Five species of marine turtles occur in Tanzania’s waters. These include green, hawksbill, loggerhead, olive ridley and leatherback. Two species – green and hawksbill – nest. All are categorised by IUCN as endangered or critically endangered and are listed on Appendix I of CITES.
Sea Sense works closely with coastal communities in Tanzania to conserve and protect endangered marine wildlife including sea turtles, dugongs, whales, dolphins and whale sharks. These species, together with their habitats face a very uncertain future, mostly as a result of human activities in the coastal zone. Their continued survival is implicitly linked with the protection of the wider coastal and marine ecosystem and the wellbeing of coastal peoples.
Tanzania’s coastline supports small populations of nesting green and hawksbill turtles. If a nest is at risk from predators, poachers or tidal inundation a Sea Sense Conservation Officer carefully relocates it to a safer area using internationally approved nest relocation protocols. Each nest is monitored during the two month incubation period and the following hatching,
They emerge from their nests in a small sand crater and make their way to the ocean. This trip is full of danger from birds, crabs, and the hot sun. But every little hatchling needs to make the journey for their future life in the water. Since the programme started, over 4,800 nests have been monitored and more than 359,000 green and hawksbill turtle hatchlings have safely reached the sea to begin their long journey to adulthood.
Though unfortunately, just a fraction of these will survive and reach sexual maturity and breed. When the females are ready to lay eggs, they will come back to the very same place they were born. As turtle nesting sites are quietly disappearing, every known site aims to secure the turtle population and protect the nests. That’s one of the reasons for creating turtle focused eco-tourism in Tanzania with the aim to support turtle conservation.
For a visitor, this is an amazing opportunity to find out more about the life of sea turtles and see their first and the most important trip. Some of the best places to see sea turtle hatching in Tanzania can be found in Dar es Salaam, Mafia Island, or Pangani. Generally, turtles nest year-round on the Tanzanian coast, but the peak nesting season falls on April–May. Two months later, turtles start to hatch, making June to August the best time to see the hatching process.