If you are planning a trip to North Cyprus and would like to see marine turtles, here is a little background.
From late May until late September the Alagadi Sea Turtle Conservation and Research Centre (see map) is manned between 9am and 20:30 and a dedicated team of volunteers are on hand to greet visitors and provide information. It is worth a visit if only to see the place and check out the beach during the day. Our information centre contains great visual displays and the volunteers will talk you through our activities and present a short film on our work.
Alagadi nesting beach is central to a Natura 2000 specially protected area and, during the nesting season, is closed to the public at night. Access routes to the beach are locked and only volunteers of the Marine Turtle Conservation Project (MTCP) or staff of the North Cyprus Department for Environmental Protection department are permitted to enter. Anyone found on the beach who does not have consent to be there will be escorted away. We do, however, invite small groups at night to see the turtles under the supervision of MTCP.
We offer three types of activity through the season:
See our online booking system for availability and bookings at Alagadi.
In 2017 night watch will also be available in Dipkarpaz. Stop by at the Karpaz project base for more info and follow this page for announcements on where and how to book. A range of excellent boutique hotels are available near to our Karpaz base.
During night watch small groups accompany students to the beach at night to watch adult females covering up their nests. This activity is available from late May to early August (depending on nesting numbers at tail ends of this period). In order to limit any possible disturbance to nesting females we only take 17 people per evening. All bookings must be made via our online booking system or in person at the Alagadi or Karpaz Information Centres. We turn away hundreds of visitors each year who leave their booking late and are unable to get on during the remainder of their stay, which is very disappointing, particularly for young kids. A sighting is not guaranteed, as some nights the turtles fail to nest and mid-une to mid-July is busiest. However, in recent years we have seen increasing numbers of nesting females due to our conservation efforts, so the chance of seeing a turtle is also increasing and quiet nights are now few and far between. Naturally though you should expect a late night.
Although Cyprus is exceptionally hot during the summer, the Alagadi midpoint where you will be waiting on the sand with the volunteers can be very cool and breezy at night. So it is important to bring warm clothing, especially in May and June. You will definitely get cold in shorts and a t-shirt. It is also important to wear trainers or strapped sandals as you will be walking down concrete steps and on uneven surfaces, possibly over rocks, in the dark or under red torchlight. The total distance is about 1km. You are welcome to bring towels to sit or lie on and even blankets to snuggle up and to sleep under the stars until the moment comes for our volunteers to escort you to a nesting female. Guests arrive at 20:20 and last patrol off the beach is at 05:30am, but guests may leave at any time under the escort of our volunteers when they are available. We suggest a donation of £10 per adult participant for this event.
These take place around 4pm between July 20th and late September. Hatchlings emerge from their nest at night and depending on the status of the nest after hatching we make a decision that day about inviting visitors to a public nest excavation. So for these, visitors need to call the Goat Shed on the day or check the facebook page for notifications.
These also take place between July 20th and late September. Under controlled conditions, visitors are able to name and release hatchling turtles at night under red light at around 9pm. As with Night Watch, because the beach is closed to the public, visitor numbers are limited and booking is required. Again check the facebook page, pop in to Goat Shed or call up on the day for information. Bookings can only be made by phone via our hatching hotline (+905338725350) on the day of the event and bookings can only be taken at or after 12 noon. No bookings are taken in person. The hotline gets extremely busy and places fill up very quickly, so call at noon prompt. Please be patient with volunteers managing the hatching hotline who will be working hard during the morning of the event to juggle conservation and research activities with providing opportunity for your viewing. As with night watch sensible/closed toe footwear is important, but the releases are normally over within half an hour.
Public excavations and releases also occur at our other bases and at Karşıyaka. Please follow our facebook page and the Karşıyaka Turtle Watch page for information and updates.
Why watch turtles?
The importance and value of sea turtles as tourist attractions and as a component of the tourism product of many destinations around the world is increasing as the tourism industry seeks to enrich the traditional “sun, sea, and sand” experience. North Cyprus is no exception to this. The MTCP at Alagadi Beach is now in it’s third decade and in recent years we estimate that around 5000 foreign tourists visit Alagadi each year to watch turtles. Indeed, the marine turtle has long been used as the emblem of the North Cyprus tourism industry in it’s promotional logo .
Whilst presenting marine turtles to visitors in a controlled and sustainable way, MTCP is able to sustain itself financially through donations which visitors leave, whilst supporting local and national economies, which in turn support the project. The annual turnover of local restaurants are increased by our activities and thousands of holiday makers enjoy an enriched experience, encouraging them to return year on year. So the MTCP is a tangible asset to the North Cyprus economy. In a region which is undergoing rapid development, this continues to play a major role in safeguarding the future of the most vital nesting habitats.