I am privileged to have had a few sea turtle experiences in my life.
While camping on a grassy plateau overlooking the ocean on the island of Maui-
After a night of torrential rain, tent soaked inside and out, completely sleep deprived… the brilliant morning sun poked its hot face out from the disappearing clouds (cue dramatic music with full string section and thundering drums)… I soggily crawled out of my tent and wandered to the cliff’s edge. All around me the grass and trees were shining- lush, revitalized and sparkling from the night rain – quite unlike myself. I could hear faint hollow, haunting sounds coming from the bamboo forest to my left. The bamboo were playing tunes provided by the light breezes passing through. The hills were alive with the…(whoops… couldn’t help myself…heh). Below, the waves were gently brushing the rocky shore, finally relaxed after a restless night. The blue of the ocean was brilliant in the early sun. My eyes scanned the water. I noticed something bobbing in the waves – a turtle? A huge turtle! What a sight. So peaceful, just floating about as if also celebrating the morning after the storm. I scrambled down the cliff to get a closer look but she had vanished.
Oh….this also reminds me of another time in Maui….
My friend and I decided to surf. We gave it a valiant couple of hours trying to stand up on huge boards in lazy, not surf – promoting waters. I eventually decided it would be more fun to put on some flippers and a mask and check out what life there was underneath my board. A brilliantly coloured puffer fish swam by. It was covered in polka dots and had huge bulging eyeballs on top of its head that seemed to move in opposite directions. One of the eyes fixed its gaze on me while the other looked ahead. I was mesmerized. With the warm water and the steady sound of my breathing flooding my ears, I began to trail alongside it. It was practically beckoning me to follow! I’m convinced we were communicating in silent fish language. I don’t know how long I was swimming with this comical creature, but after a time, out of the blue (hah!) a big dark shape ( shark- shape ?) crossed my path catching me offguard. I sputtered and panicked and sucked in salt water which made me gag. I raised my head to see where I was. The shore was so far away! My friend was running along the sand – a tiny dot with arms waving wildly. I had been under the puffer’s spell and floated out to sea. I had no idea what had just passed by me so huge and shark – er – I mean dark – yeah… dark. It took every bit of mental strength to not completely freak out. I focused on redirecting myself back to shore….
Okay, so that wasn’t about a turtle but I felt like sharing it anyway.
Another sea turtle experience was not as natural and spontaneous, but rather a planned trip while visiting the Cayman Islands. There is a Sea Turtle Farm that breeds turtles for research, conservation and to supply the market place ( that last part, not cool…just sayin’ ). I did find it interesting to see them in their various stages of growth though. The adults were floating around in large salt water pools. They came to the edge to check us out. I dropped to my belly and extended my hand. Within seconds a turtle came to get its head rubbed. I could barely breathe it was such a magical experience.
I came away with mixed feelings though…sadness at their captivity and hopeful for their release into the wild and the research that brings awareness to their plight. It’s also the whole commercial aspect and the need for such a place to exist to maintain the lives of these beautiful creatures that weighs heavy.
The idea that future generations may not be as fortunate to come across a sea turtle naturally in the wild saddens me. To have looked into the wise old eyes of these ancient creatures is a treasured memory.