Day 271, Year 5 Green Turtle Nursery
Date: Saturday, July 24, 2010
Weather: Sunny Day, Light Winds
Latitude: 13 36.559 S
Longitude: 047 49.813 E
Location: Nosy Iranja, NW Madagascar

We came here to see baby turtles but, unfortunately, we aren’t going to get to see them. First, I’ll explain where we are and then I’ll explain why we won’t get to see the babies. Nosy Iranja is actually a larger island and a smaller island connected by a sand spit that is underwater at high tide. The larger island has high, steep sides and lots of green. It is the home of a fairly large village. The smaller island is just a lump of sand, beautiful sand, but just sand with a few palm trees and even fewer casuarinas.. Sometime in the past ten years, a resort was built on the smaller island. It was called Hotel Iranja and before coming here, we were told that the resort is currently closed because there is a land dispute between two Indians who both claim to own it. We knew this and we knew that somewhere on Iranja sea turtles come to lay their eggs. We also knew that in July of last year, turtles were hatching. So when we got here, we got in the dinghy and headed to the far end of the little island where there is nothing but sand. That looked to be the spot where turtles would most likely lay their eggs. As soon as we got out of the dinghy, we saw big turtle tracks. That surprised us a bit as we thought we would be seeing baby turtle tracks, but on closer observation we started seeing nest after next with a circular cage on each and a sign post saying the date the eggs were laid and the number of eggs. We’ve learned to read enough French to recognize the word for egg and we know the date is always written with day, then month, then year. Most of the eggs were laid between March and June of this year and the count on each one was between 120 and 150 eggs. I didn’t count the number of marked nests, but there must at least fifty. We found a small World Wildlife sign explaining in English and French that the nests here are those of green turtles. We were getting excited about the prospects of seeing a hatch, but then a couple of young Malagasy men greeted us and very politely explained in French that we were walking on private land and that we needed to leave. If they were representing the WWF then we gladly accept the fact that they want to keep the public away from the nesting ground, but if they were representing the resort, we resent that they would not allow us to share in this special event. We left the island but later in the afternoon we saw a few people walking in the same area. They looked like tourists so maybe the resort is not completely closed. But lucky for them that they might get to see the baby turtles.

We left the little island and fought the sloppy high tide seas over to the larger island. We landed on the beach near a village. Our first sight was a fish drying rack with the largest fish hanging to dry that we have seen to date on these drying racks. Usually the drying fish are small, but not here. We had seen tourist boats in the village in the afternoon and onshore we could see that the village is set up for tourists with picnic tables and crafts to sell. They were selling a few pieces of recelet, other embroidered tablecloths, t-shirts, and carvings. The woman said they do the recelet on the island, but from the hodge-podge of offerings, I wondered if things are bought elsewhere and brought here to sell.

We will see how the night goes being anchored next to an offshore island and make a decision tomorrow morning as to whether we will return to Nosy Sakatia tomorrow or wait until Monday. We’d love to get in the water here. We do see turtles from the boat so maybe we can swim with them even if we don’t get to see the babies.

100724 Day 271 Nosy Iranja, Madagascar–Arrival and First Trips Ashore