The description for the excursion mentioned several popular tourist spots in Grand Cayman and promised a day of adventure on the island by land AND sea. We were to visit a semi-submersible submarine, a rum cake factory, a town called Hell with all the local folklore attached, and finally a Turtle Farm.
From the second I heard we were going to a turtle farm, I knew I wanted to hold one, or at least touch it. I was so excited and just kept waiting for any sign that we would be allowed to. We walked past so many aquariums filled with giant turtles, maybe 3 feet across, and labeled with signs stating “Do Not Touch”. We even passed an enclosure touted to contain the most endangered turtles on the planet. They also happen to be the most ferocious, so guess what? That’s right, hands off.
Then I saw them, in the distance, small pools in area named the “Touch Zone”. That had to be it! When we FINALLY got there and our tour guide asked if anyone wanted to hold a turtle, I raised my hand high and said ME!!
A few minutes later we were in front of several shallow pools. Inside each were 3 to 4 turtles. They were young, only about 6 to 8 inches across. After cleansing my hands to destroy any human bacteria that I could potentially transmit to the babies, I reached into one of the ponds, only to miss the little guy as he swam vigorously to the other end. It was then that I realized they might not want me as much as I wanted them.
But I gave it another try, this time easily catching a small guy with my right hand. As I extracted him from the water, he flapped his arms, causing me to secure him with two hands. He settled down. I wasn’t at all sure I was holding him the proper way or if there even is a proper way to hold an animal who belongs free in the wild.
Somehow we reached an understanding. I think he sensed that I only wanted to be near him, not to harm him or disturb his routine. I rubbed his little neck to let him know that it was my intent to give back to him the enjoyment that he was giving me, and that seemed to work, evident in the fact that he calmed and closed his tiny eyes for a brief moment.
Still, I felt guilty for barging into his life with all of my energy and desire. Why did I want to hold him so desperately? I guess I just wanted to feel that oneness with something that attracted and intrigued me, and for a split second I didn’t think of his needs. I caught myself and righted the situation, but all the while I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was an interloper. So I reluctantly returned him to his pond and gazed as he swam away, no worse for the wear.
Did he realize the happiness that he brought me? Did he care?
Knowing how I feel now, after the fact, would I do it again, given the chance?