Turtles. If you live in a city, or somewhere that is usually the temperature of a fridge set to number 4 on the dial, the chances of an encounter with one is… well, they aren’t high.
None the less, they have always been a favourite of mine..
I have seen them a few times, in San Diego, in the Mauritius Wildlife rescue park and in Florida… I basically always make a beeline for them….
Ordinarily, it is the GIANT turtles, but I always feel like if they were a little quicker, they’d ditch the meet & greet opportunity in favour of a sleep or some food.
In Zanzibar, they are totally protected as a species and so recently I went to the Turtle Conservation and Rescue hospital in Zanzibar to help to promote the amazing work they do for these adorable little buggers.
There, they have a large lagoon that allows in seawater directly from the ocean and have 30-60 recuperating turtles in at any one time. Oh and some pretty amazing (teethless) fish also.
They have an agreement with the fishing boats that any turtles who end up in one of their nets or they find injured, they bring to the sanctuary for some well needed treatment or just a little spa time.
Once they are better, they release them back into the ocean. That said, there is no “turnaround time” for them and one of the guys had been there for 26 years but had never been able to go back into the ocean. Like me, he knows a good spa when he sees one.
These guys are super friendly (frankly a little gropey at times as they have questionable spacial awareness) but so friendly and LOVE being tickled under the chin. If you just lay your hand in the water, palm up, they basically come over for a massage…
Was I a little apprehensive? I mean. Its a lagoon full of turtles and fish so yeah, I wasn’t exactly high-board diving in there, but genuinely I lost all my fear within about 8 seconds. As soon as I stepped in (very slowly), 20 turtles just swam over and were so gentle (and basically just looking for a massage) that any fear I had was totally dispelled.
I fed them handfuls of seaweed and honestly, it was like they thought I was just a new masseuse at their spa.
I cannot tell you how well regarded they are in Zanzibar and more importantly how much they do to help these guys out when they need it. They rely on donations to keep it going.
There are two of these lagoons in Zanzibar and they both look to help in the conservation of these guys. One is the Mnarani Marine Turtles Conservation Pond and the other is Nungwi Natural Aquarium and there are others like Uzi Island.
If you want to find out more about the conservation work, you can also check out World Unite
If you go to Zanzibar, many people will tell you to check out Stone Town, or The Sand Banks or The Red Forest…. do that, but just make sure you make some time for these guys too.