I recently spent a week in Florida on Manasota Key. If I could describe the Key in one word, I would say it was magical. For the next seven days, I lived in a world of white sands, blue-green ocean and endless blue skies.
Manasota Key is located next to the small community of Englewood on the Gulf Coast of Florida. I found this enchanting out-of-the-way place home to a mix of artists, old hippies, fishermen, and anybody who enjoyed living “off the beaten track.”
When my husband and I arrived at our condo, we were informed that it was nesting time for Loggerhead sea turtles, Since our condo faced the beach, we needed to make sure the drapes were drawn by 9 p.m., so that lights wouldn’t shine out onto the beach. I later found out that more sea turtles nest in Manasota Key, then anywhere else on the Gulf Coast.
I was up before the sun every morning and walking on the beach, hoping to see the turtles. I later found out that most of them come up on the beach around midnight, lay their eggs and return to the sea before dawn. I did see large tracks left by the Loggerheads that led up to the little grassy sand dunes.
Although I wasn’t greeted by turtles, my early morning endeavors were rewarded with an abundance of colorful sea shells of all shapes and sizes. These beautiful little treasures seemed to roll right out of the waves into my hands. It paid to get up early, as the beach quickly filled up with other “shell seekers.”
Towards the middle of the week on a early morning walk I saw a group of people standing around something large. As I made my way up the beach, I couldn’t believe my eyes, a giant Loggerhead turtle was in the sand. She had just finished laying her eggs and was covering them over. One of the locals, explained that for some reason, she was late in coming and didn’t quite make it to the shelter of the dunes. I was told that she had probably laid about one hundred eggs.
She was enormous, I couldn’t believe my eyes or my luck. What a gift to behold. The Loggerhead slowly turned around, left her covered up mound of eggs and lumbered back to the surf. Soon she disappeared into the waves.
I didn’t see anymore turtles, but I got to see pelicans, cranes and little birds that hopped about the sand on funny stick-like legs. I watched the early morning sun turn everything rosy pink and and the setting sun disappear into a fiery glow.
I left Manasota Key with a suitcase crammed full of sea shells, memories of sea birds, a giant turtle and a promise to return.