Lately, swimming with the turtles has become one of my favorite things to do. I try and make it out daily to the beach just a 1/2 mile from my house. It’s amazing to swim over the coral reefs here. After a while, they start to look just like rolling hills of flowers and bushes, and small cliffs and caves to hide in. I know where the turtles eat lunch, where they get cleaned by small fish, and where they rest in hiding. They are more shy in the morning and midday, but they tend to interact more in the afternoon. Perhaps there are less people around to put them on guard, or perhaps it has to do with the time of day.
Often, they don’t seem to notice me. Yesterday, a huge turtle came up for air, and he was right there next to me, bobbing in the water. I could have touched him and even drew back a bit so he wouldn’t bump into me. A few days ago, I danced with a sea turtle. I like to try and mimic their movements when I swim next to them, so when I came up close to a turtle, I spread my arms, twisted onto my side, and made a nice arching circle. The turtle followed suit, and so we spun around slowly and gracefully, mirroring each other, for probably 3 full turns.
Diving down is also an amazing experience. What seemed hazy from above becomes HD clear up close, and I am learning to decompress and hold my breath longer, which means I get to play with the turtles even longer! Each day, I go a little deeper and stay down a little longer. Today, I saw a turtle with huge tumors on its head. It was lying still on the floor of the ocean, so I wondered if it was alive. I dove down to look closer, and it raised its head slightly. I knew I couldn’t do anything, so I crossed my hands over my heart in a gesture of compassion, and the turtle winked. Okay, it probably only blinked, but in my perfect world it was a gesture in response to mine.
The trust involved with the turtles allowing me to come close is humbling and special. I always remember that I am in their “world” but also that I share this reality with these graceful animals.