Yesterday, we took a long dinghy ride with our friends Rick and Lila to the small island of Klein Bonaire. There are 24 designated dive sites on Klein Bonaire, and we hoped to see a turtle. We did!
The ride to the Bonaventura dive site on the south shore of the island is over 1.5 nautical miles from Callisto. In the dinghy, that took us a little over 20 minutes. Going so far is always a bit nervewracking. Will the engine quit? Will we run out of gas? Its a very long row upwind if you have a problem. We took two precautions: 1) We chose a day with lighter than average winds, and 2) We had our friends along, in their dinghy so each could help the other if we had a problem.
It was a spectacular dive, with lots of soft and hard coral, many interesting sponges, and numerous species of fish. We especially liked to see the "Papa" Sergeant Majors. These male fish are usually silver and yellow with vertical black stripes. When they are protecting their eggs (yes, its the male that does this), the yellow markings turn a deep blue. They also get quite territorial, darting around and trying to chase you off. We saw lots and lots of fish in this stage, which I guess will help the future population of Sergeant Majors in the region.
As we approached the halfway part of our dive (about half our air gone), swimming strongly toward us was a hawksbill turtle. It was surprisingly deep, about 40 feet. The animal was moderate in size, perhaps 18 inches long. It swam directly at us, passing only a couple of feet below us before continuing on its way. A real treat.
We returned to the boat mooring at a shallower depth, still enjoying all the sealife. As we neared the boat, Gretchen spotted a second turtle. It was motionless at the bottom in about 20 feet of water, apparently fast asleep. This was a green turtle, a bit larger than the first, maybe 24 inches.
Seeing these increasingly rare animals is a very special experience. They are endangered by hunting, and also because of loss of habitat, especially undisturbed beaches for egg-laying.
Note: Photos retrieved from the internet. We didn't bring our camera this trip.