South African waters are unique and so is the gift they bring us each summer… With the Benguela Current coming from the west and the warm waters of the Indian Ocean being swept in from east, the two currents meet and something magical happens.
We all know South Africa has a flourishing marine biodiversity, but from November until March our KwaZulu Natal coastlines are blessed with the story of life for many species, especially our wonderful sea turtles.
From late spring, iSimangaliso Wetland Park coastline offers travellers a unique safari experience: turtle-tracking safaris.
During the summer months, Loggerhead and Leatherback turtles navigate thousands of kilometres through the sea to lay their eggs on this specific African coastline.
This is definitely an awe-inspiring experience that should be right on top of your travel bucket-list. If you prefer coastal experiences to in-land safaris, then this is the perfect and most special seaside safari tour. Witness the turtles coming to shore to lay their eggs and later in summer as the eggs hatch. It is surely a spectacle as the baby turtles make a dash for the water where they will be safe from predators.
Turtle tracking is unlike any other wildlife experience – with tours taking between two and seven hours. Turtle tracking mostly takes place at night as turtles are very sensitive to light. The commencement of tracking also depends on the tides. This would mean that on some occasions you would start tracking just after sundown and in other cases in the early hours of the morning.
Guides will have South African permits that allow them to conduct turtle tracking on the beach in 4×4 vehicles. This way you can travel farther distances to search for these precious creatures, Guides and vehicles are only allowed to track on the beach for a limited time.
Research shows that only four in every 1000 hatchlings survive to adulthood, making this experience that much more special and seeing baby turtles one of Africa’s many miracles. During the turtle tacking safari, if a guide spots a female turtle in search of a spot to lay her eggs, all lights will be turned off. It is also important to note that you should only illuminate the turtle with light from behind.
Alternatively, if you’re heading to Mozambique, White Pearl offers complimentary turtle tacking during the season. Here you can take leisurely walks from your lodge. However, you can only cover a small area by foot and it depends on the tides.
So if you’re keen to experience a marine safari and turtle tracking is a big attraction for you, KwaZulu Natal and Mozambique are the places to witness this incredible life cycle.