On our Sri Lankan boat trip, it took us an hour or so to find some blue whales. But the first animals we saw were no less spectacular. From a distance, they looked like buoys, gleaming bright and white against the sea. As the boat drew closer, we realised that the light wasn’t reflecting off a man-made object, but the shell of a green turtle.
Then we realised that the light was actually reflecting off the shells of two green turtles. They were mating at the surface.
They stayed there for around five minutes. The male clasped onto the female’s shell with a special claw on his front flipper (which you can clearly see in the next photo). She was impassive at first, but after a few minutes, she started to smack her flipper about. Perhaps she was trying to dislodge him. If that’s the case, it took a good few minutes of shaking before she finally broke free, diving back down to the opaque depths with him in pursuit.
The blue whales were amazing, but somehow this felt more unique – a spectacle that surely only a few people get to see. The only time I’ve ever seen turtles mating before was in David Attenborough’s Life of Cold Blood. In a stunning sequence, a female is mobbed by a gang of males who jostle for prime position on her back. Weighed down by her competing suitors, she risks drowning, but eventually breaks free with a single victor. Maybe the same thing happened to the turtles we found. Maybe exhaustion explains why the female was so still at first.