Grande Riviere Wildlife Featuring Leatherback Turtles, Black Vultures and Yellow-headed Caracara
Grande Riviere village and river are located on Trinidad's remote, wild and rugged north east coast. It’s around 90Km from Asa Wright Nature Centre, which takes around two and half hours. The village is 10Km east of Matelot where the north east coast road ends. Most tourists and locals come for turtle watching and twitches to see Trinidad's only endemic bird, the piping guan.
There are three small hotels in the village, Mt Plaisir Estate has the best location being right on the beach but not the best food. All the rooms offer great views of turtles nesting on the beach but access is restricted after dark. Two small general stores are within walking distance; the goods and assistants are in locked in cages but do allow you access to browse; I guess there must be a crime problem.
The gallery below highlights the river estuary, Mt Plaisir Estate Hotel and the beach.
Turtle Village Trust promotes turtle watching in Trinidad, which has some important leatherback nesting beaches; these are located on the north and east coast from Matelot to Matura. The beach at Grand Riviere is a primary nesting location.
Leatherback turtles are the largest sea turtle species, about two metres and weighing over 900 Kg. The watching season runs from March and July for egg laying and through to August/September for hatchlings. Females come ashore after dark; create a body pit in a suitable spot on the beach, excavates an egg chamber, lays eggs, covers the eggs, camouflages the nest by digging and scattering sand over a larger area than the body pit and then returns to the sea.
At Grande Riviere access to the beach after dark is by permit entry and being accompanied by an informative tour guide from the Grande Riviere Nature Tour Guides Association (GRNTGA). We took the night tour; I didn't bother taking a camera but did take a red lens touch. The large groups of people seemed to interfere with turtles coming ashore, I saw at least one animal turn around when her progress was block by the group I was in. There were more than forty turtles nesting that night. After dawn, there are photo opportunities as a few late arrivals may still be nesting.
Primarily feed on carrion and in season leatherback eggs and occasionally kill hatchlings. These opportunists are obviously responsible for eating some of leatherback eggs but losses are also a result of:
(a) High density causes nests to be destroyed by leatherbacks nesting in the same place;
(b) Local dogs can be seen digging for eggs, which they eat;
(c) Beach erosion seems to be a problem at Grande Riviere where high tides flood nests eroded those that were too close to the sea.
In December 2012, heavy rainfall floods Grande Riviere village and over the following few months caused erosion of the beach. There are some photos showing the river running east just a few feet in front of Mt Plaisir Estate Hotel. The subsequent restoration work appears to have caused destruction of many leatherback nest in 2013. Wider Caribbean Sea Turtle Conservation Network, 2013 Annual Meeting, GRNTGA Grande Riviere TT refers.
Grande Riviere Nature and Wildlife
All images were captured at Grande Riviere either on the beach or in Mt Plaisir Estate Hotel's garden. The photographs feature adult and immature carib grackle, yellow-headed caracara, brown pelican's, spotted sandpiper and two non-native ornamental flowers; fringed rosemallow and red ginger.
GRNTGA: Grande Riviere Nature Tour Guides Association