Dreaming of Sea Turtles

By Lyla Mahmoud, Spirit & Place Festival Intern

Spring has finally arrived and our beloved spring break has come and gone. For many of us college students, holding on to the memories of warm weather and relaxation that this coveted week off provided are the only things getting us through these last few weeks of school.  The final stretch of school before summer break is characterized by projects we procrastinated on, final exams we would rather forget exist, and frantic extra credit assignments after snapping out of our spring break daze and realizing we have to go back to real life.

IMG_0572My spring breaks in the past have been pretty low-key – I visit my family in Arizona and recover from midterms while soaking up sun rays in the desert heat. This year, however, I pulled out all the stops, and it was definitely a spring break for the books.  Through the Alternative Break Program at IUPUI, I was able to travel to the beautiful islands of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, where my Alternative Spring Break (ASB) family and I worked with leatherback sea turtle habitat conservation and ecotourism in the less urbanized areas of the Island of Trinidad.

For those of you who may not be as geographically adept, Trinidad and Tobago are two islands in the Caribbean, just south of Barbados. Trinidad, the bigger of the two islands, is home to one of the largest nesting colonies for leatherback turtles in the world, where more than 10,000 female turtles journey yearly to lay their eggs. Sadly, these numbers have fluctuated greatly since the 1980’s, the decade that marks when this species was placed on the endangered animals list, due mainly to pouching and accidentally by catch in the fishing industry. Organizations such as The Turtle Village Trust, the NGO my ASB team had the pleasure of working with, have successfully worked toward IMG_0546bringing these numbers back to normal levels.

Our days in Trinidad were filled with hikes through the rainforest, beach cleanups in the Trinidadian sunshine, afternoons spent absorbing local culture, and magical nights where we were able to see the female sea turtles nesting. Watching the females wander up onto the beach and perform their nesting ritual was a truly fascinating moment, and as the days between now and the end of spring break become greater and greater, I find myself constantly reflecting on the experiences I had in Trinidad. This trip marked the first step of my dream to make an impact on how humans view both our global and local environments and begin to become more conscious about our current standards of living.

Spring break may be over and done with for this year, but next year holds potential for a whole new adventure. What’s your spring break “dream” destination? We’re looking forward to your comments!

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