Turtle Conservation in Montserrat Caribbean

Turtle Conservation in Montserrat Caribbean

Montserrat is a small, lush island in the Caribbean, 27 miles from Antigua. It has a visiting population of turtles that come to the island to nest every year.

Photographer Carolyne Coleby has been living there since 2004 and is currently setting up turtle conservation holidays for volunteers, in conjunction with John Jeffers who has over 36 years experience of turtle conservation and has received an MBE for his work with the turtles on Montserrat, recording and monitoring arrival and nesting and aiding the release of hatchlings after incubating them at the new hatchery in Brades, the capital of Montserrat.

 

Turtle Conservation Montserrat is inviting people to volunteer with the turtles and assist John in his crucial work.

Turtles are an endangered species and the work being done is very important for the specie's survival which in Montserrat includes loggerhead, leatherback, hawksbill and green turtles. Their migration to the island is an annual event, arriving at night on the beach to lay eggs, and this generally starts around May each year.

However, we recommend volunteering during the time from the beginning of July to the end of September when you can guarantee seeing turtles most nights. The hatchlings start emerging  and are released from the beginning of September through to mid-December so this is the best time to come if you want to assist with the release.

In a night with a full moon at the peak of the season, you may be lucky enough to see about 20 turtles arriving and nesting on the beach, quite a sight.

 

Volunteering activities with the turtles take place mainly at night, although the hatchlings are released at a various times during daylight hours. This means you are free to explore the island during the daytime.

There are opportunies for volcano viewing, learning more about the volcano at the Montserrat Volcano Observatory and touring the environs of Plymouth, the former capital, which was destroyed by the volcano in 1997 and has been described as a 'modern day Pompeii'. The volcano is still active, but has been quiet since the last eruption in 2010 and residents are hoping its fallen asleep again.

Montserrat is perfectly safe to visit and offers a fantastic opportunity to learn about what it is like to live on a live volcanic island. It is called the Emerald Island of the Caribbean as it was originally settled by the Irish and has a green, verdant landscape.  It is extremely mountainous and there are many opportunities to hike in the rainforest and mountains, either on trails or with a guide who can tell you more about the flora and fauna. Scriber, a local guide, was described by the Guardian newspaper as 'the Doctor Doolittle of Montserrat' as he is able to call down the Oriole, the national bird, with his calls! Mappie, from the National Trust, is able to tell you all about the medicinal properties of the forest plants. Both guides are extremely knowledgeable and can tell you all about the forest and its inhabitants.

 

The beaches are extremely quiet and picturesque with black sand from the volcano.  Don't be surprised to find you are the only person on the beach, or that there are only one or two others. 

The beach at Rendezvous is the only white sand beach on the island and is only accessible by hiking, boat or kayak and well worth a visit. It is also great for snorkelling or diving - there are lots of tropical fish and reefs around the island. Scuba Montserrat are happy to take you out for a trip. If you have your own snorkelling gear or are PADI qualifed, there's nothing to stop you going  snorkelling or diving on your own (gear is availble to rent).

Boat trips can also be arranged, there are round the island trips or boat rides to Plymouth to view the volcano.

 

It's also to visit and walk around Air Studios, owned by Sir George Martin, the manager of the Beatles - it closed after Hurricane Hugo in 1989, but before that a large amount of musicians from Sting to Eric Clapton recorded on the island and islanders are happy to regale you with stories of goings on.

The musicians liked the fact they could walk around and no one would take a blind bit of notice! Air Studios is pretty derelict now, but an interesting place to visit. Musicians organised a concert in London after the hurricane which devastated the island and the proceeds went to build the Montserrat Cultural Centre, supported by George Martin, in Little Bay. 

Little Bay is being developed as the new capital of Montserrat, which is currently located in Brades, and is an ongoing work with some nice bars and restaurants and the new cricket ground.

 

There are some good restaurants, some specialising in local cuisine and plenty of rum shops to while away a few hours and 'lime' with the locals. Liming it has to be said is a national past time, shooting the breeze with whoever turns up - Montserratians have a reputation for being the friendliest people in the Caribbean. The term 'liming' probably originates from the fact that Montserrat was a world famous producer of limes - Roses used Montserrat limes for their drinks and marmalades.

 

Montserrat really is a unique destination, offering great opportunities for nature lovers and photographers alike, and the annual arrival of the turtles is a very special experience.

So come and join us!

The website for Turtle Conservation Montserrat is ccoleby2001.wix.com/turtlesmontserrat or you can email Caroyne at ccoleby2001@yahoo.co.uk

 

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