After having such an insanely wonderful experience in the ocean depths, off the coast of Bali, I was eager to jump back into the water and recreate that happiness. However, before donning the tank and BCD again I decided to try some snorkelling in the Gili Islands, in the hope that I would be able to come face to face with a turtle. Seeing a turtle under water when diving had been incredible, but this time I wanted to be able to look into its eyes.
The reef surrounding Gili Air was my first port of call. Shortly after entering the water I was witnessing shoals of fish going about their daily business. Box fish, mantis shrimp and clownfish all came to say hello to their human observer, but no turtles. After five hours it was time to call off the search and head back to land.
The following day, fuelled with determination once again, I ventured over to Gili Meno. Maybe I would find turtles there?
A local on the island advised me to swim out to an area called Secret Reef.
‘Turtles are always there.’ He assured me.
So, I followed his advice and propelled myself through the current until I was once again in the midst of Indonesia’s marine life. As I was floating around on the surface of the water a boat overflowing with snorkelers arrived. Now, if I was a turtle and I spotted a group of humans bobbing up and down on the surface in bright orange life jackets, kicking furiously, I certainly wouldn’t come out of my hiding place. So I swam away from my fellow species, out to the insular shelf, where the shallow waters of the reef meets the deep, blue depths of the ocean.
And, low and behold, my human dodging plan worked. A circular shape, like an ocean UFO, appeared in front of me…turtle!
Elated, I swam alongside the beautiful reptile as it glided through the water. Up and down it went, unsure of whether to break the surface. I wasn’t very close, but that didn’t matter. I was swimming in the Lombok Strait opposite a turtle, the very thing I had been looking for, for two days.
With my mission accomplished I started to make my way back to shore, the current gently pushing me in the right direction this time. I had stopped looking for turtles and was marvelling at three giant fish, a species I had never seen before with what appeared to be unicorn horns on their heads. When, out of the corner of my right eye, I spotted yet another large, dark shape gliding along close to the surface of the seabed. It was another turtle, only this time it was much closer. So close, in fact, that I recognised it as a hawksbill turtle, a species which is critically endangered. I left the weird and wonderful unicorn fish to swim with my second turtle companion of the day, ensuring I left enough space between us so that he wouldn’t feel threatened.
It appeared that this turtle was quite happy for this excited human to join him on his little journey. We swam along together until he decided he wanted to have a little break and a snack from the coral. So, I hung back watching him in absolute awe until he looked up at me, staring into my eyes giving me a silent message that my time with him was up. He then turned around and swam away.
With a little nod of my head and a wave I said a thank you for letting me hang out with him for a while and watched him disappear into the blue void.