money raised by the Tour de Turtles is then used to further research and conservation efforts. It takes seconds to vote for Soca in the race and to click the ‘donate’ button to help her on her way!
Generally, one of the easiest ways to support the sea turtles during your stay in the Bahamas is to abstain from buying any turtle-based foods or souvenirs. There are three main ways of identifying turtle shell to bear in mind whilst you’re out and about shopping. First and foremost, ask the vendor what the product is made from! If you’re still not sure about their answer, hold the item up to the light; real turtle shell looks a solid dark brown colour ordinarily, but when you let light shine through it you’ll see transparent lighter areas. Flexibility is another giveaway, along with an irregular streaky pattern made up of different shades of brown. However, if you are in any doubt, it’s better to be safe than sorry and choose not to purchase the product at all.
So, now you can travel to the Bahamas’ little corner of paradise, armed with the knowledge needed to help protect one of its most precious inhabitants. Whether you choose to immerse yourself in the country’s conservation efforts or simply help in whatever small way you can, it’s worth finding out more about the Bahamas’ sea turtle population as they are fascinating animals. After all, they’ve been around since the dinosaurs disappeared, so they must know a thing or two!