At approximately 3AM, the moon completed its decent to the horizon, turning orange as it disappeared into the Indian Ocean. We boarded Zodiacs under brilliant stars and headed ashore on Aldabra to search for green sea turtles coming up to the beach to lay their eggs under the cover of darkness. We walked along in the forest above the high tide line, so as not to disturb any turtles with our flashlights.
Coconut crabs were out in force at this hour, and we carefully sidestepped them along the path. As the largest terrestrial arthropods in the world, these enormous cousins to hermit crabs have few predators on the remote islands where they live, and relinquish their snail shell homes as adults.
Soon we came across a large female green turtle that had already excavated her nest hole in the sand above the high tide line, and was busy laying eggs. We quietly gathered around her in the dark, with nothing more than the red glow of a single light illuminating the primeval event taking place before us. After completing the process of depositing her eggs in the chamber, she began dragging sand back over the hole with her rear flippers. Her dexterity in moving sand around with limbs completely out of her range of sight was nothing less than remarkable! After admiring her for a few minutes more, we strolled back to the landing along the beach, with the Milky Way and all the stars of the southern sky shining brilliantly overhead.