This past trip to Mexico we made sure we went when the whale sharks are known to migrate to the warmer waters of the Mexican-Caribbean Sea, usually mid May to September. This photograph was taken by our guide from Ocean Tours, of my husband next to one of these gentle and giant whale sharks. Unfortunately I didn’t make it into many photos because every time I jumped into the water, I was immediately transfixed by the majestic creature in front of me, that I would forget to channel my inner Olympic swimmer to keep up with them! The bus-sized whale sharks were slowly cruising through the water, sucking up plankton without a care in sight, and even with their slow motions easily outswam us. I really enjoyed going on this tour because it felt like Mexican authorities really care about these mysterious beauties. There are many rules and regulations in place to make sure that people are not infringing on the whale sharks natural behaviors, feeding and migratory habits. They limit the season length, the number of boats, and allow only two people with a guide in the water with the shark at any time. They really want to make this a sustainable attraction, and I feel that many countries could use this as a great example that nature should be prioritized over fast monetary gain. Although I am not in any way a comfortable boat person, and after a while was “feeding the fishes” rather than swimming with them, I would recommend this fantastic experience to anyone.
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This photo not only marks one of the highlights I experienced on a recent trip to Mexico, but a highlight of my life. The beach we stayed on was incredibly beautiful with endless white sand and calm turquoise water. Just outside our room was an enclosed area with numerous little signs posts in the ground, much like a cemetery (see photo below). Curiously I went to investigate, and to my delight I realized these signs marked mounds of recently laid turtle eggs. Each sign had NIDO written on it (meaning nest in Spanish) with the number of eggs buried (usually 100 or more), and the date they were laid. I was instantly appreciative of the care the resorts have put into this endeavor, when it would certainly have been easier to ignore that they have encroached on a turtle nesting beach. Each night the resort security was seen patrolling the beach, and staff would then relocate any newly laid eggs to these protected areas to stop them getting destroyed by beach goers. As I was reading each of the signs, I realized that literally thousands of baby sea turtles were incubating in the sand in front of me. I quickly Googled how long it takes for baby turtles to hatch and at what time of day, learning that it takes about 8-10 weeks and they hatch at night. As they were mostly laid in August, I knew my chances were slim, but a few had July dates, so I was still hopeful of a newborn turtle sighting.
Each night after dark I checked for baby turtles, and was disappointed that they all remained buried. Then, one day at noon when I looked out the window, I glimpsed a tiny movement in the turtle enclosure and ran out to find two little blue babies scurrying around in the sand! Worried that the midday sun would quickly cook them, I sent my husband to notify the resort staff while I guarded my babies. The resort staff came running with their “turtle tub” and let us pick them up to put them in (see photo below). They also tracked the little prints in the sand to identify which nest they were born from and started digging to uncover any more which had hatched, but not yet escaped the sand and found 5 more. I asked if they would take them to the water to release them, and they explained to me that if they did, the birds would quickly eat them, so they keep them safe until nightfall. That night as we were walking along the beach, each of the resorts came to the water with their babies in a tub. One of them contained hundreds of teeny, tiny turtles born that day. We were each handed two turtles to place gently on the sand and watch as they scurried into the ocean waves. I will admit that I cried as I did this, completely overwhelmed at the experience, and of knowing that I helped these little cuties safely reach the water. Simultaneously, my heart was also breaking with the realization that many will not make it far, and instead become prey to the monsters lurking in the dark waters. I was also in absolute awe of mother nature, knowing that one day the few girls that make it to maturity, possess in their tiny brains the GPS coordinates of this same beach, which they will revisit (in 20-50 years) to lay their very own eggs.
I can say that I have been a truly lucky human being to have had the opportunity to swim with sea turtles on quite a few occasions. This turtle was photographed while snorkeling at a beach on Fitzroy Island, a beautiful tropical paradise near Cairns (in Queensland, Australia). A lazy afternoon, just myself, my husband and several turtles… and we watched as they went about their daily munching on sea grasses. To swim with these beautiful reptiles makes you appreciate how graceful they are at moving under the water, and they are quite content to have you swimming nearby. You’d think that for an animal which has outlived the dinosaurs, they should be happy, but instead they always look sad. Actually many of them are now listed on the endangered species list, which also makes me incredibly sad. I especially get upset when people think that rather than just observing wildlife, they interfere with it. I have seen this happen to turtles in Hawaii, where divers or snorkelers will grab onto them. This is NOT ok, and more respect should be given to these ancient and incredible creatures.
As I was scrolling through my photo collection for todays post, this particular photo resonated with my current mood. I have a cold at the moment which is draining my energy, much like the waning sun at the end of the day. This image is dark and angry much like my thoughts at having to work even when I am sick, and not having the motivation to do any of the things I love. However this image also brings hope, hope that my cold ends with this closing day, and that maybe tomorrow I will wake up bright and happy again with the new sun.
Watching clownfish swimming amongst a brightly colored anemone has always been a magical moment of any snorkeling trip for me. This photo actually has three of them, with the two smaller ones safely hiding amongst the stinging tentacles of their home, whilst the leader boldly sizes me up. Its very cute to watch, and always brings a big smile to my face (which usually means my mask fills with water and I momentarily drown). Common clownfish are seen in warmer tropical waters ranging from eastern Indian Ocean to Southeast Asia. The fish in this photo call the waters around Malaysia their home. They are such a beautiful sight to see, that I get so very disappointed and angry to hear that their numbers are decreasing due to the demand of the pet trade. I can imagine for some, that it might seem nice to watch them swimming in a tank in your home, but isn’t it so much more exciting to spot them happily swimming in their home in the ocean?
Every summer as I was growing up, my family would go on vacation to the central coast, about two hours north of Sydney. Much to our dismay, my dad would wake us up very early to go to the beach. His summer ritual was to spend ten minutes observing the waves, mapping out the ocean rip tides, and finally locating the perfect area of the beach to fish. Mum would sunbake and my brother would play in the sand. I would be mesmerized by the crashing waves, quite thunderous at this particular unpatrolled surf beach, in awe that water alone held so much power. My dad would always and too often remind me “don’t go in too far, because if a rip tide drags you out to sea, I am not a good enough swimmer to rescue you”. Those words, repeated to me too often, haunted me. My childhood was filled with the recurring nightmare about a Tsunami crashing over the land and sweeping everybody out to sea. After getting lost in the vast and never ending ocean, the dream would often reset, and the wave would come again, and again, and each time we desperately scrambled to outrun the water, but always unsuccessfully. Eventually, the panic would become too much, and I would wake up and exhale in relief that I was not drowning, and inhale realizing that I could breathe.
This photograph took quite a few tries to get it perfect. Animals don’t always behave the way you want them to, and so one must have patience. This was clearly the rock of choice for these Australian Pied Cormorants, and they sat there every day at this beautiful beach in Dunsborough, Western Australia. This was the one photo where they weren’t sleeping with their heads tucked under or noisily squabbling at each other. Sitting on a platform that is barely big enough for the five birds, they were constantly trying to push each other off to gain more space. The sleek black and white look of these birds is a wonderful contrast against the wavy turquoise waters, and makes for a beautiful picture.