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Turtle Conservation in Montserrat

By Carolyne Coleby  |  

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Share this article on FacebookShare this article on TwitterMontserrat is a lush, volcanic island 27 miles from Antigua in the Caribbean. Every year, it has a visiting population of turtles who come to lay their eggs on the beaches. Leatherback, loggerhead, green and hawksbill turtles arrive from April through to the end of September, nesting on the black sand, and the hatchlings start emerging from September and continue hatching until December. A new hatchery in Brades, the Capital, means that the hatchling survival rate has increased by 70% although only approximately 10% of the hatchlings are expected to survive when released on the beaches. However, this is crucial for these endangered species survival.

There are turtle conservation specialists living on the island, working with volunteers and currently they are trying to bring in volunteers to work with the turtles. Current volunteers help with recording, monitoring and tagging the arriving turtles and also with releasing the hatchlings. In the peak of the nesting season, around August, as many as 20 turtles can be seen arriving and nesting at any one time. Quite a sight on a moonlit deserted beach.

Montserrat has a wealth of other attractions for volunteers to visit during their stay. The best known one is the Soufriere Hills Volcano which became active in 1995. A major eruption in 1997 destroyed the former Capital of Plymouth and resulted in 8,000 of the 12,000 inhabitants fleeing the island to build lives overseas. Many were only just recovering from Hurricane Hugo which devastated the island in 1989. Plymouth and its environs can now be visited and have been described as a 'modern day Pompeii' eerily deserted and filled with ash and ravines. A visit to the Montserrat Springs Hotel which was formerly the largest hotel in Plymouth reveals ash covered rooms, a pool full of ash and reeds and has stunning views of Plymouth.

The Montserrat Volcano Observatory is responsible for monitoring volcanic activity and is open to the public. Films and displays about the volcano are shown regularly during the week for visitors. It is well worth a visit just for the views of the Volcano alone and a good spot for photographers, especially on a clear day.

Sir George Martin, the Beatles' Manager, had a recording studio, Air Studio, in Montserrat, which many famous musicians, including Sting, Dire Straights, the Rolling Stones and Elton John recorded at. Stories still abound of some of the exploits the musicians got up to on the island during their visits here, but Air Studios was abandoned after Hugo in 1989. It is now semi-derelict, but an interesting place to visit.

The beaches are mainly black and gray volcanic sand beaches and are often deserted. It's rare to find more than one or two people on the beach at any one time unless there's a party going on. There are numerous reefs and multi-coloured tropical fish which make for great scuba diving and snorkelling, and there are several dive outfits on island who can take people out to visit the reefs, or for a boat tour if preferred. If you are lucky, you might get to see a turtle and around May each year migrating whales pass the island. The only white sand beach is Rendezvous, a spectacular quiet inlet surrounded by cliffs, with beautiful reefs. However, Rendezvous is only accessible by hiking, boat or kayak.

The Centre Hills are the central mountains of the island and are great for hiking and seeing some of the flora and fauna of the island. They are covered in rainforest and there are many trails, varying in difficulty. It is possible to get a trail map and hike yourself or you may want to go with a guide. Scriber Adventure Tours offers hiking with Scriber, who was described in the UK Guardian newspaper as 'the Doctor Doolittle of Montserrat' for his ability to call down Orioles, the national bird, from the trees whilst hiking. There are many interesting species such as lizards, agoutis and many bird species as well as interesting plants such as the heliconia, the national flower, with its iridescent orange, yellow or red tropical flowers.

Montserrat is a nature lover's paradise and unique with its active volcano and visiting turtle population, deserted beaches and spectacular former capital. It is well worth a visit.

An opportunity to get involved with turtle conservation on the beautiful Caribbean island of Montserrat with expert John Jeffers, who received an MBE for his work with the turtles. Help to save endangered species whilst having opportunities to visit an active volcano, hike in the rainforest, snorkel and dive the colourful reefs and visit deserted beaches. On a moonlit night in August, you may see as many as 20 turtles nesting on the beach. Get involved! Website: or email

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An Introduction to Montserrat


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Last modified: April 15, 2009