They were, in some ways, like any other newly-arrived guest at the Maldives: blinking in the sudden golden sunlight, easing their way across the soft, warm sand, and heading instinctively for the sparkling ocean.
These were, however, not tourists, but newly-hatched sea turtles that emerged to the delight and wonder of staff and guests at the Centara Grand Island Resort&Spa.
To the great surprise of everyone on the island, which is located in the South Ari Atoll, the mother turtle had come ashore in the early hours of March 15, dug a hole in the sand with her flippers, and laid more than 100 eggs before making her way back to the ocean.
Staff, acting on the advice of the local sea turtle conservation center, had covered the eggs with netting to protect them against predators and then waited.
Four species of turtle roams the Maldivian sea and nests among the islands, namely the Green, Hawksbill, Olive Ridley, and Loggerhead turtles. A fifth species, the Leatherback, visits the archipelago from time to time but does not nest there.
The female laying her eggs here was a Green turtle, a species that can nest three or four times a year. The female does, however, not nurture her young, and never sees the nest site again. Consequently, the eggs and newly-hatched babies are very vulnerable.
Centara Grand Island Resort has its own house reef, complete with its own shipwreck, and a diverse collection of aquatic life swims around the resort, including turtles. This, however, was the first time anyone at the resort had seen a female come ashore to nest.
As the weeks passed, staff and guests kept anxious eyes open for any trouble. Usually, turtles lay eggs on uninhabited islands, far away from human beings, but very much at the mercy of crows and shoreline birds always on the lookout for the next meal.
On the afternoon of Saturday May 7, to the sheer joy of everyone watching, 102 baby turtles hatched and emerged tentatively from their sandy nest, heading towards the waves. It was an emotional moment for everyone. The babies all made it safely into the calm waters of the lagoon, and from there, once they had gained their sea-legs, made their way into the open ocean.
Set among the perfect islands and blue ocean of South Ari Atoll in the Republic of Maldives, 25 minutes by seaplane from Male, Centara Grand Island Resort&Spa Maldives offers 112 suites and villas. The resort offers diving and snorkeling enthusiasts outstanding opportunities including an excellent house reef complete with a dedicated sunken ship wreck, and is within easy reach of the top dive spots in the Maldives.