Turtles find new home

Students from Cayman International School joined the Marriott Beach Resort and Boatswain’s Beach in releasing 20 Hickatee turtles into the hotel’s garden pond earlier this month.

The recently restored pond is now home to 20 turtles as part of the hotel’s plan to incorporate all things Caymanian into its resort and guest experience.

Marriott Resort pond

Children from Cayman International School place one of the turtles into the Marriott Resort pond under the supervision of Catherine Bell of Boatswains Beach. Photos: Submitted

Chris Sariego, managing director of the hotel, said that it has been a very rewarding process to bring the garden back to its lush, green state.

He is glad to see the turtles in the pond because they add a fascinating element to the garden, he added.

‘Guests — local and international — are attracted to the little creatures as they swim around or bask in the sun. We have one turtle that sits on the centre rock of the pond, like clock work, every afternoon when the sun is shining on that spot. It is definitely a moment to be captured on film or in your memory,’ Mr. Sariego said.

The main garden and pond were damaged in Hurricane Ivan, and for a time were under restoration. The resort opted to revive the turtle pond by re-populating it with native Hickatees.

Education outreach

Boatswain’s Beach donated all the turtles to re-populate the pond. Catherine Bell, marine and research curator for Boatswain’s Beach, expressed enthusiasm for the project.

‘Part of our research and education programme is to familiarize people with turtles. This serves to build on people’s appreciation of turtles and the work that we do at the Cayman Turtle Farm,’ Ms Bell said.

On the official turtle handover day, the students, from kindergarten and pre-kindergarten three, learned where the turtles came from and about their feeding and sleeping habits.

The children were given the opportunity to interact with the turtles by touching the shell and belly of two turtles.

The children joined Ms Bell and Scott Taylor, assistant marine and research curator for Boatswain’s Beach, in placing the turtles into their new home.

Linda Bell, kindergarten teacher at the school, expressed appreciation for the experience.

‘The children have been given a very rare opportunity at a young age to interact with a creature that is important to Cayman’s culture. They recorded their experience in their school journals and I am sure many interesting stories were shared with other children in the school,’ Ms Bell said.