Community Rehabilitated Turtle Release

Katie Hibbard, April 23, 2016

And even I; environment-lover, can be reminded of the simple, special act of life returning back into it’s rightful home… Last Friday April 22, which also happened to be the day our world celebrates mother earth, I had the privilege to participate in something very special. Two sea turtles were to be set free, back into the wild after being nursed back to health for many years. Perhaps one part of this excursion that made it so special was the participation of my fellow Sant’Anna classmates though!

Prior the excursion, I didn’t know a lot of details and therefore was not being a good planner. Due to the lack of information that I had for my friends from Sant’Anna Institute, I was weary that any of them would even show up for this evert. I knew it was going to be rad no matter what occurred because Punta Campanella, Mimi, and the sea turtles never let me down, although from previous excursions going completely divergent then planned, I didn’t want to be too sure of anything… not even the weather.

The beach at Nerano. Photo courtesy of Kendal Lariviere

Winding down to the boats docks in Nerano, Mimi and I were cruising way too excited to see the sea turtles, although almost more importantly on my mind at the moment was the students who took the bus from Sorrento that morning. I was
hesitantly thinking to myself, wow there is no way that they would even be able to find this little beach! I helped Mimi unload wetsuits and cameras for
Alba and Francesco, both friends of his who would be taking photos of the turtles underwater. Although I was doubtful, I kept looking around for any sign of the sing,
wandering Sant’Anna Student (sic).

To my utmost surprise, I think my heart leapt a little inside when I saw about two dozen Sant’ Anna Student sitting on the beach just looking out into the beautiful stormy Mediterranean. I dropped the wetsuits and ran over to greet them! I wanted to hug each and every one of them super tight; I couldn’t believe this awesome turnout. Perhaps they weren’t as excited to see me, but man were they excited to see those grande tartarugas. The two sea turtles were brought down to the beach and loaded into the boat. I don’t think there was one friend of mine that wasn’t smiling and documenting these moments.

Turtle Release 5
Sant’Anna students. Photo coutesy of Katie Hibbard.
Turtle Release
Katie. Photo courtesy of Katrina Syrakos.

The turtles were accompanied by our marine biology teacher at Sant’Anna institute and a few German researchers who had been working with the turtles prior. Another two boats came into the docks in Nerano; one carrying more then three dozen kids to experience the release and also The Punta Campanella boat with the whole team on board. One turtle was a male and the other was a pregnant mother which I personally felt so happy for. Could you imagine how excited she must have been to be let back into the Mediterranean knowing the good life in-store for her babies?

Turtle Release 2
Tartaruga. Photo courtesy of Rose Gerdes.


Cameras were being tested, wetsuits and masks being fitted according, and then the turtles were loaded into the third boat. I was fortunate enough to be on this boat with Mimi, the researchers and most importantly the anticipating turtles. Swooshing and bouncing, with the wind in my hair, along the water felt so good. We motored about 1 mile away from shore and then killed the engine. When all the boats were in good position and the divers were in the water the first sea turtle, Domenico, was unleashed into the wild. He took off like it was no bodies business! I truly feel as though he could feel our excitement for his departure; cheering and whistling from the boats! Then to my surprise, Mimi grabbed my camera and said, “Katie your need both hands girl! Let loose the mother!” I couldn’t believe it! Mimi wanted me with a friend on the other side to let the mama full of her babies into The Mediterranean. I was truly honored to do this for her and her family inside.

Releasing Mama. Photo courtesy of Katie Hibbard.

She was no light load and before I knew it she was in the water, happily swimming and looking back at us with a thankful smile. Cheers and high-fives were passed around! We then headed back for the shore. I took these few moments of wind blowing my hair back and salt water softly coating my face to thank God for the crystal water, the incredibly strong sea turtles, the lastly but very importantly the people that I got to share this special time with.

Turtle Release 3
A community event. Photo courtesy of Katie Hibbard.

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