On a windy, moonless night amid the sea spray and the swells we wait for our eyes to adjust to the darkness of Pinney’s Beach, Nevis. Once acclimated to the shadows, our group of wildlife-watchers takes turns patrolling for hawksbill turtles. The endangered critters return to Pinney’s, Lovers and other island beaches every June through October to nest.
To find the turtles, we listen. A splash out of sync with the rhythmic surf might signal a turtle wading nearby. Labored breathing accompanied by the scratchy sound of flippers reveals a female painstakingly pulling herself through the sand to a spot above the high-tide level. Since we hear only the waves for hours, we return to our rooms to sleep, dreaming of floating languidly alongside sea turtles.
Each summer the Four Seasons Resort Nevis, in conjunction with the Nevis Turtle Group and the Sea Turtle Conservancy, hosts a turtle-watch that features two nights of beach walks, a special camp for kids, and a tag and release back to the ocean for the hawksbills. This season’s program takes place from July 13 to July 16.
Watching sea turtles nest in the Caribbean often requires traveling to remote regions such as Tortuguero in Costa Rica or driving over bumpy dirt roads and sliding down rocks to inaccessible sands as in St. Kitts. But in Nevis several beaches favored by the turtles lie within an easy drive of the property, plus the hotel provides guides and snacks and operates shuttles to and from the sites.
The second night our group discovers a hawksbill. Watching a turtle methodically dig her nest, drop scores of eggs, cover the nest with sand and then slowly lumber back down the beach is mesmerizing. The Sea Turtle Conservancy captures the hawksbill in a turtle-friendly box, tagging her with a satellite-monitoring device that enables the organization to track her migration. That information goes a long way toward understanding which beaches need to be preserved to prevent turtles from becoming extinct.
The next morning, after guests and locals form a runway for the turtle, the conservancy releases her. Dubbed Moji, short for mojito, she’s fast out of the box, then pauses to look around. As kids and adults cheer, Moji picks up her pace, lurching down the sand to disappear seamlessly into the sea. The kids, wide-eyed at the weekend’s wonders, head to Sea Turtle Camp to learn more Moji facts and to create crafts. We go back to lazing on a waterfront chaise lounge.
In addition to a complimentary children’s program for ages 3 to 9, the family- friendly resort offers large guest rooms as well as villas with kitchens. For adults mixologist Kendie Williams concocts award-winning cocktails, the golf pro can provide biodegradable balls to drive into the ocean, the spa offers soothing massages, and the staff can arrange an evening of stops at local places such as Esmie’s for conch chowder and Yardee’s for jerk pork and chicken.
WHEN YOU GO
For general information: www.nevisisland.com
Sea Turtle Conservancy: www.conserveturtles.org
Four Seasons Resort Nevis: www.fourseasons.com/nevis