A couple of years ago I was fortunate to visit one of the most diverse oceans in the world — the Indo-Pacific. The abundance of marine life on the reefs in Indonesia was staggering. Every where I looked there were countless tropical fish and invertebrates. The sea bottom was a forest of corals. Not an inch of it was uncovered. From the second I arrived at this fascinating place I felt like a small child at a toy store for the first time. I was overwhelmed!
But something the dive guide mentioned every day resonates in my mind until today. His words were simple ones, “If we are lucky… We might see a turtle today!” At first I thought how nice it would be to see a turtle on one on these gorgeous reefs, but as the days progressed and the sea turtles were nowhere to be seen it stuck a chord.
Back home in Palm Beach it is difficult to do a dive without encountering a sea turtle. Not to say we take them for granted but the degree of excitement when we see one has certainly settled from that first encounter.
How very fortunate we are to have so many sea turtle here in Palm Beach, Florida. There are few places in the world where you can see as many different species — five to be exact. The hawksbill, loggerhead, green, Kemp’s Ridley, and leatherback sea turtles call Palm Beach their home at least part of the year.
At the peak of the turtle nesting season it’s not uncommon for the turtle sightings to reach the double digits, but today’s dives really pushed the envelope. As we drifted through the dives, the turtles, primarily the loggerheads, were in great abundance. Most were fast asleep on the reef and we did everything in our power to give them their space so as not to awake them. These poor turtles are hurdling their heavy bodies on to the beach late at night, digging a huge hole in the sand, and laying about a hundred eggs. It’s easy to understand why they would be sleeping in the middle of the day. I would hate to be awaken after such a night, too!
We hovered thirty feet from the top of the reef and began to count sea turtles. At one spot I was able to photograph six in the same vicinity. By the time our dives were over, the count was at 32 sea turtles! If we were in Indonesia, this would have been a VERY LUCKY DAY! But the fact is that, while these numbers were certainly way up there, we are very fortunate to live in a place where the number of turtles are slowly increasing.
But we must be cautious, I feel. If we don’t do our part to provide a safe haven for these turtles. Doing everything in our power to preserve and protect the reefs the turtles call home. Protecting the inshore waters where many of these turtles are commonly seen mating and protecting the beaches where they nest, we could one day be muttering the same words that Indonesian dive guide said to me: “If we are lucky… We might see a turtle.”
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