Chasing Turtles in Ébodjé
South of Kribi I drive on a massive freeway, past the shiny new deep-water port. I have heard many countries in this region had planned to build a monster port for decades, and it appears Cameroon have finally done it. All the signs are in Chinese, all the workers and equipment are from China, and it appears even all the companies advertised on signs who are extracting minerals in the region are Chinese.
Immediately after the port I find myself on an extremely small dirt track, following the beach directly South. The village of Ébodjé is tiny, and of course everyone knows I have come in the hopes of seeing turtles. Here a research centre has been setup, and a small display is setup for tourists. The friendly caretaker directs me to camp right on the beach, once again the definition of paradise.
In the sweltering afternoon sun an old man takes pity on my attempts to cut open a coconut, and takes me for a walk to demonstrate how to choose the best ones, and exactly how to slice them with a machete.
At 10pm we walk along the beach, in the hopes of seeing a female turtle laying eggs. I am a month too late, though there is still a chance, he says. As we walk we chat on and on about life in Cameroon, the turtles, politics and basically everything in between. After walking for hours and hours we rest for a while before making the return walk, occasionally getting hit by waves from the now high tide. It’s a beautiful walk in the warm night air, and even though we don’t see any turtles I have a fantastic time.
In the morning my friend excitedly says some eggs have hatched, so I walk back over to the research centre to check it out. To improve the survival rates they move eggs into a fenced area, and around a hundred of them hatched overnight. The baby turtles will be kept here for a couple of days before being released on the beach. It’s important to let them find their own way into the water so they have the memory of where they must return to lay their own eggs. I am mesmerized watching the turtles swim endlessly into the side of the container, almost like the energizer bunny.
Next: Beach or jungle, Beach or Jungle?