It's was about an hour and a half ride, which we did during naptime, perfect. We got there about 10 minutes before it was set to open, excellent. Then I parked and walked around the corner....eek...there was already a MASSIVE line. And being the perfect mom I am, I chose a day when the heat index was in the triple digits, and I didn't bring sunscreen.
At least I managed to grab an umbrella before
At that point I certainly wasn't getting out of line, but Bella was (almost literally) melting down. I tried the ipad. I tried snacks. I tried a drink. I tried holding her. I tried suggesting that she check out the really interesting gravel at her feet. Actually, that last one sort of worked. In all we waited about an hour and 15 minutes, but boy those last 15 minutes were painful.
They take people in groups of 6 so that there is room for everyone around the tank as they tell that turtle's story. While we were waiting in our group to go in, they laid the big bummer on us...no photography. Not even 'no flash photography,' but no photography, period. Sadface. So you'll have to do with my descriptions and we'll have the memories. This was the best I could do:
Then we went around the building and inside where they are currently caring for 21 turtles. They showed us the 5 tanks on the edge, where the walking area was for easy access. The first turtle was bigger than Bella in length and I was already pretty wowed. They can get to be 500lbs or more. I think that guy was around 400. He was a loggerhead who got tangled in fishing nets and beat up pretty badly. Apparently, these wounds are very slow healing. They said he was doing well and they were hoping to release him in 1 to 2 years. Yeah...years. The next 2 turtles were Kemps Ridley turtles, some of the most endangered in the world. They were significantly smaller, but were still probably 150lbs or more. One had her front fins cut really badly by a fishing net, estimated time to recovery: 2 years. The second was a male who had been beaten in the head when fishers tried to get him out of a net, cracking his poor little endangered skull and rendering him blind. No recovery for him. He's expected to live at the rescue center for the rest of his life: 80-100 years. The 4th turtle was the smallest by far and was a green sea turtle who had a case of hypothermia. She's expected to be released in September. She was about the diameter of a medium beach ball. The last guy was a big loggerhead named Boater. I guess they wanted to leave a lasting impression with these big turtles at the beginning and end...or maybe they were too heavy for the middle...who knows. Anyway, Boater had 3 big cuts in his shell from a boat propeller. They screwed metal plates over the openings to let his shell re-grow and the plates have now been removed. Now the long process of letting them fully heal is in progress. He still has about 2 years left in the hospital. All that took about 5 minutes. Bella didn't want to leave.
I appeased her by offering a stuffed sea turtle from the gift shop. There was no entry cost, donations only, so that was ok (Don't get the wrong idea...we still donated too). She chose one from the various ones they had and I also picked up a pack of sea turtle erasers to use as counting objects in the classroom. She happily patted him on the back and tossed him in the air and caught him all the way back to the car...after one last goodbye to Boater.
On the walk back I asked her what her turtle's name was, expecting Boater, or Josie, or Pippen, or Turtle. And she responded very precisely with, "Bushy." It took me most of the ride home to determine that Bushy is a boy, since Bella is still working on her pronouns and went back and forth calling him a "he' and a 'she' interchangeably. I think my favorite moment on the ride home was the moment I realized how much she had learned about respecting wildlife and how special turtles are:
Bella: "Mommy, can I eat Bushy?"
OK, maybe we still need to work on that whole respecting nature thing. I'll get back to you :)
When did your kids start really naming their stuffed animals? Any idea where their names came from? Ever seen a sea turtle up close not through aquarium glass?