Turtle watching in Sao Tome

Turtle protection is a reality in Sao Tome and Principe. NGOs have made a lot of sensibilization and carried out many programes including protctive measures in order to ensure that this specie can continue its reproduction in the islands. ECOFAC is one of this NGO. Some of the turtle species that occupy the islands are the green turtle, the leatherback, the olive riddley, the hawksbill and the caouanne (Loggerhead turtle).

Sea turtles have been coming to the beaches of Sao Tome & Príncipe for millions of years, and the islands have the most diverse range of sea turtles in central africa. Between October and April, four of the five turtle species are known to lay their eggs on the beaches of Sao Tome & Principe, including the great leatherback

Nesting points in Sao Tome island

There are two points in Sao Tome island where turtle observation can be performed: one in the south (Praia Jale) and other in the north (Mucumbli), both eco-tour residences with some policies for turtle protection, within the country´s endangered spieces conservation program.

So, it´s recommended some nights in these acommodations, because the quiet night is the best moment to do the observation.

Several conservation programs have appeared through the years about sea turtles as an endangered spiece. Presently there is a local NGO MARAPA that develops the protection of females and eggs in some beaches of Sao Tome and Principe.

Sea turtle characteristics:

- Hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata): critically endangered | weight: 80kg | Colour: amber with dark and light spots and streaks | Diet: sponges | Interesting detail: some of the sponges eaten by the hawksbill are known to be highly toxic and lethal when eaten by other organisms | nesting seasons: August-February.

- Leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea): critically endangered | weight: 500kg | Colour: bluish-black skin with white spots | Diet: shellfish, jellyfish | Interesting detail: they can dive as deep as 1.000 m | nesting seasons: September-February.

- Green turtle (Chelonia mydas): weight: 230kg | Colour: green-grey, with occasional olive brown, yellow or dark streaks and spots | Diet: seagrass and algae | Interesting detail: a great sense of orientation, as a green turtle can find its way back after 20 years to the beach where he or she was born | nesting seasons: July-November

- Olive ridley (Lepidochelys olivacea): weight: 50kg | Colour: olive-green to brown | Diet: shellfish, mollusk, jellyfish, algae | Interesting detail: only nests on Sao Tome, not on Principe | nesting seasons: August-December.

- Loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta): This specie has been seen in the waters around Sao Tome, but has not been observed nesting.