Galápagos Sea Turtle Cove

After Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe and North America, we now head to South America for the next continent in this exploration of nature around the world series…

Immersed and adrift in the Galápagos’ Humboldt Current, I gazed through my snorkel mask at a blanket of water that had the color and viscosity of liquid metal. Would it bead away from me like the mercury it resembled? I dove below for a better look, then passed one hand through the clear waters now surrounding me to poke up at the shimmering layer. Light danced in all directions, but the layer held its form. Transfixed, I swirled my hand through the water sending translucent and silver waters into a turbulent funnel – a funnel that settled back to neat strata once I stopped conducting. I lifted my hand for another movement then paused, show stolen by a Green Sea Turtle.

Green Sea Turtle in a protected cove of the Galápagos.

Green Sea Turtle in a protected cove of the Galápagos.

The turtle whizzed past and disappeared into a channel ahead, leaving a trail of silvery bubbles to mark its aqueous route. I followed the effervescent pathway but when the bubbles faded altogether and the walls of my channel seemed to drop away, I hesitated. Where was I? Might it be wise to return to the boat? Before I could decide, first one then two more sea turtles came from behind and zig zagged into the space ahead. Thoughts of the boat forgotten, I paddled after.

The two turtles meandered ahead and I followed until a different turtle, a larger turtle, appeared from the depths. It floated effortlessly toward me, seemingly unperturbed by my presence. I held still, hoping not to startle it. At the moment I thought we might collide, the turtle tweaked a fin and adjusted course to glide around. I spun slowly, disrupting the silver layer above as I savored every moment of this nearness. Disrupting our moment, a dinner plate-sized turtle zoomed in from the side, sending my neighbor into the shadows with one powerful stroke. The intruding turtle shot into opposite shadows and I was alone. But not for long…

I began to feel like Alice in Wonderland as a cast of teenaged turtles became characters in my magical world. A small turtle with heavy brown streaking would drift from one direction. A large and nearly monochrome olive turtle would surf in from the other side. A chorus of medium-sized turtles criss crossed my sphere of vision, sending the mercurial layer dancing and leaving a wake of cascading bubbles. This was a cove that protected sea turtles old enough to have graduated from their years of drifting across open ocean on seaweed rafts but too young to have begun migrating hundreds of mile every year with the adults. It was an enchanting place. More importantly, it was a protected place; a safe harbor where the next generation of endangered Green Sea Turtles could pass into adulthood.

A Green Sea Turtle heading toward the water's surface.

A Green Sea Turtle heading toward the water’s surface.

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