Close Encounters with Harbour Turtles

Yesterday, we returned to the Greek island of Meis, just off the Turkish coast. We first visited this island two years ago and, to the surprise of us at the time, saw a couple of wild sea turtles swimming and feeding right in the harbour, at some points even coming right up to the path. We got a few photographs from the surface but that was that. But this time, if we saw them again, I wanted to get more.

And low and behold, whilst walking around the edge of the harbour, we spotted two Loggerhead Turtles swimming around the boats very close to the path. The same was happening all the way around the harbour. I'd estimate a total of 6 individuals were swimming close to the paths around the edge of the harbour. With this number of turtles coming so close it was a great opportunity to try and film them underwater.

So the next time they came past, I put the camera under the surface, and I was amazed at the results. The turtles came much closer than I though they would, and I was able to get some great shots of animals I have never properly seen before, without even getting in the water. You get to appreciate the animals much better underwater, where you can get a clear view of them as they swim past, seemingly without any effort at all.

After filming the Loggerheads from dry land, I thought that was the last footage I'd get before we got back on the boat and headed back to the mainland. I was wrong.

For the last hour, we headed around to the edge of the harbour to get in the water to cool down and have a swim. And then, as luck would have it, we spotted a turtle nearby. We waited by the harbour wall for a few minutes, and low and behold, the turtle surfaced much closer. I swam out slowly towards it, camera in hand, being careful to keep my distance so as not to disturb it. But soon it was close enough to see, and therefore close enough to film. And it was amazing. It was a fantastic experience to be in the water with a wild turtle, which was obviously pretty used to humans, living in a harbour. It stayed around for a good couple of minutes, diving down to the bottom and sitting there for a moment before disappearing off into the blue.

It was an experience I won't be forgetting soon. I certainly didn't anticipate swimming with a turtle when we arrived on the island, so it was a pleasant surprise to end a great day.


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