Amelia Island, Florida is one of my favorite summertime destinations. Great beach. Not crowded. And plenty to do in the quaint village of Fernandina Beach. Which actually has a great historic district, antique shops and restaurants. Lots, and I mean lots, of golf. As long as I can stay in a place where I can see the water I’m happy, but the best place, for me, is at the Plantation. And there, I prefer a spot called Turtle Dunes. Has a lot of memories for me.
I never knew why it was called turtle dunes. I just figured it was a beachy sounding kind of name for a residential area on the water. And turtles have been of great interest to people of many cultures for a very long time. On other beach trips I’d seen the roped off little areas on the dunes that indicated a sea turtle nest, with hundreds of eggs buried. But I’d never actually seen a turtle, or the little hatchlings scampering across the sand on their way back to the sea. So, you can imagine my surprise when just after lunch I walked down the path from the condo, across the boardwalk spanning the dunes, and saw right there in front of me, right, a turtle.
It wasn’t a sea turtle. The feet were clearly feet and not flippers. And the shell had a high arch to it rather than the flattened shell of a sea turtle. Don’t ask me for a scientific species identification. I just know it was a turtle. It wasn’t all curled up in its shell. No, this dude was walking around. Checking out the sights and looking for a little bit of grass to eat. He took really little bites. When he saw me he must have been curious: food or foe? He came right at me, turning several times as I moved out of his way. He must have gotten bored with that game as he soon went back to walking around with an ocassional stop for a bite to eat. He finally made his way to a hidden hole in the sand dune and disappeared into his home. Enough sun and food for now. I don’t know how long he was out there, or how much he ate, or how far he walked around, but what I saw him eat wouldn’t sustain a gnat. But he looked like he’d been around for a while as he was rather large. And I suspect “experienced.”
Big deal you say. OK, it was a minor moment, but how often does a burb dad like me run into wild animals sharing the beach? I guess in a way, he was allowing me to share his beach. I’ve seen plenty of birds at the beach, and dolphins, and a shark or two, and fish in the water, and crabs scurrying around, and a skate once. But never a turtle. And I really like turtles. Probably because we move at the same speed. So, it was a big deal to me. And part of my personal history.
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