Three of the world’s seven species of sea turtle can be found in Fiji and all three lay their eggs on the small coral islands of the Mamanucas. The green and hawksbill are very similar in appearance and average around 1.2m in length whilst the endangered leatherback can reach over 2m. Female turtles reach sexual maturity around the age of 25 and return to the same beach where they hatched to lay their eggs, burying them deep in the sand in batches of up to two hundred. This happens at night, some time between September and January. After sixty to seventy days, the eggs hatch en masse, again at night, and the hatchlings make their way to the sea. As few as one in a thousand reach full maturity, and the odds of survival are being reduced further by light and noise pollution from resorts.
Despite a national ban on hunting turtles for their meat – which for Fijians is both a delicacy and an essential ingredient in ceremonial feasting – locals in the outlying islands continue to do so. In an effort to revive populations and promote ecological awareness, Treasure Island Resort has set up a small turtle sanctuary to nurture baby sea turtles for a year before releasing them back into the ocean. If your timing’s right you may be able to participate in their feeding and release which generally occurs between November and March.