Two San Diego divers were lucky enough to spot--and photograph--a Green sea turtle while diving in shallow water near the Marine Room Restaurant in La Jolla recently. Marla Matin and Virginia Hatter were cruising along in a shallow area near the Caves, when they spotted something they didn't think they would ever seen in San Diego: a Green sea turtle. While the shallow Surf grass areas of Southern California are part of the turtle's normal range, which extends down to parts of Mexico, due to by-catch and over-fishing in recent decades, they have become extremely rare in San Diego.
Matin has seen turtles in some of the tropical places she’s visited, but this was her first sea turtle in California. Her dive buddy, Virginia Hatter spotted him on the way back in from an already amazing snorkel tour of the Marine Room to the Caves and back. They had beautiful conditions, about 20 foot visibility, blue water, cloudless sky and negligible surf. The turtle was in very shallow water, between 5 and 10 feet. The best thing about this Green sea turtle was not in just seeing him, but actually hanging out with him. He didn't seem to mind their presence at all, and just went about munching on algae and occasionally visiting the surface for air. Matin was in awe of the fact that she was seeing a turtle in La Jolla, surrounded by the usual California suspects like Garibaldi, instead of some tropical location. Her mind kept flashing back to the experiences she’d had with them in Belize, Maui and Fiji, and never have she had one stay close by for so long. It cracked her up watching him stick his head into the surf grass, seemingly uncomfortable with having it tangle around him, and swim backwards to free himself. They never tried to touch him, however, and Matin hopes that anyone else lucky enough to meet him are respectful as well. Watching this turtle was simply mesmerizing, and his calm, slow movements were great mental therapy, as Matin put it.
After an hour of this amazing experience, feeling very thirsty, and legs cramping, Matin and Hatter reluctantly headed in after the best experience they had ever had in 5 feet of water.
For more on Green Sea Turtles, see here: