Sea Turtle Magic

The first dive was amazing. We were winding through the coral caves of Palencar Reef. Sponges and corals were pristine. The arches, alive with color, were surrounded by blue…ocean blue…the color that seems to run through my veins

As I was meandering through exquisite passageways I thought it was most likely the most beautiful dive I’ve ever done. Over 600 dives in magnificent caves of the Yucatan, reefs of the Caribbean, the Pacific kelp forests….none were as deeply beautiful as this colorful swim through winding tunnels of reef.

The surface interval was relaxed and fun and then the second dive….”Duck in a canyon to get out of the current,” he said. It was Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride with current that wasn’t bashful. But that’s not what I remember so much. It’s the three hawksbill sea turtles that were casually munching along the top of the reef….where the current was ripping.

The first one had two friends greedily watching for tiny creatures uprooted with the amazingly strong foraging jaws of the turtle. In order to stop and take video and photographs I had to touch the sand….and thankfully with gentle kicking I was able to stay within inches of the huge turtle and capture the best video of my life. Not to mention the absolute thrill of being within inches of the strong jaws of the turtle….who completely ignored me.

The gray angelfish kept blocking the camera, swishing their tails against my mask and hands. What a problem to have…right? Photobombing fish.

The third hawksbill was massive in size. When I swung around to face the current the turtle walked on the bottom just beneath me. I could sense the sea turtle’s energy even though we never touched. My belly hovered just inches above her massive back as she munched on a sponge.

Hours later I still feel it, the strength and fortitude this being has. To survive from a golf-ball sized egg to this size took wits, strength and perhaps a lot of luck. But I’m the one that feels lucky….so amazingly lucky.

After spending five years as a sea turtle volunteer working mostly with unhatched nests and hatchlings as they crawl to water, this was a special treat. And while I’ve had nice encounters with sea turtles while diving, none have come close to any of the three connections I had today.

My mask was inches from the back of the largest turtle and the colors and details of the plates on the shell were incredible. The spotted skin of the head and flippers was brilliant and the eyes looked at me with unconcern…which made me so happy. I was an accepted part of their world, not something to be feared.

Most of what I experienced was visceral and so I reach for words that don’t seem to be there. Somehow I came away feeling the strength of these sea turtles had been shared and my bones now know a little bit more about what being a sea turtle is all about and I carry a little more of their magic in my heart.

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