Our reflection: Turtle Tours 2014
As the clouds start to form and first rain hits the sand-dunes on Bare Sand Island, we know that our 2014 turtle tours have come to an end. And what a year it was, with memorable events and precious moments, some captured on camera and others not.
The traditional start of the Sea Darwin turtle tour season happens in April, and we always commence with our annual marine debri collection. This year our boat was chocker-block full of willing volunteers who assisted by filling the bags supplied by the Seafood Council with 48.3 kgs of rubbish. Data from the collection was forwarded to Tangaroa Blue to contribute to the National Marine Debri Initiative, and the rubbish was bought back to Darwin for proper disposal, with some special samples being donated to the Territory Wildlife Park for their Ghost Net display. Those who were with us will probably remember most the depth of the inky black storm clouds that bore down on us and chased us back to Darwin.
This year was a big year in collaboration with Austurtle Inc, working with them to organise their first “Evening with Turtle” fundraiser on the island. Amidst their windswept camp and makeshift shelters, they produced a 4 course menu worthy of a place in any notable restaurant in Australia. While a photo from the evening was featured on #Restaurant Australia, the whole event was upstaged by flatback and olive ridley hatchlings, as well as 6 nesting turtles all wanting their piece of the action.
For Austurtle the event was a huge success, as was their research year on the island collecting data from 400 nests that were laid while they were there. They also collected data about nocturnal predators and hatchling communication. Camera traps were introduced onto the island this year, and these have provided huge insight into hatchling predation revealing that of 32 nests 16 nests were totally wiped out from nocturnal predators. Austurtle also did some exciting work on collecting hatchling sounds – apparently these little critters do chirp even without vocal chords!
For Sea Darwin as always we eKenbi-Bare-Sand-Islandnjoyed showcasing this very special and very remote part of Australia to our guests. We know that our Sea Darwin Turtle Tracks experience is unique, and reminds people that we are exceptionally lucky to have such a pristine natural environment on our doorstop. Of all our guests there were three that reminded us of why we do what we do – three little inquisitive souls who were so impressed by the turtles that they decided to donate pocket money to Austurtle. We know that these children, as well as all others that had a turtle encounter this year, are more likely to consider the environment as they go about making choices in their life.
And then there were the photographers – not only those seeking a sneaky pic of a turtle, but those inspired by the island and the Bare Sand sunset. Amongst others, it was such a pleasure to meet Le Backpacker (World Explorer!), who rated his Turtle Tracks experience as one of the best he had in Australia and whose photos went viral on social media. And then there were our own photos, captured by the Captain and staff, again achieving fantastic reception on social media with our Georgia’s hatchling photo the second most liked photo on @Australia ever with 67,000 likes (as at the end of September 2014).
Away from the spotlight an island moment that we were privileged to be involved in was taking the Kenbi Junior Sea Rangers to the island along accompanied by their elders. The Kenbi are the custodians of the island, and it is with their permission that we are able to visit Bare Sand. Each year we take them to the island, and this year it was all about the Junior Rangers and about the passing of saltwater knowledge from one generation to another. The respect, culture and instinct we witnessed on this trip was truly memorable.
The year finished with a bang, with the Unexploded Ordinance Project moving in to do their thing. Throughout the season our staff and guests were occasionally seeing the oddly shaped rusty metallic objects dredged up by the surf and exposed by the moving sands. These objects are reminders of the islands war history, and for the UXO workers a dry season of intense work culminated in a very loud and smoky experience.
So, turtle tours are over for 2014 and the sand of Bare Sand will be without any more footprints until next year. Our final note is about our incredible Team Turtle …. And those of you who have travelled with us will appreciate why we are so grateful for the exceptional knowledge, the skills, the passion and the commitment of our staff. Dion, Kate, Megan, Michelle, Natalie, Sarah, Betty, Jessica and Georgia, until 2015 a very big Thank You!