The sacred honu
When you think of ‘magical’ animals, where does your mind wander? To frosty mountains, heaps of gold, and the smouldering eyes of a dragon? Maybe you imagine a majestic Narwhal in Arctic waters, miles away from civilization; or a woolly mammoth, trudging through snow and past decades of history.
Perhaps you set your mind’s eye on something a little more obtainable, as rare and otherworldly as it may seem.
The Hawaiian sea turtle has all the magical charm of the animals mentioned above, with one big difference: it’s alive and well, and waiting for you to visit. Tourists flock to Maui Hawaii to see it every year, but there’s more to this reptile than meets the eye.
Sea turtles come in three varieties: green, leatherback, and hawksbill. The latter, though endangered, is native to Hawaii, and thrives in small sand beaches on the Big Island, Maui, Moloka‘i, and O‘ahu.
The hawksbill doesn’t take its tropical home for granted. It lends a hand (or fin) to the upkeep of the local ecology in return for its watery dwellings. This is mainly because of its diet. Hawksbill turtles love to snack on sea sponges, an organism and type of sea grass that commonly grows in the coral gardens of Hawaii. Such is their hunger for the plant, they help to maintain a good ecological balance in which other reptiles and fish can thrive –like a biological lawn mower.
Take that lawn mower away, and we’ve got ourselves a problem.Although they are naturally resilient to toxins found in the food they consume, sea turtles’ biggest danger is human intervention. Damage to the coral gardens made by tourists and other well-meaning sea explorers constantly threaten the turtles’ food source.
As an endangered species with plenty to give, it’s important that we work towards the conservation of sea turtles and their natural environment. Organizations such as the Hawaii Wildlife Fund work hard to address this dilemma, by monitoring conditions and responding when necessary. They also work with local authorities and tourist guides to help educate members of the public. A practical way visitors can contribute to the protection and conservation of Sea Turtles is by using Reef Safe SunScreen.
To the Hawaiian people, sea turtles or “Honu,” are sacred creatures. They embody good luck, protection, endurance and long life. I think it’s safe to say, if you have the opportunity to swim alongside a Hawaiian Sea Turtle, or encounter one face to face while snorkelling, you will feel like one of the luckiest persons on earth.