24 – 29 July 2009

Our Warmamedi tent beside the WWF turtle hatchery

Our Warmamedi tent beside the WWF turtle hatchery

For the next four nights, we consistently saw two leatherback turtles laying eggs. We didn’t have as many companions now as the first night, and we developed some sort of nightly ritual.  A long boat (dugout canoe with outriggers) would take us from Batu Rumah to Warmamedi at sunset.

Boiling water for coffee to keep us awake at night

Boiling water for coffee to keep us awake at night

The boys Daro and Eka and Mr. Linder would make a fire on both ends of the tent to stop the fierce, biting sand flies, agas, from entering the open tent. We would sit on our mats mesmerized by Mr. Linder’s fire making abilities.  Once water was boiling and the fires flaring, the boys would walk up and down the beach to look for turtles. They would make light signals with their head torches whenever fresh leatherback tracks were found.

WWF Sorong Turtle Monitoring Team Franki & Eka with a leatherback turtle at the break of dawn

WWF Sorong Turtle Monitoring Team Franki and Eka with a leatherback turtle at the break of dawn

When we couldn’t stand sitting in camp waiting, we would trek the beach with Franki and look for turtle tracks as well. The only reason we didn’t do this right away was because Yogi carried a 15 kilogram backpack full of his camera gear and I only carried the tri-pod and our sleeping gear and water. It was quite some carrying to do!

Daro - WWF Monitoring staff pit tag scanning a turtle already tagged by a Japanese researching with a satellite tag

Daro – WWF Monitoring staff pit tag scanning a turtle already satellite tagged by a Japanese researcher. Almost every turtle nesting in this beach already has been pit tagged. If most of the leatherback moms are tagged, this means this is it. There are no other turtles but these coming to nest.

Every night was different. Once, we saw a turtle with a Japanese satellite tag! She was all the way at the end of the beach and we walked two kilometers to reach her in time to see her make her camouflage nest and go back to sea.  On another night, we had a turtle dig a nest right in front of our tent! It was extremely tiring but we were very very happy. When turtle activities were finished we would all go back to the tent and sleep. We were tight as sardines.

Leatherback turtle babies finding their way to the sea

Leatherback turtle babies finding their way to the sea

We all woke up before sunrise and would look for more turtle tracks.  Franki, the expert tracker, would consistently find baby turtle tracks. He and Daro would dig the beginning of a track and more than twice found three or four turtles still making their way out of the nest.

This nest of leatherback eggs dug out by wild pigs. Feral pigs, dogs, lizards are some of the vicious land predators of leatherback eggs

This nest of leatherback eggs dug out by wild pigs. Feral pigs, dogs, lizards are some of the vicious land predators of leatherback turtle eggs

All our best wishes for the survival of this little one

All our best wishes for the survival of this little one

It was the most adorable sight you can imagine. On our last night, we didn’t see any mother turtles, but we had hatchlings come out from the hatchery!!!

An experience very hard to forget. Baby leatherback hatchlings breaking out of the sand all at once!

An experience very hard to forget. Baby leatherback hatchlings breaking out of the sand all at once!

There was one nest already open and another one we saw from the start. It was magic! Yogi found it when he was walking around looking for firewood to burn!

May some of these beauties not become fish food and survive to come back to this beach one day

May some of these turtle babies not become fish food and survive to come back to this beach one day

So long little one. Survive and grow up to come back here one day

So long little one. Survive and grow up to come back here one day

The local Papuan kids followed us wherever we went. Titus in particular was the most curious and tagged along with us most times. Here are some of their incredible faces.

Titus with a baby leatherback turtle

Titus with a baby leatherback turtle

Titus bringing newly caught fish to the kitchen

Titus bringing newly caught fish to the kitchen

A beautiful sight to see

A beautiful sight to see

The kids in the neighborhood

The kids in the neighborhood