I am a proud African. I was born on the South West coast of Africa and I make sure that I keep coming back as often as I can. I love my birthplace, however its all somewhat bittersweet. But this not my story, this is the story of my little Agulhas.
At the Southern cape of Africa, Warm waters meet the cold and one of the strongest currents in the worlds is born called the Agulhas Current. The currents gives rise to clouds over the cape which comes pouring down as rain over the wettest place in Africa, the butterfly forest. This powerful current brings life itself out of the barren lands. The currents are life themselves.
Meanwhile on the beach, my little hatchlings have just managed to dig themselves out of the sand. Us Green Sea Turtles are strange that way. We come out only during the dark. We are all born with an instinct of sprinting directly towards the sea as soon we pop our delicate little heads out to the surface. Most of my hatchlings are out but my tiny little Agulhas is still inside. She was tinier than the others and with that I mean ever tinier than 7 centimetres! As the others make their way to the ocean, I am worried sick for their safety, especially my little Agu.
These 100 metres will be most crucial in the lives of my hatchlings. As they make their way towards the sea with their tiny little feet pushing the wet sand back and propelling themselves forward with whatever strength they are born with, I know whats coming their way. I see predators all around them. The first one to begin the prowl is the Yellow-billed Kite. He has been waiting patiently for the hatchlings since he got up today perching on a nearby tree. He leaps forward and flies with lightening speed towards the baby turtles. He grabs a hatchling with his strong claws and flies away. Now begins the battle for survival for thousands of hatchlings.
He is taking the hatchling back to his nest and I know he is not yet finished. As he leaves, a swarm of Pied Crows grab their chance and one by one start picking the hatchlings. I know the crows have an insatiable appetite. The beach is full of what they want and every one of them is there for their prize. I begin to think that right now, their vast numbers is their only defense. And these are the ones who are big and strong.
As the subtle light of dawn descents on the shore, I see my Agu delicately just managing to push her way out of the pit where I laid and later buried the eggs. She is the last one out and I genuinely believe that she is doomed. As she is late, she manages to watch before she starts her sprint. I understand what she must feel right now, watching her siblings being taken away and she knows without any shred of doubt that her life is in danger.
So she starts her march towards the noise of breaking waves on the shores. With most of the predators busy with the hatchlings, this late comer may just have a chance, I begin to think. But my hopes are short lived as I see a small Ghost Crab walking towards Agu. As she walks, he overtakes her with the advantage of fast running multiple legs. He is smaller than her. He is translucent and his legs thin like fish bones. Agu looks at him but has no time to think or waste. She keeps going and ignores him, a mistake, she will soon discover.
The crab does not let her get far and grabs hold of her. He starts dragging her back to his lair. She has realized that although he is smaller but is far stronger than her. She is still peddling through the sand, trying her best. What can she do?
I see in utter amazement as she keeps peddling and trying to push herself against the crab. On an elevation she uses gravity to her advantage and breaks free from the crab! I cannot be more proud.
As her predecessors keep getting attacked by the predators, her slow pace proves to be a shield against them. Agu makes a final dash towards the water and I cannot believe my eyes. The foamy sea water swoops her in. I wish her all the best in her quest for her future.
But the story is not over yet. Its never over so soon. She has to catch her breadth if she is to stop herself from drowning. As the giant waves pound on her little body, she has to hold herself together and persevere. She is giving all she can to peddle forward and swim as far away from the shore. As she tries to come to the surface for catching a breadth, the Yellow-billed kite swoons over in order to catch her and fly away. Agu descends down just as the kite tries to grab her with his monster claws. Not this time, Mr Kite!
She has now left the surf behind and entered the calmer seas and for the first time, she has the glimpse of what joy life has to offer. There are corals of various size, shapes and colours beneath her and cool blue water above. The sun is now filling the water with its brilliance. Its the best place in the world for her and she loves every moment of it. As she approaches the Agulhas, she doesn’t know that only a few of the thousands of hatchling have made it so far. She has by far come the farthest to meet the warm Agulhas Current and so I name her Agulhas, the strong.
If she continues to be her strong and fierce self, she could live for as long as eighty years, giving life in turn to hatchlings like herself. But for now she has more important business to take care of: munching sea grass.