Having come in today, the centre is awash with people diving on the house reef, a bit strange for a Friday. Then it all becomes clear when I look at the sightings board….The turtles are back!
Any regulars at the college know all about our resident turtles. I say resident, more frequent visitors. The two huge green sea turtles, one male and one female, have been seen in the bay for over 15 years. They roam around, cruising from one end to the other, sharing sightings between dive centres based in Naama. They have also been spotted on Near Garden when they make a rare trip further afield. When they are spotted on the house reef, they tend to stay for a few weeks and then move on for a few months, until they faithfully return. And now is one of those times when you can pretty much guarantee they will be there. Guests take two approaches when it comes to diving the house reef when these guys are around.
Some choose to go unguided, so they can spend time looking wherever they fancy underwater, trying to outwit the instructors. Or they can go with one of us, deciding that our wealth of experience must be a fair bet and therefore shift the ‘blame’ if they can’t be found! I’ve got the guests who want to be guided. Dammit, talk about pressure. So, after thoroughly interrogating all members of staff who claim to have seen them as to their last know whereabouts, we get kitted up and hit the water. On the plus side, if you do get near to one, you’re not going to miss it, they are massive!
As I swim around their usual haunts, I’m starting to panic slightly as they remain elusive. By the pots?.. no. By the anchor chain?…no. Hiding by the house reef?.. no again. I am running out of options pretty quickly. Luckily a quick check reveals my guests are no running out of air, so I am able to take them to the last hideaway.Food is obviously more important that getting his best side in the photo!
In the distance, I can see the tell-tale cloud of sand, created when one of these beasts starts feeding none too delicately on the sea grass. I keep my discovery quiet until we are side by side with the male and then point him out in an excited flourish. Strangely the guest takes a while to register it, later revealing that he wasn’t looking for something quite so big, but eventually clicks and sits there wide eyed whilst having to swim further and further back to fit him in his camera viewfinder! They are generally not bothers by cameras; this one carries on munching away for ages until he decides it’s time for an air break and heads for the surface.
This seems an ideal time to leave and we head back to the shore. Lots of high fiving, photo sharing and general boasting follows. People are heading into the water like lemmings, courses are being swapped around to schedule an Open water dive and the centre is buzzing.
What a great way to start the year, bring on 2014!