The sun had set, and the sky turned from red to indigo to dark blue in a few minutes. We had already pitched our tents at the Snorkelling Beach of Masirah Island (in Oman) and were patiently waiting around the fire for our food to cook.
The freshness of the night brought some relief from the heat of the day, so we enjoyed the wait. The moon was new and, although it was still early, it was about to disappear behind the horizon, taking away the thin silvery line that was simmering on the sea surface. It would soon be completely dark. We could hear the quiet sound of the tide and hoped we have pitched our tents high enough to avoid unwanted surprises during the night.
As we were about to begin our dinner, we felt a tiny tickling next to our feet. We looked down and, in the middle of the white circle created by our headlights, we discovered a hatchling! Masirah Island is famous for its enormous turtle nesting activity; however, we thought the specific beach was rocky enough not to allow turtles to nest, especially considering the availability of exotic, sandy – and much more suitable – beaches at other parts of the island. So, this hatchling, disoriented by our headlights and certainly not guided by the setting moon, was quite a surprise.
Our torches moved a few centimetres further away, only to discover another hatchling. And then, another. And another. And then, fifty or sixty of them, like big bugs on the sand, all facing different directions while trying to find their way to the sea. Unwillingly, we had set our camp next to a nest and the baby turtles – a rare example of small Olive Ridleys – chose to hatch that particular night, to honor us with their presence.
We turned off the headlights, all but one which we placed next to the sea to act as an artificial moon. Immediately, most of the hatchlings turned in the right direction and started their first clumsy steps into their new life.
The beach abounded with activity like we had never seen in any other beach before, at least not on this island. Dozens and dozens of hermit crabs were marching up and down, food hunting or exploring each other’s shells as potential future homes. Ghost crabs kept on looking at us through their periscope eyes, waiting for the right moment to attack the weakest hatchling. Shadowy, sand-coloured crabs moved so swiftly that they seemed like the wind moving through the sand grains. A bit further down, we discovered a carcass of a small whale – possibly a young killer whale, an Orka – covered in crabs, its skeleton quite visible and resembling a dinosaur.
We moved up and down the beach to ensure that all hatchlings reach the water safely. We felt as if they were our kids making their first steps into the unknown, and we could not contain the urge to clap and celebrate each time a new hatchling successfully made it to the ocean, having survived its first dangerous steps on earth. It was an exciting experience, a surprise and a blessing: the kind of adventures that Nature amply bestows upon us when we choose to spend time in her welcoming bosom.
Note: (Excerpt from the book “The Unusual Journeys of a Girl Like Any Other” by Konstantina Sakellariou, Rahhalah’s Advisor for Europe).