The Sea Turtles of Francis Bay

On our 18th Anniversary, Jer and I rented a double kayak to paddle out to Whistling Cay for a day of kayaking and snorkeling in Francis Bay. I had high hopes that I would have an up close encounter with a sea turtle.

Copyright Jerry Gartner 2013

Whistling Kay up ahead, as we kayak out of Little Maho. Those aren’t my toes pointing the way, those are Jer’s stumpy toes serving as a compass.

Copyright Jerry Gartner 2013

The distance shore of Whistling Cay looms up ahead. It was at this point that we could make a small, mysterious ruin on the beach of the Cay.

Copyright Jerry Gartner 2013

Behind us, are the boats moored in Francis Bay for the weekend.

Copyright Jerry Gartner 2013

The rocky shoreline of Francis Bay, little crabs scurried over the rocks when the tide came in.

Copyright Jerry Gartner 2013

A small ruin stands out on the beach of Whistling Cay.

Copyright Jerry Gartner 2013

A Zen rock sculpture adorns the beach of Whistling Cay.

Copyright Jerry Gartner 2013

Brain coral and flat pebbles make up a graceful sculpture on the beach.

Copyright Jerry Gartner 2013

No one is sure what the little ruined building on Whistling Cay once was.

The waters surrounding Whistling Cay were very rough due to numerous wakes from boats going back and forth through Fungi Passage. I was knocked into a patch of elkhorn coral while snorkeling off Whistling Cay. After that I was concerned about harming the coral, so we got back into our boat and kayaked to an isolated patch of beach off of Francis Bay to try snorkeling again in a more peaceful setting.

Copyright Jerry Gartner 2013

Heading back into Francis Bay, looking for the perfect spot to snorkel.

Copyright Jerry Gartner 2013

We pulled up our kayak on this isolated beach off of Francis Bay.

Copyright Jerry Gartner 2013

Kayaking is harder work than it looks, so a break was in order before snorkeling.

Copyright Jerry Gartner 2013

While I sat in the surf cooling my heels, Jer snapped pictures of the beautiful cacti on St. John.

Copyright Jerry Gartner 2013

Cactus on the beach of St. John.

Copyright Jerry Gartner 2013

Sea Turtle!

In Francis Bay we were rewarded with plenty of sea turtle sightings. The sea turtles  in the pictures here- were seen while kayaking back to Little Maho to return our rental kayak. From the kayak, we tried to paddle close enough for Jer to get pictures of the turtles coming up for air. Sea turtles come up for air before submerging back into the water, holding their breath underwater for long periods of time.  The highlight of my day was actually snorkeling next to a 300lb plus sea turtle for about ten minutes from the little point in Francis Bay we snorkeled off of.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get any pictures of my underwater encounter, but I will never forget it.

While snorkeling I saw blue tangs, juvenile angelfish and a host of other interesting fish. Jer even pointed out a Caribbean lobster. It was a strange creature, without any claws and didn’t look like any lobster I have ever seen.  Just when I was thinking of going back on shore to return to the kayak, I flipped around and saw a huge sea turtle about 10 feet behind me. The turtle swam slowly through a small rocky cove that hugged the beach and I followed swiming parallel to it about six feet away. I was able to swim next to the turtle for about ten minutes, before a group of other snorkelers discovered my reptile companion. Leaving them to swim with the beautiful turtle, I headed back to the beach more than happy.

Copyright Jerry Gartner 2013

A green sea turtle comes up to breathe.

Copyright Jerry Gartner 2013

Sea turtle seen in Francis Bay- a sea turtle nesting beach.

Copyright Jerry Gartner 2013

The turtles seen here are green turtles which aren’t actually green in color. They are in fact brown, but named green turtles because their fat under their shell is green.

Copyright Jerry Gartner 2013

Green sea turtles are the only vegetarian sea turtles. The green sea turtle eats a diet of sea grass and algae. Another variety of sea turtle in the Caribbean is the hawksbill sea turtle which eat crustaceans and fish.

Copyright Jerry Gartner 2013

Because green sea turtles are vegetarian, they are known to frequent certain spots of sea grass around St. John and they are frequently seen in Maho Bay, Francis Bay and Leinster Bay. We were fortunate to see the turtles in both Maho and Francis Bays.

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