We started the day off a little differently. Instead of doing beach patrols of Brava and Resca, we prepared to spend the day in the water at the Luís Peña marine reserve. A few of us left around eight in the morning to catch the boat as it made its journey over to the north side of the Island to pick up the rest of our group. We were able to see Culebra from a whole new view; towering cliffs, gorgeous beaches and beautiful turquoise waves that crashed ashore. As we pulled into the harbor where the others awaited, we were greeted by an interesting piece of artwork, a robust man sitting upon a rocky out crop made of wood, who appeared as though he was about to throw a piece of rock at us. The two boats were loaded up with all the appropriate gear and then we were off on a new adventure.
Once we made it to Luís Peña marine reserve, Carlos informed us that today’s sea turtle captures were going to go a bit differently than our net-assisted captures. The last couple of days we set a net out to aide in capturing sea turtles, a few people would chase them into the net, while others were immediately prepared to untangle them and bring them to the boat. Today, we would be swimming transects along a coral reef that was parallel to shore and count the turtles we see. Our target species for the day was Hawksbill sea turtles. If we were to see one we were to raise our hands and our fearless guides would free dive down and grab the turtles. They made this look very easy!
We split up into two groups, one group went to the far side of the reef while ours stayed at the near side. Once the queue was given, we quickly jumped into the water to snorkel along the reef, while the boat stayed nearby. The quest was to spot Hawksbill, but the magnificent reef below us was more than a little distracting. We saw several different species of fish, such as squirrel fish, parrot fish, damsel fish all living among the brain coral, sea fans and many other types of coral.
Upon finishing our transects we climbed back onto the boats to work up the Hawksbill and Green sea turtles that were captured. These work ups included tagging the turtles if they had not already, taking various measurements, and capturing photos to use later on as ID’s. Each student was also able to get a picture with the turtles, which we were all smiles for. We then jumped back into the water to do a second round of transects. Finishing up around two, we traveled back to the harbor where we said goodbye and thank you to Carlos and his crew. It was an amazing opportunity to have been able to work with this skilled and very knowledgeable group.
Once everyone was all cleaned up, we headed into to town for a souvenir shopping excursion and to choose our final meal in Culebra. Some chose to go to the Dingy Dock, while myself and others decided to go to Zaco’s Tacos to enjoy delicious food. When the time came, we headed back to the dorm to clean it from top to bottom and to finish packing all of our belongings, so we would be ready to leave around five the next morning.
We are all very excited about the next leg of our journey in St. Croix and are very excited to see the very large and amazing Leatherback sea turtles.