Feeling the sand between your toes and soaking up the gloriously warm sunshine is just one of the many joys of exploring the local beaches on holiday. The azure waters of the glistening sea are a welcome escape from sunny climes but they’re also home to many marine creatures, including the beloved sea turtles.
On his recent family holiday to Kefalonia, our Customer Experience Director, Graham, enjoyed the once in a lifetime experience of helping volunteers on Avithos Beach take care of turtle nests and make sure hatching turtles made their way safe and sound to the sea. He tells us all about his amazing and unforgettable experience…
“I was with my family (wife & two boys Tom 16, Freddie, 12) on Avithos Beach, when I saw a number of people with coloured shirts arrive and start digging a small hole at the back of the beach. I went over (to be nosey!) and found out what they were doing. They turned out to be part of a large team of volunteers looking after the protection of the Loggerhead Turtles.
After chatting for a few minutes, they asked if my family and I would be willing to help dig out one of the turtle nests further up the beach. As we walked with the volunteers, they took pictures of the location, logged co-ordinates and started digging with their hands (so not to damage any of the eggs). They told us that earlier that summer the female turtle had come ashore, dug her nest and laid her eggs too close to the sea and the nest had been flooded with sea water. They knew this wasn’t going to be good news for the little eggs, so they took their nest to the back of the beach and created a safer home for them there.
The little baby turtles can tell when it’s night time as the temperature in the sand cools down. They hatch and use their tiny arms and legs to dig their way out. Once escaped, they walk towards the horizon and into their new home: the sea. The not so happy version is if they hatch and dig their way out during the day, the scorching Greek heat is too much for them and makes it hard for the babies to see the horizon (poor little things!).
So we started digging the nest to see how they were getting on. A group of us helped to dig a trench from their nest down to the sea and we stood with towels to protect them from the sun as they made their way down to their new home.
The team dug up around 120 eggs from the nest, and 15 had already hatched with around three or four still in tip-top condition so we safely put them back. There was one turtle who had already hatched and so we guided him to the sea in our man made trench. Struggling to swim, one of the volunteers collected him and re-buried for shelter. They would try again 2 days later, but if needs be, they would take him to their headquarters where they have incubators to help rear turtles until they’re strong enough.
It was an amazing experience helping the volunteers with this truly worthwhile cause and my family and I saw it as a real eye-opener as to how important turtle conservation really is!”