Turtles of Mozambique

Turtle in Mozambique.

The beaches of Mozambique are largely unexplored and unspoilt, providing the perfect environment for sea turtles to lay their eggs.

Five species of marine turtles occur and nest along the Mozambican coast. All of them are threatened worldwide and have been protected in Mozambique for over 45 years.

The 5 species that breed in this region are

  • Leatherback turtles (Dermochelys coriacea)
  • Loggerhead turtles (Caretta caretta)
  • Green turtles (Chelonia mydas)
  • Hawksbill turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata)
  • Olive Ridley turtles (Lepidochelys olivacea)

Sea turtles can regularly be seen in the Mozambique Channel, but nesting usually takes place in the last few months of the year continuing into the New Year. Peak nesting season quite often falls in March. Always enquire about the probability of seeing these creatures nesting or hatching when booking your Mozambique holiday so you don't arrive out of season or in a bad season.

During the nesting season, once the sun sets and during the night, the female sea turtles emerge from the waves and crawl up the beach to dig holes and lay around 300 eggs. They enter a trancelike state while laying the eggs and it is important they are not disturbed with bright lights and noise.

When the laying is finished, they cover the eggs with sand and then make their way back to the sea. Observing the nesting process is a wonderful and unforgettable experience. After 55 - 65 days the hatchlings will cut their escape out of the eggs and make their way to surface and down to the sea.

The baby sea turtles that survive this journey will continue to grow and drift from place to place in the Indian Ocean, feeding on small floating organisms. Incredibly, the females that reach maturity will return to the beach of their birth to nest, even though it may be many hundreds of kilometres from their feeding grounds.

The north coast is an important feeding and nesting ground for the Green and Hawksbill turtles (also sometimes for the Olive Ridley) from the Rovuma River down to Pebane (including the Quirimbas, Segunda and Pimeiras Islands). The nesting season tends to start earlier than further south and differs slightly from area to area. Nesting has been recorded in the past from June to November, but more commonly now from about October continuing through to April, especially in the Quirimbas Archipelago.

The central coast from Pebane to Bazaruto Island is frequented by Leatherback, Loggerhead and Green turtles. Many rivers run into the sea along this stretch and the coastline is muddy and shallow in places - which is not ideal for nesting. Loggerheads mainly nest here between October and February.

The southern coast from Bazaruto Island to Ponto do Ouro is favoured by Leatherback and Loggerhead turtles. Nesting in the Bazaruto Archipelago occurs from October to March and from November to March down the coast towards the South African border - top spots include Calanga, Ponta Malongane, Ponta Mamoli and Ponto do Ouro.

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