Sea turtles are shy, retiring creatures, right? Not always, it seems. Richard Carey encounters an animal with attitude while diving in the Red Sea
DIVERS LOVE TURTLES, and for many visiting the Red Sea, turtle encounters are high on their wish-list. The creatures are often quite relaxed around divers, and simply carry on their normal behaviour, searching for food on the reef and stopping to feed on soft corals or sponges. At other times they are shy, and fin swiftly away if the divers approach them. During a dive at Dahab's popular Blue Hole, three of us experienced some very unusual turtle behaviour. Mid-way through a wall dive from the Bell's to the Blue Hole, a male hawksbill suddenly appeared from under a nearby ledge, made straight for the nearest diver, and tried to bite onto his BC straps. Evasive action was taken, but the turtle came back for more. Over the next 14 minutes he followed us, moving from one diver to the next, pecking at BC straps, weightbelts – whatever he could grab. I doubt if he had any intention of harming anyone, and guess he was just investigating whether dive gear made a tasty meal or not. Nevertheless, we were all careful to avoid getting bitten. Having seen how easily hawksbills can chomp through coral, I'm sure they are capable of inflicting a nasty bite. A couple of times he came at me, perhaps thinking that my camera was edible, and I had to fin rapidly backwards to keep my gear safe. It did give me the chance to get some unusual photos, as you can see! Unfortunately we couldn't stay too long – air supplies were running low, so we had to continue to the exit point – but even then the turtle followed us, finning along behind us hoping to get another bite, until eventually he swerved up to go for a breath of air. We still don't know what triggered this behaviour – but it certainly made for a fun dive!
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