Even on a guided walk, it’s essential to keep the use of torchlight to a minimum so as not to scare the turtles back into the water. The Lombards believe it’s important for escorted groups to be able to touch, feel and photograph an egg-laying turtle as long as they stay behind her. By then, she’s in a trance and is oblivious to anything except bright white light. "That experience will help people respect them and remember why it’s so important to protect them," says Yvonne. "While human contact is not ideal, conservation and protection requires funding and this kind of experience could inspire that."
Turtles have a special, built-in way of knowing where they were hatched. With the use of satellite tracking devices, the Foundation has established that the loggerheads go north to their feeding grounds in Maputo, Madagascar, Europa Island and along the Mombasa coastline. After two or three years, they’ll swim up to 3000km to return to this beach to nest.
The leatherbacks breeding group is small, yet stable, with a total of between 10 and 15 each year.
The Lombards go out nightly in breeding season to look for nesting activity. They record the mileage and GPS coordinates at every set of tracks as well as the date, whether there was a nest or not, type of turtle, size and tag numbers. The tides dictate the time of night that the couple travels — strictly 31km in each direction, otherwise their vehicle won’t make it around the point at Mamoli. "We need to tag and go, tag and go. Most of the time I can see by the tracks if there’s a nest or not without even getting out of the car, which saves time," says Pierre. The sponsorship of a Ford Ranger, arranged by Ford SA through Interauto Ford Agency in Maputo has also assisted the process during the past two years.
"Sea turtles, both loggerheads and leatherbacks, have been protected on the Kosi Bay side since the 1960s and we have the benefit of that now. As development increases around Ponta do Ouro, we’re getting more turtles here where it’s still relatively unspoiled, so we think the breeding group is shifting north," says Pierre.
Mission accomplished? The tracks tell the story.