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Come Face to Face with the Green Sea-turtles of Ascension Island

by Holly Chavez Blog

Antarctic Peninsula

Come Face to Face with the Green Sea-turtles of Ascension Island

Ascension Island has strikingly gorgeous, golden-sand beaches that everyone should visit at least once in their lifetime. This volcanic island is located in the South Atlantic Ocean near the equator, and the closest major land mass is Africa, which is approximately 1,600 km (1,000 miles) away. If you are looking for a truly remote, once in a lifetime experience, Ascension Island is an ideal choice.

The Most Famous Sea-turtles in the World

Wildlife enthusiasts have one primary reason to make the trek to Ascension Island: it is the home of the world famous green turtles. In fact, this location is the perfect breeding ground for green sea-turtles because it is so remote and sits more than 2,400 km (1,491 miles) from the coast of Brazil. Due to this, these turtles have claimed Ascension Island for nesting purposes, and this UK controlled land is the second most populated green turtle hotspot in the Atlantic Ocean.  

 

In 1977, researchers first began tracking the total green turtle population that is found on Long Beach during breeding season. At that time, there were an estimated 1,000 nests. By 2012, this number had exploded to 10,000. Tracking the mating habits of the turtles during this time also revealed a very interesting and previously unknown fact. Contrary to popular belief, each of the female green turtles nests an average of six times per year. This is twice as much as early research indicated, and it definitely helps explain the population explosion.

 

It is also fascinating to note that each female can lay as many as 150 eggs during each of these six nesting periods. In other words, a single female could be responsible for up to 900 babies, as long as they all hatch and survive to adulthood.

Will I See a Green Turtle?

It obviously is not smart or conscionable for a large group of humans to go traipsing directly into the nesting area of so many turtles. However, we are able to take expedition members to a close location on the beach so that they can observe the beauty of these magnificent marine animals. 

Because we include this experience within our seasonal treks to Ascension Island, we have also adopted a few simple guidelines to help protect the turtles. We ask that you stay at a respectful distance that will be pointed out by one of our local guides, remain relatively quiet and do not use flash photography so that the turtles are not disturbed. 

 

For most people, the ability to get this close to these green turtles is a truly wondrous event. These turtles migrate from Brazil every mating season so that they can lay their eggs in peace, and they have chosen wisely by going so far away from any other notable land areas. Therefore, if you have always wanted to see a group of female green sea turtles in action, Ascension Island is one of your best options.

How Does the Nesting Process Work?

After crossing at least 2,400 km of the Atlantic Ocean to reach Ascension Island from Brazil, each female finds a spot on the beach to build a nest. These nests are always created out of sand, and the green turtles use their flippers to dig a large enough hole to hold their eggs.

 

After the eggs have been laid, the mother covers them up with sand and returns to the ocean. It will take approximately two months for the eggs to hatch, so it is not necessary for the female green turtles to stick around throughout this time period.

A visit to Ascension Island: not your normal day

As you can see, a visit to Ascension Island is not your normal day. Instead of spending your time in hotels in common tourist destinations while surrounded by the distractions of daily life, you can truly get away from it all for a while with one of our Atlantic Odyssey cruises or Antarctica trips. The places we visit typically have limited infrastructure and your cellphone probably will not get a signal, but what you will receive in return is a truly invigorating and rewarding journey that is filled with unusual photo opportunities and memories that you will be talking about for the rest of your life.  

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