ACHOLA ROSARIO IS NOT EASY TO IMPRESS BUT THE SERENA BEACH’S TURTLE PROJECT IMPRESSED HER BIG TIME …
By Achola Rosario, Contributing Editor at www.ATCNews.org
(Posted 19th July 2021)
Making it to the sea is never easy. It takes a kind of strength to flip yourself off your back and make a run for the water without being eaten by crabs, birds or men seeking virility. That is why baby turtles need all the help they can get and Mombasa Serena Hotel was happy to be of service. They have created a hatchery where they collect turtle eggs and keep them safe until they hatch. The land the hotel is built on is a natural laying place for sea-turtles, who lay their eggs and leave them in the sand, going back into the sea, never to return. The eggs lay vulnerable to predators and humans, and chances of them even breaking out their shells are perilous.
The turtles are the endangered Hawksbill and Olive Ridley turtles. Hawksbills are named for their narrow, pointed beak. They also have a distinctive pattern of overlapping scales on their shells that form a serrated-look on the edges. These colored and patterned shells make them highly-valuable and commonly sold as “tortoiseshell” in markets according to the WWF website. These are what your expensive tortoiseshell shades are made of. They go on to add that Sea turtles are the living representatives of a group of reptiles that has existed on Earth and travelled our seas for the last 100 million years. They are a fundamental link in marine ecosystems and help maintain the health of coral reefs and sea grass beds. They spend their time in coral reefs, rocky areas, lagoons, mangroves, oceanic islands, and shallow coastal areas and are considered the most beautiful of the turtle species.
Olive Ridleys are smaller and considered more numerous, but still getting tangled in fishing nets and nesting mothers being hunted for their meat have significantly declined their numbers. The average adult grows to about knee height but most never make it that far. These turtles are solitary, preferring the open ocean. They migrate hundreds or even thousands of miles every year, and come together as a group only once a year for the arribada, when females return to the beaches where they hatched and lumber onshore, sometimes in the thousands, to nest.
Olive ridleys have nesting sites all over the world, on tropical and subtropical beaches. During nesting, they use the wind and the tide to help them reach the beach. Females lay about a hundred eggs, but may nest up to three times a year. The nesting season is from June to December according to National Geographic. This is when Mombasa Serena Beach swoops in to save the eggs, by working with the local fishermen and beach boys to locate the eggs and bring them to them, sometime even paying up to shs50 for an egg, in order to discourage them from eating them or selling elsewhere. For this and other initiatives like their butterflies and their staff health clinic have won them the Eco-tourism Kenya Gold standard, along other the other Serena Hotels in the chain. And as I watched two little turtles struggle to make it across the sand into the water, I felt and understood the sense of accomplishment felt by both the turtle and staff who look after them.
Eco-tourism Kenya’s certification places emphasis on standards of running sustainable tourism and travel businesses. Key components are preservation of essential ecological processes, protection of both human heritage and biodiversity, and resource efficiency and reducing waste. The water bottles in my room were all glass, the shampoo and shower gels in large refillable bottles that were not to be taken away, and the water was solar heated. All those these initiatives count towards reducing the carbon footprint of the hotel. But for me what counts the most is involving the locals in the area.
No hotel is an island and in my humble opinion, it is the responsibility of the visiting tourist to leave some of his dollars with the locals in the area. That is how you ensure that you create a conducive business eco-system that can sustain the area. These ladies and gentlemen who approach you at the beach selling their wares and services are not thieves waiting to rob you of all your cash, but are simple business people who have taken their time to hone their skills. Such as Captain Yahyah Ali Athman who runs a surf-shop and boating excursions next to Serena on the beach. He has been at the helm for 30 years and has built many boats. He is also the owner of the largest Catamaran on the North Coast. Charming and friendly, one gets a sense that this is a very rich man living humbly. Or Mme Mariam who sells sukas, large printed colorful sarongs that sing in the wind. She was a former actress for KBC, the national broadcasting corporation who has landed on hard times. Or Master Kai, the windsurf instructor and Captain Yahyah’s business partner, who also happens to be a black belt in Taekwondo. And the indomitable and slightly intimidating Mzee David Masege Matua, purveyor of carved soapstone from the deserts of Northern Kenya, who underneath a stern hard face has a very soft heart. Just like a turtle.
It is these people and the staff of Serena that the turtles have to thank for their survival. Because everybody realizes that they cannot live without one another.
To know more about Mombasa Serena Beach’s conservation policy:
Entertainment Manager Marsden: +254 711 314663
To book a trip with Capt. Yahyah Ali Athman:
Banda Sea Excursions
+254 723 548 168
To watch The FOMO TRAVEL SHOW EP71 Mombasa Serena Eco-tourism Gold:
Together we can.