13 Jan 2018 – Swimming with a Sea Turtle

Never in my life have I felt more like I was in Finding Nemo.

Yesterday while diving along a reef wall I came across a Hawksbill Sea Turtle. My group was drifting along with a current, slowing for anemones or bright damsels. In following a school of silvery fish along the reef, I saw a shape I immediately recognized (but didn’t quite believe), resting on a flat coral. I signaled back to the group, but having forgotten the underwater hand sign for “turtle,” I sort of just flailed and pointed for a second. Our dive-master Mike saw and made the signal, and once I knew the group knew what it was I swam closer to get a picture.

Hawksbill turtle resting on some coral.

By the time I got some footage, the hawksbill took off from the coral and drifted farther down the reef. I thought that that footage of it swimming away would be the best shot I got, but I ended up incredibly lucky, as it only went over a few patches of coral over. I was able to get about 10 feet away and hovered for a while, struck with admiration. Its shell was nearly the size of my torso, and after a minute or so, it moved on, swimming up the reef wall. Thanks to the light current, I was able to follow it for a few seconds before it really kicked off and swam away, fading into the distance. Easily one of the coolest things I’ve seen on this trip so far, and I’m still reflecting in amazement (I probably will be for a while).

The Hawksbill Sea Turtle resting on a patch of sand, just before swimming away.

– Alex

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