Sea turtle casually swims through group of scuba divers
Pacific green sea turtles are a frequent enough sight in the waters around the Galapagos Islands. But getting a close look is a treat that doesn't happen every day. Shy and reclusive, they will move away from divers unless the approach is extremely slow and cautious. It is very unusual to have a sea turtle approach a human, as this one did. Whether it was indifference, or curiosity, the turtle headed straight for the divers and swam through the group. This is a remote area, Known as Kicker Rock, off the coast of San Cristobal Island. Although the turtle has undoubtedly seen people underwater before, diving and tourism is heavily regulated and very limited in the Galapagos Islands, and this turtle would not likely have seen humans often. Expectations for proper behavior here are extremely high and it is almost certain that the turtles enjoy more respectful and predictable interactions on those rare occasions where they do meet people close up. Gone are the days when people would hang onto sea turtles for pictures, or for rides, especially in this protected area. In fact, the waters around the Galapagos Islands make up the world's second largest protected marine sanctuary. Scuba divers here appreciate the privilege of being allowed to enter and the guides are strict. People who don't obey the rules with respect to the wildlife find that their scuba diving or their visits promptly come to an end.
This turtle is a fully grown, mature female. They look identical to male green sea turtles except for three obvious differences. The male has a slightly larger head than the female. His tail is also much larger. The tail of this female is less than 1/4 the size of a similarly sized male's tail. A third, but less obvious difference is the presence of small white hooks on the leading edge of the front fins, approximately halfway out from the body. These hooks help the males hang onto the females during courtship and mating encounters.
As this turtle calmly swam through the divers, it swam directly in front of the camera and provided us with a beautiful view of it swimming gracefully out into the blue ocean.