Celebrated on 23 May, World Turtle Day was created to increase awareness of turtle species around the world and bring attention to the challenges that they face to their survival. Located off the coast of Tanzania, the private and exclusive &Beyond Mnemba Island has long been dedicated to ensuring the survival of the endangered green turtle. One of only two protected nesting sites for the species in Zanzibar, an average of 34 turtles have laid their eggs on the island each year since 1998, when the &Beyond team began keeping records. With more than a hundred hatchlings born per nest, an estimated 60 000 green turtles have begun life on the island in the past 17 years.
Mnemba is one of the top three sites for green turtle breeding in Tanzania. With all Mnemba Island staff fully trained in keeping the turtles safe, guests on the island are invited to witness as the females come ashore to lay their eggs. Nests are meticulously monitored and guests also get to see the newly born hatchlings making their way to the ocean.
The company’s other tropical island paradise, &Beyond Benguerra Island also offers turtle encounters for divers exploring the balmy Indian Ocean waters. Situated in the Bazaruto Archipelago National Park, the island forms part of a marine sanctuary created to safeguard the five species of sea turtle found in the area, as well as to create a safe habitat for the rare and endangered dugong. The island’s massive sand dunes form the ideal habitat for the turtles to nest, although the marine species spends most of its time out at sea, feeding on jellyfish, among other prey items.
In neighbouring South Africa, &Beyond holds a concessionary permit at Sodwana Bay, which allows the company to conduct midnight safaris along the beach, searching for turtles that come ashore to lay their eggs. &Beyond is only one of two concessionaries with permission to traverse the secluded beaches of Sodwana, one of the few accessible places along the 250 km (155 mile) stretch of coastline where the turtles dig their nests between
November and February. Guests at the nearby &Beyond Phinda Private Game Reserve are driven along the deserted coastline, looking for fresh turtle tracks that emerge from the ocean and travel up to the beach in search of a suitable nesting site. Once a turtle is located, &Beyond’s guides, who are specially accredited to conduct such tours, ensure that she is far enough into the nesting process so as not to disturb her before guests can approach and watch as she completes laying up to a hundred eggs.