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Oldhegg Turtle Sanctuary

By doina — last modified Nov 23, 2002 08:48 PM

Published: 2002-11-23 20:48:35
Countries: St Vincent & the Grenadines

When visiting Bequia in the beginning of October 2002, we heard about a turtle sanctuary on Bequia. We found out it's on the NE side of the island, about 15 minutes by car or 1 hour by foot away from the anchorage in Port Elizabeth at the Admiralty Bay . We preferred the walk as it is easy to find and the little road leads you across the hill with a spectacular view over the Admiralty Bay.. After that it is downhill along the windward coast line. Great estates, beautiful gardens, a pottery, some resorts and other interesting places are very much along the way.

Orton G. (Brother) King was granted the right to build his turtle sanctuary right by the shore line a few years ago. The real estate owner who is developing this area for wealthy customers from the UK and the USA has been very supportive to the project.

Some 200 turtles (Hawksbill, Green and red legged Tortoises) live in the sanctuary. Mr.King catches them on the beach when they have crawled out of their nests. He was of the opinion that there is no special hatching season for them, but they had to hear the sound of the ocean while they grew up.

Lacking jelly-fish, the natural food for young turtles, he feeds them mostly fish for about 3 years. They don't seem to mind at all. After these 3 years the turtles are released into the open ocean down by the beach. Being of a healthy size by then, they have a much greater chance to survive.

Especially the Hawksbill Turtle is endangered in this area. Protected by the law in theory, fishermen still kill them and walk by the police station quite openly with their catch in hand. An upset Mr.King told us that there are even parents on the island who would not permit their kids to come and visit the sanctuary. But he is not one to be easily disheartened. He is trying hard to change the attitude towards these lovely animals by inviting school classes, students and tourists. Many youngsters come to learn and help him with the daily routines.

He does certainly appreciate the yachties and their comments when they visit him. The sanctuary is entirely funded by donations from visitors and Mr. King's private purse. The entry fee of 10 EC $ is spent on food for the turtles plus the maintenance of the sanctuary.

Rarely have we seen somebody so knowledgeable, enthusiastic and dedicated as Mr.King . He is certainly worth the support from the yachting community and his place makes a great goal for a walk across the island. When you visit him, DON'T forget your camera ! Have fun at the Oldhegg Turtle Sanctuary on Bequia !

Lilly Vedana, Thomas Mueller

Yacht "MIZ MAE", November 2002