We didn’t expect to see one. Even the bikini-clad gal at the snorkle shed admitted that she’d only seen two in the last year. But my nine-year-old son desperately wanted to see a sea turtle in its natural habitat, so while vacationing on St. Croix last week, we went to a beach where a particular sort of coral grows that sea turtles like to eat. We all donned our snorkel gear and set out.
The waves occasionally washed down my pipe but I swam on, arm in arm with my son. He seemed to be doing better than I was. Nice fish were immediately evident, but the scenery wasn’t all that eventful. In fact, we’d been in the water for about 25 minutes, and I was beginning to space out and get bored when my son firmly squeezed my arm. And then his finger extended, trembling.
So I looked.
And there was the turtle. Oh my God. A young hawksbill sea turtle, flapping along. Incredible. In the silence of the water, we followed. Later my son would exclaim quite accurately, “Its flippers didn’t dig into the water like a frog’s. It flapped through the water like a bird glides on wings!”
Ten minutes later, Mr. Chattering and the older chattering boy snorkled by and we were able to silently convey our glee to them with gestures that said “COME OVER… there’s a turtle here!”
And we all snorkled along with our guy (an adolescent, I guess, about 30 inches long) until we got tired and finally let him slip from our sights. The next day my husband lost the disposable underwater camera that had all our turtle pictures on it. “Don’t worry about it, honey. I’m not sure the visibility wasn’t all that good.” But what I should have said was “Don’t worry. The image of that turtle swimming near us is emblazoned in our brains and none of us will ever forget it!”