Tuesday, April 3, 2012
Three different kinds of sea turtles can be found on Culebra. Many come to the beaches to lay their eggs because the beaches are quiet and dark. This is Zoni beach where leatherback turtles come up on shore and lay their eggs at this time of the year. They drag themselves up onto the beach at night, dig a hole and fill it with eggs.
These barriers are put up to protect the places where their nests are filled with little turtles under the sand growing inside their soft shelled eggs.
I grew quite obsessed with seeing a sea turtle and spent alot of time over the trip swimming out and admiring the undersea world. As the days went on Rob and the girls got a bit nervous about one thing or another and went back to playing in the waves, not snorkeling around the coral reefs and underwater fields of turtle grass.
I saw a ray at Tamarindo beach, beautiful floating grey bird-like ray swimming along the white bottom of the sea with a black fish above it, following wherever the ray went. I was thrilled and yelled to Lily and Georgia; Lily was out of the water and on the beach like a shot. She wasn't going to swim with a ray, even a ray that was only 2 feet across.
Rob didn't like the feeling of not seeing behind him, of not knowing what was going on above the water. Georgia was pretty brave, but she wore a floatie and it popped her up to the surface whenever she tried to look toward the bottom of the sea.
I tried all the places where people told us they saw turtles and kept my eye out for their heads poking out above the water, but I didn't see them. It seemed everyone else we talked to had seen them at whatever beach we were just at! We tried Carlos Rosario with its huge coral reef, Melones with its beautiful quiet shallow water, filled with life. I followed a school of 100 purple darting fish through and around the towers and caverns of coral, heavenly, but no turtles. Rob was very supportive of me heading out again and again. The girls got a bit annoyed. We tried Zoni beach, which was a bit choppier, but Rob encouraged me and I felt brave so I swam way out where the young kayaker we met had told me she saw turtles earlier in the day. I swam farther and farther over acres and acres of swaying turtle grass, my eyes straining in the dim light to see something. I came back from that adventure feeling winded and sad. Then I scratched my toe bloody on the coral near shore and I almost gave up.
But I asked if we could try, one more time, to look for turtles at Tamarindo. I had just heard that the turtles fed there in the afternoon and it was late afternoon. Everyone was tired and hot and it was our last day with the jeep, so we were feeling the end of our trip pressing upon us. The girls groaned but we drove over the huge potholes for one more try at Tamarindo. We walked out toward the outcropping and there were older American ladies hanging out in a laughing group. "The turtles? They're right there!" they said pointing out 100 feet to the quiet ocean. "Just watch and they come up for air." I was happy just to see their little heads poke out of the water, but Rob plunged in with his goggles and swam out. He motioned for me to come but we had forgotten Georgia's floatie in the car! He found the turtle under water and motioned for Lily and me to come out and he would trade places and get Georgia's floatie. Lily had to be dragged against her will. I couldn't bear to have her miss out so I hissed at her under my breath, "Quiet! You are coming! Hold onto me and be brave!" She wimpered about the turtle grass. She didn't like how it made the water dark. Once we got out far enough, Rob went in for Georgia, who can swim without her floatie but she gets tired quickly.
Lily and I looked down and there was the most marvelous sight! A lovely geometric, sweet and slow moving turtle chomping on turtle grass at the bottom of the bay! She ate for a while and then used her big flippers to swim to the surface and take a breath, then she swam back down to continue eating! Lily was squealing with delight. She was so glad she had come out. We watched the turtle eat and followed from a distance as she moved from area to area. Rob came back with Georgia and they found another turtle eating nearby. The girls were thrilled and I was so glad the whole family had been able to see these special creatures in their home, eating, swimming and breathing. We spent a long time watching the turtles swim about until we had our fill. I love to imagine them under water in the speckled light or even in the dark night, swimming up and down through the warm water.
Rob was relieved I could stop my fixation.
Hooray! Here we are after our turtle sighting!
Here's someone's video of a turtle and ray in Culebra.