Let’s start with the one creature we all associate with Hawaii, and the one I love the most. The sea turtle.
If you ever take a look at a majestic sea turtle and notice it’s got puffy lesions on its skin, you might be wondering what they are. After spending some time with a marine biologist one day (and peppering her with questions), I learned that they are herpes lesions. The herpes virus passes to the turtles by way of human contact, and stress exacerbates the condition (ahem – getting too close to them). The lesions can interfere with their sight, rendering them more vulnerable to being munched on by a hungry shark, they can make it hard for the animal to swim and escape danger like sharp rocks in waves, and can interfere with the ability to feed properly, rendering the poor animal unable to eat. Basically, if you don’t want to kill turtles (what monster would?!), don’t touch them. Ever.
But why? What does touching have to do with it? A lot, sadly. We carry viruses on our hands and skin that may not affect us and remain neutral in our systems for our lifetimes. But when we come in literal contact with wildlife, it doesn’t always have that neutral impact – in the case of turtles… not at all.
#1 – NO TOUCHIE. ONLY LOOKIE. Even if they swim up to you in the water (and they may). Pretend you’re being robbed. Hands up!
#2 – Distance. 15’ feet away is the law. I recommend 20’ with a good zoom lens. Respect the turtles and let them live in peace. You like peace and distance, right?
#3 – Move. If a turtle approaches the beach and you’re standing in their path, MOVE. Make way for them to rest. I’ve seen too many tourists stand in the turtles way thinking the turtle is coming over to them (it’s not), and the turtle ultimately leaves because they can’t rest. Don’t do that.
#4 – Don’t be a creep. If you’re snorkeling, swimming, or free diving and encounter a turtle, be grateful for this incredible moment! And… don’t follow them. Let the moment be a moment, not a stalking.
OK, commandments complete. Easy, right?
Bottom line, please recognize that your choices have an impact and yes, you matter.
Everybody knows about the Ho’okipa lookout where you can see turtles basking in the sun, and it’s a popular spot for a reason. Bring your zoom lens because you are NOT going to be able to get close to the turtles. Too many visitors disrespect the turtles need (not want…. NEED) for space, so there are local volunteers there to make sure you don’t hop over the rock barricade.
Open this link on your phone to get directions to this spot in Paia: https://goo.gl/maps/stMkiv4DNhSXLk2x5
Not everyone knows about this spot, but it’s a reliable spot to see turtles. But you’re going to have to get wet. Remember the commandments? Did you memorize them? This is a spot that’s not as carefully guarded so you’re going to have to be on your best behavior and accountable to God.
Every day around sunset, the turtles swim around and haul their bodies up on the rocks to rest. You can take pictures if you like or just appreciate them.
Open this link on your phone to get directions to this spot in Kihei: https://goo.gl/maps/hfvBVZ8iGjx6FSS29
Even More Turtles!
If you like to swim with turtles (and who doesn’t!?!), you’re going to love being at Kamaole Beach Park 1 in the mornings. Don’t even think about going in the water until an hour after sunrise (sharks), but when you do, be prepared to see turtles. You’re not going to see much past 1 pm. You can, it’s just not as likely. The turtles like the calm water. They’ll swim by you and poke their little heads up. After your 1,000th turtle sighting, you might still get excited (I do!).
There’s parking across the street (free). Open this link on your phone to get directions to this spot in Kihei: https://goo.gl/maps/AhDPEtL1vAz4g7Db6