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Rare sighting of Leatherback Turtle at Misool’s Wara Beach by Barb and Jo Danko

Administrator’s Notes: Despite the fact that the beaches along the top of the Bird’s Head Seascape are home to the largest Leatherback nesting area in the South Pacific, these turtles are a rarely sighted in Raja.  In March, Jo and Barb Danko were snorkeling with Misool Resort on a site known as Wara Beach, when they had an encounter with one.  The action was brief and admittedly the snapshot images are not that special; the encounter, however, was memorably “off the scale”.

I’ve done a LOT of diving in Raja and never seen one!  Conservation International’s Dr. Mark Erdmann, who has more dives in more places in Raja than just about anyone, has only seen a few, mostly in the north.  He does say they regularly nest on the beaches of NE Waigeo; an area where LOB’s and divers  seldom venture and which is also close to their main nesting beaches in and around Jeen Womom Coastal Park.  (You can read about the latest action there in one of our previous posts, Encouraging News On Leatherback Conservation in West Papua).

In Barb’s words: “We were the last group to get in water. Just 4 of us plus guide. I was at the reef edge looking into the blue when I saw it. I immediately knew what it was and yelled to the others who all saw it too. The turtle was slowly heading out (to sea) when I saw it but came up some before heading off. It had a huge “cloud” of little fish around its head and a couple remora type fish attached. Our group was the only one to see it. “

Jo also took a brief video of the encounter:

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