Sea turtles are fascinating to me. Gentle, giant and paradoxically graceful. I got to meet one in the wild while night diving in St Thomas. Some might dismiss it as a one night delight, and though our encounter was brief, it was deeply emotional and personal to me. I was thrilled beyond measure when my night light fell across his face — beauty and grace, heart in my throat, and he was gone, swallowed by the dark sea. My heart was singing, and I was in love. Since then, I’ve read about volunteer vacations where you can help do research on endangered sea turtles, watched documentaries and donated to Wildlife and Marine Research organizations. My husband and I will do one soon.
In the meantime, we found ourselves kid-less on the 4th. And in a fit of spontaneity, just like the good ol’ days, we decided to drive to Corpus Christi to visit my dad, and catch a Kemp Ridley Sea Turtle Release on Malaquite Beach at the National Seashore. I’ve wanted to do it for so long, and have been following along on the Facebook page with every nest discovered! But, our lives are busy and we’d lost some of our spur of the moment get up and go as our kids grew and became more involved in sports and life. We packed up the fur-kids and headed down.
That 4 a.m. alarm came too early after a sleepless night in a bed not ours. We dragged ourselves up and heard my dad call out to be sure we were up. Away we all went for our hour drive to the Padre Island National Park. I was excited, but worried about the crowds because it was a 3 day weekend after all. We met some friends when we got there and stood in a crowd of several hundred people. We listened to the ranger speak, and got some amazing facts about the Kemp Ridley, and, of course, the rules. They then let us down the boardwalk and onto the beach.
Volunteers had the area roped off. They stood with poles and flags to keep the sea gulls at bay. People were racing to snag a spot on the front row. Trying to keep my enthusiasm in check, I was careful not to trip the running kids, or tackle the obnoxious adults hurrying past me, but I wanted to!
The release was 75 baby Kemp Ridley turtles tiny enough to sit in the palm of your hand, freshly hatched while we had tried to sleep just hours before. They started their awkward trek toward the surf a few seconds after they were laid gently on the sand.
They imprint with the beach on their way, and will return year after year to lay their eggs along this shore. Though, the volunteers made sure that they made it safely to the sea, very few will live to return to this beach, as nature and predators and the cycle of life begins.
Even so, the whole thing made me extremely happy. Conservation fills me up. I celebrated the day with the love of my life, my dad, friends, knowing that my sweet mom would have loved this as much as I. She was in my happy heart and it left me melancholy, but joyful. Hope and faith refreshed my spirit.