Washed by the soft warm waves of the Caribbean, a sea grass meadow beckons in the shallow blue waters off Barbados. Here the Green Sea Turtles wait to welcome you to their paradise beneath the tropical sea.
Gliding with ease through this watery world, their long arms paddle in mesmerising slow motion, scooping the salty water into swirling trails drifting away behind them. So relaxed, that one look into that huge black eye releases all tension, drawing you deep into the perfect present where your body is soothed by the warm motion of the waves and currents beneath the glittering surface.
You might find your breathing slows down into slow deep waves, and your muscles relax into the salty support of the warm sea. You might even begin to imagine that you could dive down towards the soft white sand on the ocean bed, and walk among the swaying grass and coral, among herds of silver fish. Swimming beside a green turtle may leave you convinced that becoming a mermaid would be an awfully big adventure, and certain route to paradise.
As the turtles get used to your presence, they often become more relaxed, and might swim up underneath your belly, gliding smoothly over your soft skin. They seemed curious, looking at us as with what seemed like slight bemusement, as we moved among them with our clumsy skinny four limbs. They could turn in a tight circle with one sweep of a flipper, while we flapped and kicked to follow like toddlers learning to walk.
Despite their bulk, they drift and fly, gliding like eagles through the blue waters of this heaven on earth. All around fish gathered and followed, like courtiers seeking an audience with the ancient oracle of the sea. A pair of love struck puffer fish, 50 cm long, flirted and kissed beneath the shadow of the turtles shells. Peace was the over arching emotion sweeping through me as I swam among the turtles in their own private paradise.
All turtles are protected in the waters around Barbados. The ones we swam with were adults who graze here when they are not breeding. Turtles, like salmon return to the beach where they were born to lay their eggs, but graze often thousands of miles away. We stayed on a beach where hawksbill turtles come home to lay their eggs, and all the beach front hotels have turtle friendly policies. Night time lights towards the beach are kept to a minimum, and lines of native vegetation are left between the buildings and the beach. No umbrellas are plunged into the soft white sand, incase a hidden nest of eggs lies beneath, and the sea in front of nesting beaches is marked off to keep boats and jet skis out.
I was left grinning, and am still in awe of these elegant creatures who have been on earth so long they have seen the dinosaurs come and go.