Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Bumping into Sea Turtles

All week in Maui we had been snorkeling with these gentle prehistoric reptiles.  The big green turtles, called "Honu" in Hawaii were nearly fished to extinction back in the 60's.  Now protected, they have made an amazing come-back.  At first it was thrilling.  Then, it got a little scary.  When a 400-pound behemoth swam straight towards me, eyeing my toe with a healthy appetite, I got out of his way.  Pronto!  Even though I knew he was a vegetarian, eating mostly algae and seaweed, his massive size guaranteed him right of way.

My travel buddy had also been warned to watch out for black rocks while windsurfing.  More often than not, these "rocks" are sea turtles and can cause major damage to a board if you collide with one.  Sure enough, he saw them swimming in the water and kept a safe distance.

When we were checking out the surfers at Ho'okipa Beach, I noticed the black rocks starting to move.  No way!  Really!  Dozens of turtles were riding the waves, landing on this patch of nice soft sand.  I watched them, as one by one, they rolled in and then awkwardly maneuvered to higher ground.
These turtles spend their entire lives at sea.  Only the females go ashore--to lay eggs at the same beach where they were born, and these beaches were 500 miles away at the French Frigate Shoals.  So what were they doing here?

  "They're resting."

I turned around and stared into the lined, weathered face of a local man doing a head-count.  "They need a break every now and then just like we do."

He went on to tell us that they need the sun to regulate their body temperature.  They also need to sleep undisturbed now and then to regain their strength.  At this beach, they are safe.  Signs were posted to keep fifteen feet away.  "But more importantly," he said, "They don't have to worry about sharks.  They can totally veg out."

My travel buddy and I forgot all about the surfers.  Watching these creatures kept us enthralled for the next hour.  Bumping into sea turtles in the water and on land, turned out to be the highlight of our stay on Maui.

1 comment:

  1. Oh my, these pics are dreamy, what a luck to get to see such amazing animals