I hail from the east coast of the U.S. and while I've spent time on both the Atlantic and Gulf sides of Florida....I currently swim in the warm calm waters of the Gulf of Mexico on a regular basis. The only elevation is the bridge to the beach. It's worlds different from Hawaii and the famous beaches of Wakiki; the location of my latest classroom for new discoveries.
As I sat in the soft sand yesterday, marveling at the mountains and the water in front of me, I shifted my gaze to the right and noticed a crowd gathering around a huge, dark object on the sand.
Now I'm used to seeing things wash up on the shores of Florida beaches, but nothing like this. It was an endangered Hawaiian monk seal. I got up for a closer look. Police tape was present.
How horrible, I thought, that no one had removed this poor guy yet. Perhaps "they" were waiting on more man power as he had to weigh hundreds of pounds.
Then I saw the sluggish movement of a flipper, his mouth shuddered a bit and my heart sank. He wasn't dead, but dying....on his back....no one helping to get him back in the water, just standing and looking.
I put my phone away, packed my bag and left the beach, it upset me so much that this amazing mammal was dying and I couldn't just bask in the sun and pretend he wasn't there.
Later that day, I told my friend Andrew, a resident of Wakiki, what had happened. I was still clearly distraught with eyes welling up and as he put his hands over his mouth, I knew it bothered him too. Then a grin crept from under his hands. He laughed, looked at me with compassion (or maybe pity) and said in his southern accent, "Darling, he was just sleeping."
Me: What? But he was on his back.
Andrew: And how do you sleep?
Me: What? Well there was police tape.
Andrew: To keep the tourists from messing up his nap. They crawl up on the beach all of the time. Glad you got to see one. Wanna get a cocktail?
Me: HELL YES....I'm so relieved.
But will never live it down.
I guess I will have to brush up on the habits of native wildlife when I travel from now on.