High season on the Island of Sal is during the winter in Europe, when people seek to enjoy our year-round sun and warm welcome. But Cape Verde has another peak season, one with a more local flavour – summer time!
It is estimated that more Cabo Verdeans live abroad than in Cape Verde itself… and it is during the hottest months of the year that many of our diaspora return to visit friends and relatives.
Interestingly, this homecoming event also happens for another species – Loggerhead Sea Turtles (Caretta caretta) which, like many islanders, leave their birthplace to travel the world, but always come back – females will often return to the beach where they hatched to lay their eggs.
Cabo Verde is the 3rd most important nesting site for Loggerhead turtles in the world and the only significant nesting one on the eastern side of the Atlantic. This species is considered endangered by the IUCN, threatened by hunting and loss of habitat.
As ecotourism is becoming increasingly popular in Europe, nature tour options such as turtle watching are growing. However, the lack of supervision, linked to poor scientific knowledge of the target species by some guides and tour operators, has generated adverse impacts on the turtles and consequently on the tourist experience – threatening the sustainability of the activity itself.
The Travel Foundation has partnered with Projecto Biodiversidade (a local conservation NGO) and is developing a tool to help providers deliver ecotourism excursions in a sustainable way. The project includes best practice training, and will lead to the implementation of a Nature Guide certification scheme.
The Travel Foundation has met with the National Directors of Tourism and of Environment who have embraced the idea and promised total engagement. A joint operational plan will be developed with the input of all stakeholders.
It is estimated that by the end of this year´s nesting season (June to October), about a thousand nesting female turtles will have laid eggs in more than 4,000 nests on Sal, and that about 246,000 baby turtles will hatch.
This is great news, but if we factor in about 20,000 tourists participating in turtle watching excursions, translating into an estimated half a million Euros of income, then the business case for protecting turtles is clear!
Written by Dalia Gomes, Project Co-ordinator, Cape Verde.