I think the last time I saw Friendly was early in 2007. Prior to that, she had been at the reef at Airport Beach every Feb-March that I would come visit going back to 2003 I believe and possibly even earlier. I think the last photo I took of her was in 2006. She was very complacent and undisturbed by the presence of swimmers and many times I would dive down to her cave and wave her out. She would surface next to me and on a number of times even rest a front flipper on my shoulder while she was taking her breaths. With the advent of new construction at the Westin complex and more and more people visiting the reef, often with no clue how to respect the reef and its residents, I believe Friendly chose to find a new home away from the shallows and traffic. The last time I saw her, I happened to be at the outside of the reef in about 25'-30' of depth and she was below on the bottom. She surfaced by me and then returned to the bottom.
Today, 8-24-09, some spinner dolphin came in close to shore and I swam out past the reef to join them. I ended up swimming south past the reef with the dolphin. After the dolphin left, I started my way back in. I saw a small coral cropping surrounded by sand and as I approached it, I saw a very clean and healthy looking green sea turtle resting under the edge of a lobe coral colony. I dove down for a photo and was so surprised to see a familiar anomaly in the scale pattern on her head. It was friendly!!
I waited above and dove down a couple times waving her to come up. Eventually, I saw her stir on the bottom and figured she was going to surface. I was curious as to whether she would still be comfortable in my proximity and frankly, she touched me a number of years back in such a manner that I really have a soft spot in my heart for her. I may be just another one of "those" to her but she is one special creature to me.
She looks so clean and healthy ! I let myself drift in towards her and took the camera strap from around my neck and held it in front of us.
She braced her left front flipper against my shoulder. I was able to get both of us in a shot.
We ended up bumping tails and twisting away from each other in the current. I made my way around her and hung out while she took some more breaths. She headed down and I headed towards shore. I suspect she is still a resident near by but likely out in the deeper water where she only sees divers. It's great to see her again and see how well she is doing. I hope we will encounter each other again and more frequently than once every couple years.