Saturday, August 10, 2013

It's Raining Turtles

It’s raining cats and dogs never made a whole lot of sense to me. Never in my life have I walked outside and seen cats and dogs falling from the sky. In fact, I’ve never even seen a cat fall from a tree. But today, it was raining turtles.

You may think I’m crazy, and maybe it didn’t rain turtles at your house, but from my view (somewhere at the bottom of Blue or Naked Spring), it did.

Danielle and I pulled into Blue Spring before the campers were awake or brave enough to venture outside their cozy tents and RVs. There were a few people milling around but only one or two with an interest in swimming around the main basin. The colors above water were beautiful – crystal clear blue water that reflected the green treetops and almost cloudless sky. But we didn’t stay above for long.

Making the chilly plunge from the stairs, we were immediately immersed in a new and more-magical-than-Disney world. According to Danielle, I looked completely calm, but on the inside my heart was beating a million miles per minute. What started out as small black ovals and indentations in the distant hydrilla took shape as 100s of turtles waking up from a night’s slumber in the comfy vegetation.

I kept blinking as I swam closer, making sure I wasn’t seeing things – last time there were 20 turtles in Naked Spring, I was squealing with joy for hours afterwards, so about 400-500 had me in heaven.

The way hundreds of them moved in a small space reminded me of raindrops on the water. If you look very closely at drops of rain as they hit a spring or the ocean on a calm day, you see them strike the water and then a little column of water bounces back a few inches above the surface like a tiny fountain. From a distance, the movement of every turtle looked like raindrops on the water – one would come down from the surface just as another rose to take a breath. Multiplied times a hundred, it was a neat and inexplicable feeling.

U-frown turtle (above)
Friendly, happy turtle (below)
Some would approach you happily once they were used to you swimming around, but many were quite skittish. They often didn’t see you until you were pretty close, especially if they were breathing. Dipping their heads back into the water after a long and refreshing breath, they would make eye contact with you and dart away at 90 miles an hour. Those that were caught on the bottom hiding in the hydrilla only inches below my stomach would either stay statue-still or, if they saw you coming head-on, they would stare at you and slowly but fruitlessly try to back up. Turtles don’t go backwards very well (especially when there is a ton of hydrilla and 10 other turtles behind them).

In an attempt to not torture the turtles by scaring them all at once (and in an attempt to regain even a degree or two of body temperature, which was steadily plummeting), I ventured farther out the main spring run and up to Naked Spring. This little spring run is perhaps one of the most beautiful runs for taking pictures of the green forest-like reflections in the sky. Sometimes, when you look up from the bottom, it looks like you can’t get to the surface because the hydrilla-filled or sandy bottom is above your head.

Turtles were darting every which way in this little run too, which dead-ended at Naked Spring, where I found almost 100 more turtles resting peacefully and quietly breathing at the surface here and there. Every time I dove down into the spring, I’d have my eyes fixed on a close-by turtle and one would come within inches of my nose or brush alongside of me. They were literally everywhere.
Synchronized turtle breathing in Naked Spring.
Beautiful rays of sunlight in Naked Spring and a "maybe mermaid" shadow.
At that point, I was shaking from being so cold, hands practically frozen to the camera and covered in goosebumps. It made holding my breath especially difficult, but in an attempt to see a turtle in the sky, I dove to the bottom of Naked Spring and gazed upwards. Seconds later, a turtle soared above like an airplane through the bright blue sky.
Flying turtle.
Turtle reflections in the sky as I swam out the Naked Spring run.

After the shot of the flying turtle, I was sufficiently satisfied and absolutely freezing, so I sadly decided it was time to part with the turtles and swam back to find Danielle, who was still completely enamored with the turtles in the main basin :)
We spent a while warming up in the sun afterwards, talking in disbelief about what we had just seen. We escaped the spring as mobs of people and a huge line of cars was starting to overrun the park – and just in time for the two of us vegans to (mostly) escape the overwhelming smell of meat cooking on the grill. And unlike the unusual “rain” below the surface, the rain held off above water. But knowing Florida weather in the summer, it will rain “cats and dogs” again very soon - although I hope it rains turtles even sooner J

Click here to watch a little YouTube VIDEO I put together called "Turtle Party" and click here to see more photos on Facebook.

1 comment:

  1. You are so lucky to swim around with these turtles!
    They are definitely beautiful. I love turtles.. a lot!
    The pictures are breathtaking. Thank you for sharing this post with the rest of the world :)