This post is the fourth in a series of 10 (one for each day) of my adventure & volunteer trip to Tahiti, where I’m reliving this amazing adventure and sharing it with you. Ever since travel has come to a grinding halt (like everything else) I’m very grateful to have had this experience and look forward to future adventures.
Here is day 4 of my adventure & volunteer trip to Tahiti. We were really looking forward to today because we are heading to the turtle rehabilitation sanctuary and clinic then getting a lesson on coral restoration. After a typical breakfast of bread, butter, jam, fruit & coffee, we jumped in the van and made our way to the InterContinental Moorea Resort & Spa.
Going to a spa to get pampered, you ask? Not quite. The InterContinental Moorea Resort & Spa just so happens to house the Te mana o te Moana (Spirit of the Sea) Turtle Clinic Rehabilitation & Refuge. We had to walk through the hotel grounds to get to the sanctuary—what a gorgeous place, perhaps some indulging on my next trip back to Tahiti?
sea turtle clinic
Founded in 2004, the clinic’s purpose is to protect the Polynesian marine environment and sea turtles through discovery, education, and protection. Their mission is to collect sick, injured, and maimed sea turtles and the ones seized by the authorities, provide medical supervision, and later release them into the wild. This center has cared for more than 570 sea turtles. Of that number, the 4 species are green sea turtle, hawksbill sea turtle, olive ridley sea turtle, loggerhead sea turtle. More than half of the sea turtles arriving at the care center are wounded, mainly due to human interaction, and the release ratio is about half, depending on the age of the sea turtle.
Since the end of 2010, the Turtle Clinic has been hosted within the InterContinental Moorea Resort & Spa. The facilities include an office, a classroom dedicated to children’s educational activities, and space to provide care to the sea turtles. This facility is funded by the Hotel InterContinental, the Moorea Dolphin Center, and the company Pacific Beachcomber. emanaotemoana.org
We met the staff at the sanctuary/clinic who filled us in on the turtles and why they were at the refuge. Many were injured by human interaction (speargun hunting, fishing nets, etc.). We witnessed one caretaker attempting to feed an injured turtle and was brought to tears when he finally ate something. Apparently, they are given 30 days then have to be force-fed after that. This guy made it right under the wire!
Another turtle had an injured flipper which made her perpetually turn in a one-way circle, while another had a buoyancy issue and had to be weighted down to keep her submerged. They were very cautious watching her so she wouldn’t get sunburned.
We learned the different enclosures of the sanctuary/clinic have a variety of functions. For instance, the rehabilitation lagoon is an area set aside with optimal water quality and offers a true miniature ecosystem with many fish, invertebrates, and algae species. At the end of their medical treatment, the turtles are placed here and begin the last stage of their rehabilitation process. They learn again how to swim, dive and search for their food before being released into the ocean.
The resting area is home to healthy turtles having disabilities that prevent their short-term release. Unable to feed themselves, they are dependent on humans for their survival. Trainers regularly go into the water to interact with the turtles and feed them by hand. What an amazing start to the day!
We met this adorable puppy when we stopped to grab some lunch before heading back for our coral restoration lesson.
So what is coral exactly? Coral reefs are large underwater structures composed of the skeletons of colonial marine invertebrates called coral. Each coral is referred to as a polyp. Coral polyps live on their ancestors’ calcium carbonate exoskeletons, adding their own exoskeleton to the existing coral structure. livescience.com
Coral reefs protect coastlines from storms and erosion, provide jobs for local communities, and offer recreation opportunities. They are also are a source of food and new medicines. Over half a billion people depend on reefs for food, income, and protection. noaa.gov
While coral reefs only cover less than 1 percent of the oceanic floor, they generate half of Earth’s oxygen and absorb nearly one-third of the carbon dioxide generated from burning fossil fuels. ecowatch.com
Half of the world’s coral reefs have already been lost or severely damaged by rising water temperatures and ocean acidification. If nothing is done, coral reefs will be the first ecosystem on Earth to entirely collapse, dragging with it the loss of 25% of marine life that rely on them. coralgarderners.org
We wrapped thick twine and heavy wire around an existing piece of coral during our demo, attaching it to a wooden post, which then is inserted back into a coral reef, initiating the new growth of healthy coral.
After our very informative lecture & hands-on demonstration, we had the chance to put our efforts into action. We made our way to the Coral Gardeners. A company committed to saving the reef by restoration, education & innovation. After watching a film about their mission to stop the destruction of the world’s coral reef, we got in the water and planted our coral back into the reef so healthy coral will grow. It was exhilarating to be a part of the solution! I then contributed to their cause by adopting a piece of coral. You can do the same and learn more about the Coral Gardeners’ important work here.
I hope you enjoyed day 4 of my adventure & volunteer trip to Tahiti. It was an extremely informative and eye-opening experience. This trip really made me take a closer look at climate change, especially now, during the pandemic. I am making every effort, albeit small, that I can. Every little bit helps, and collectively we can make a difference. There is no time to lose!
Until we can travel again, my friends, be well & stay safe.