Swimming with a sea turtle has been one of my lifelong dreams. I can’t explain it or where I even first got the idea. I grew up on the north shore. No, not the north shore of Hawaii…the north shore of Massachusetts. There isn’t much opportunity to swim with sea turtles there so, I really, really don’t know where the idea came from.
After moving to Hawaii, I was on a mission to make that dream come true. I’d heard stories of people encountering sea turtles rather often at what have become two of my favorite spots on Oahu so far; Hanauma Bay and Ko’Olina Lagoons. However, after 3 months and several visits to both places, the dream eluded me.
That all changed very recently.
How a Dream Comes True
I arrived at Ko’Olina Lagoons around 10 a.m. with my family. We always go to, and prefer, lagoon number 2. My first trip into the lagoon that day I announced to my daughter that I was going to see a turtle. "Today is the day."
She didn’t believe me.
About three quarters of the way through the day, I was starting to lose hope. I had spent lots of time snorkeling, back and forth and all around lagoon number 2. No turtles. Plenty of fish, coral and crabs, but no turtle.
I was sitting on my towel, out of breath from my last swim/snorkel across the lagoon and back again. I was still dripping wet and ready to give up. “I’ll just dry off and then we can go”, I said to myself.
Suddenly, from the lagoon, I heard a teenage boy exclaim, “Mom, gimme’ the camera! There’s a turtle over here!” I grabbed my mask, snorkel and fins and bolted for the water. Five minutes later and after almost running over a small girl, my dream had come true.
All the photos of the sea turtle in this article (not including the video) were taken by me and with my favorite Fuji underwater camera.
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Not MY Green Sea Turtle but around the same area
Sea Turtles in Hawaii
Keep in mind, I didn’t encounter a “once in a lifetime” experience when I saw my sea turtle at Ko’Olina Lagoons. It was my dream come true, but seeing sea turtles around Oahu beaches is not that uncommon.
There is even a place called “Turtle Beach” where people and turtles flock to hang out with each other. I was aware of Turtle Beach when I got to Hawaii but I considered this way of seeing a sea turtle as being too easy. I didn’t want to go to places where I knew people were guaranteed to see a turtle; I wanted to encounter a sea turtle. For me, that would my make my dream all that much sweeter.
Since they are on the endangered species list it is highly illegal to touch or bother these turtles. Actually, it’s a good practice to keep a wide girth around the sea turtles. Not because of them. They have a gentle demeanor, but you don’t want a game warden or concerned citizen to think that you’re messing with turtle.
Facts about Green Sea Turtles
- Green sea turtles are the descendants of land creatures that evolved and took to the oceans.
- Their species is so old that they are one of few species that saw the dinosaurs grow, flourish and become extinct.
- The green sea turtle inhabits tropical and subtropical coastal areas around the world.
- Often, these turtles can be seen clambering with their fins onto a beach to sunbathe. (Haven’t seen that yet.)
- They are named not for the color of their shell (usually brown or olive) but for the color of their greenish skin.
- Can weigh up to 700 lbs and are among the largest sea turtles known to the world.
- They are so graceful! Their paddle-like feet are perfect for moving their body’s through the water
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- Their head is small in contrast to the rest of their body.
- Male green sea turtles are slightly larger than females and have longer tails.
- Adult green sea turtles are herbivores while juveniles will sometimes consume invertebrates such as jellyfish, sponges and crabs.
- Unfortunately, green sea turtles are on the endangered list and there is a subspecies in an area of the Mediterranean that is considered “critically endangered”.
- They are still hunted and harvested for their meat and shells by some idiots who have no respect for this beautiful and graceful animal.
Facts courtesy of National Geographic.
There are many things to do on Oahu during your next Hawaii vacation. Seeing and swimming with a green sea turtle was my dream and it may not be yours. So, even if it is not on your "must do" list, actually seeing and being in the presence of a green sea turtle is amazing. Keep your eye out if you're in the water and on the island!