Sunday, September 1, 2013

Nagata, Yakushima, 永田、屋久島

Nagata area

Nagata, on the east coast of Yakushima - an island more famous for its forests than its beaches - is home, albeit temporarily to many a baby loggerhead turtle. It is situated on the north west coast of the island and magically avoids a lot of the rain and clouds that gather in the middle of the island in the forest.

Parts of the beaches are cordoned off to prevent us from walking on their eggs, but, even an early morning stroll might afford you the joy of watching a baby hatchling run free to the ocean. The summer is turtle season, but, bizarrely, despite the beaches being protected, we can still roam free on them, just not at night (9pm - 5am).

We were so lucky as to witness such a sight...on a few occasions! Unfortunately, we saw the perils of nature in action too and found a few turtles hacked by hawks, or gasping for air after the morning sun has burnt them dry. We managed to save two and give them water while they gained the strength to swim into the sea. It was really a miracle! Others,we gave a little helping hand towards the ocean as the sun was up high in the sky, even at 9am and they had to cross a lot of hot sand.

There is a NPO doing great work and research too in Nagata and through them, you can witness the night release of new hatchlings (no booking required, just get there early - from 8pm). Some hotels as well as the NPO also take bookings for viewings of the loggerhead mummies coming out lay their eggs. These bookings must be made well in advance - we failed here.

 We visited the NPO(( in the evening. From 8pm, you can join a group and witness the release of the baby turtles on the beach. There are a lot of people and some might just stand in your way, but it is a great feeling to see the hatchling off on their journey. It costs 800yen to see the mummies come and lay their eggs, but, as I said, that needs to be booked in advance. For 5000yen, you can become a volunteer for the day; this entails patrolling the beach and making sure people adhere to the rules, protecting the eggs and digging for turtles in the sand. As NPOs go, it is small and seemingly well organised, but as far as protection of the beaches go and the actual conservation of the turtles, it could do with stepping up its game a little as loggerheads and green turtle numbers are declining so we should take a lot more care for the protection of their eggs and hatchlings..

Inside the NPO

Turtle eggs

Garbage in the sea....

We listened to a talk on the turtles, remarking the slight differences in size, patterns and colours...

Since the NPO started, they have helped more ad more turtles.

Inakahama いなか浜、is where you will find the NPO as well as the public toilets and a cute beach shack selling the best guava kakigori - thoroughly recommended !
You can find this quirky dude at the 'Happy'
shack by the beach in Inakahama.

Me & my guava Kakigori

We stayed at the mariner blue resort, a lovely beach resort style ryokan. It's very simple, yet the food is divine! It is run by some housewives, apparently and they cook up a storm.
Expect flying fish, the freshest sashimi, but be weary of the coffee! I would recommend just booking up the meals at the hotel, it is worth it for the taste, and if you don't have a car and are travelling in Obon season...well, good luck!
Our hotel!

Yakushima island has a bus service that seems to be very regular. We had an awesome driver on the first day and it couldn't have been better. We didn't rent a car - travelling in Obon and leaving it until the ,last minute wasn't very clever! But, then, we found we didn't need one. We came for the chill, the beach and the turtles.

However, if you are coming for more, take into account that it is about two hours drive around the whole island, with plenty to see along the way.

There will be another blog entry with a more green and forest based theme, day....
but this one is about the turtles :-) 

Bless them all on their journeys. We feel at peace for having seen them and helped them too.

Any visitors to this awesome island can find all, they need from a great website and friendly advice too - these guys were so helpful.

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