Due to the South African holiday "Day of Reconciliation" on December 16th, we were able to have a long weekend at the beach near the town of St. Lucia. The beach that we chose to visit resided in the Isimangalisa Wetlands Park. It was a beautiful 30 mile drive north out of the town of St. Lucia that took us through the Wetlands Park, which was full of wildlife, including 4 of the "Big Five" (Leopard, Elephant, Cape Buffalo & Rhino). We were fortunate enough to see a Leopard, several Rhino and Buffalo. The beach was gorgeous, the Indian Ocean was cool, the sun was hot and the wind blew like crazy.
The day we arrived, we looked into doing a "Turtle Safari". This area is known to be the nesting grounds of the Loggerhead and Leatherback sea turtles. During this time of year the females come to shore to lay their eggs in the beach sand. So at 7:15 PM, the "Safari" truck picked us up for our seven hour journey, yes, we did not get back to our Bed & Breakfast until 2 AM, but it was truely an amazing night. We spent the first two
hours or so doing a "Game Drive" through the wetlands, where we saw our first wild Serval Cat, and several White Rhino's, as well as other main African species, including a Dwarf Camelion (see photo). We reached the beach around 10:00PM, where we headed north. Due to the nesting turtles, this area is restricted to allow only two Safari trucks per night onto the beach. So we felt like we were the only ones in this part of the world at that time. The night air was cool with the smell of salt water spray in the air. We drove several miles up the beach before we spotted our first tracks. There is no secret to finding these turtles, you just simple look for "Tractor" tracks coming out of the ocean. We came upon a Loggerhead that had already done her business and was headed back to the sea. Their movement on land is very slow and rambling, but once they hit the water it is impressive how fast such a big clumsy reptile can move. We spotted at least three more loggerheads that night, before we arrived at the real treat of the trip. Just as we were headed
back, we came across the most unimaginable tracks in the sand, it looked like at least three loggerheads had come out of the ocean in the same place, but actually it was a huge Leatherback. We arrived on the scene just in time to see her completeing the constructin of her nest. It was amazing to see the turtles ability it manipulate its back fins to use them as scoops and make a nicely rounded, vase shaped hole in the sand. After about 20 minutes of scooping, the eggs started dropping, this lasted about twenty minutes. The Loggerheads lay about 70 eggs per nest, and in a season, the female will make about five nests. The Leatherback lay about 120 eggs and will make up to eight nests per season.
Afrikaners traditionally celebrated 16 December as the Day of the Vow, remembering the day in 1838 when a group of Voortrekkers
defeated a Zulu army at the Battle of Blood River, while ANC activists commemorated it as the day in 1961 when the ANC started to arm its soldiers to overthrow Apartheid. In the new South Africa's
it's a day of reconciliation, a day to focus on overcoming the conflicts of the past and building a new nation.
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