Sea Turtles in Kaua’i Waters
Gracefully gliding through the ocean current, the Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle or honu, is one of the oldest, and most beloved creatures in the Hawaiian Islands.
Weighing up to 400 pounds, the Green Sea Turtle possesses unique habits that set it apart from the other two species of sea turtle seen in the warm Kauai waters. However, all sea turtles’ lives begin the same way: by dangerously scurrying from their sandy nest into the open ocean. Always fighting to survive, these reptiles are one of the most mesmerizing to spot floating around the island of Kauai.
It is most common to see Green Sea Turtles in the Hawaiian Islands, but Leatherback and Hawksbill Sea Turtles also roam these waters. Green Sea Turtles have a more interesting relationship with land than the other two, and that is their biggest difference. Generally, nesting female turtles are the only turtles that go on land. Green Sea Turtles, however, can be seen lounging on rocks and beaches for hours at a time. They do this to warm their shell or to avoid sharks.
The different species of sea turtles in Kauai waters also differentiate by their eating habits. Leatherbacks and Hawksbill turtles are carnivorous, eating jellyfish, sponge, and other soft invertebrates. The Green Sea Turtle has a unique feeding pattern. It begins its life as a carnivore and later switches to an all-plant diet, eating algae and sea grass. Life for sea turtles doesn’t only consist of lounging and floating around. Sea turtles are constantly in danger.
After baby turtles hatch, they work together to raise their nest out of the hole they have been incubating in for two months. There are about 110 baby turtles, and as soon as they start to make their way to the ocean, it’s every turtle for itself. Baby sea turtles have many predators in the beginning of life including crabs, birds, the sun, sharks, predatory fish, and of course, humans. Sharks and humans continue to threaten the existence of sea turtles.
Whether its taking sea turtle eggs from their nest, or using other parts of the sea turtle for leather, humans are to blame for the decrease in Sea Turtles. In Hawaii, the law protects sea turtles and it is important to report any turtle that looks to be under duress. While spotting a honu sunning on the beach, or swimming around the shallow water might be the highlight of a person’s day in Hawaii, these ancient creatures are sadly fading away.
When I first moved to Hawaii, I went on a snorkeling adventure down the South Side of Kauai. In Kipu’Kai, the fish were abundant. I would hold my breath and dive down, getting as close to the ocean floor as I could. The world was fast down there, the seaweed swaying with each strong current. The fish moved with purpose, and the sea slugs didn’t seem to move at all. Out of the corner of my eye I saw it, a huge sea turtle looking right at me. He moved around me, probably trying to get to the good sea grass and I wondered, how old could he be? How many times has he been to this cove, and fed from this ocean floor? All I know is that he’d been around way longer than me. This was his home, and I was only a visitor, mesmerized by the life of a graceful, truly perfect animal.