How to take the perfect #turtleselfie

USVI turtles

The Virgin Islands (both British and US) are known for their turtles (I think “Tortola” even means “turtle” …or “turtledove” …which is not really the same thing at all), but I’ve been snorkelling many times in the Caribbean and before this week, never ever had I seen one. Not only was I desperate to see one, but I wanted a selfie with one. Partially as a reminder when I’m exhausted of why I work so hard, and partially so that all my friends on social media could see it and be jealous of me (- because you’re only as happy as you seem on Facebook)

These days, it’s not good enough to just experience something, you need photographic evidence that you experienced something, and that photographic evidence needs to include your own image otherwise it would just look like you downloaded someone else’s picture off the internet. 

You know how I’m credited for making flamingos and shoes with flashy lights cool?  Well, I also practically invented the selfie. It’s true. I don’t really want to be associated with it though, because it was always intended to be used when you find yourself all alone at the Mayan Ruins of Tulum and there’s no one around to take a picture of you, and not to be used by sad scantily-clad teenage girls who flash their cleavage and pull duck faces at the bathroom mirror with the phone completely in shot, so they can post it online and get “likes” from creepy people, sometimes pretending to be younger less-creepy people, in attempts to get the validation they never got from their fathers. I also often find myself trying to fight the urge to beat people with their selfie sticks so I’m unlikely to own one. 

Very few people will admit to liking selfies but, let’s be honest, we’ve all taken them. So, you can stop judging me now. 

If you too, need a turtle selfie in your life, this is how to go about it:

So, how do you take the perfect #turtleselfie?

Step one: Locate the turtles 

First, I did some research. I found out that the best place to find turtles on our itinerary was on the island of St. John, an Island in the US Virgin Islands, a short ferry ride from St. Thomas where we dock. I also found out that the best place on that island to see turtles would be at a remote beach called Maho beach. (Maho beach is also the name of the beach on St. Maarten, right by the airport, where the planes come in very low - Either way, there are always good reasons to take pictures at beaches named 'Maho'.) 

I also heard from one of my friends who works in Shore Excursions, that you should be careful not to scare the turtles because if you do, sometimes they stay at the bottom and don’t come up for air and drown. I learnt from watching Finding Nemo that turtles can live very long and I didn’t want to be responsible for cutting any of their lives short. My selfie had to be fatality-free. 

Step two: Find the right team

I guess I am not the only crew member who’s heard turtle-encounter stories from the guests and been jealous. Once I told some of my friends about my quest they asked if they could join me. I ended up with a group of five people which seems like a good number for a quest. If you’re going to Mordor you need at least 12, but for Maho, five will suffice. Oh, and a plastic lawn flamingo, obviously. We had to work out a day when there wasn’t a crew safety drill and no one cool was stuck onboard for In Port Manning (or “IPM”). We eventually found one and set off on a fairly expensive mission to find a turtle. 

A taxi ride, a ferry ride and another taxi ride later, we found ourselves at Maho beach which was a little more remote than I think we expected it to be.

Rodrigo on Maho Beach

At Maho there was literally a beach, a parking area, some tourists, and nothing else around. My friends were hoping to find a place to buy food, or drinks, or even change into a swim suit (Sorry, Nikola). No such luck. They also expected an abundance of visible turtles hanging out on rocks and stuff. I was more realistic in thinking they would be under the water, but I assumed that there would be a place to rent a snorkel mask to see the little buggers as mine had broken on my last contract. 

Step three: Have the right equipment

 On the beach there were a couple of tourists but none of them seemed to be from a cruise ship like us and they were all more prepared with paddleboards and snorkel equipment and picnic lunches. Fortunately, the water was crystal clear and you could see right the way to the bottom. 

We had fun playing in the water for a while, but I was definitely on a mission. Just past the place where you could stand, there was seaweed and grasses growing along the bottom. I knew the turtles would be further out there so I swam out in search of them. 

The only way I could see into the water was by holding my head just above the water line and looking directly below me. The glare on the surface gave me absolutely no peripheral vision. Without a mask, the only way of spotting a turtle would be to swim almost directly over one. 

Step four: Persevere

I tread water for a really really long time. When I got tired I would just flip over and float. I actually suck at swimming when it involves getting from one place to another but I’m really good at not drowning. I don’t know why that’s not an olympic sport or something, but people who are really strong um… “non-drowners?" …“floaters?” …nah, let’s stick with “non-drowners” - never get any credit!  

At one point another tourist found something and there was some excitement - It was a stingray. …Boring! The four other people on the beach swam out to see it. Whatever! I’ve kissed at least two of those things. I eventually gave up and swam back to shore (paying more attention to where I was walking this time). 

By then my hungry and thirsty and somewhat less-interested-in-turtles-than-ever-before friends had found coconuts and were making holes in them to drink the coconut water out of them. One of them was not very fresh, but apart from that, if I were to be stranded on a desert island I would want them on my team. The lack of turtle-sightings though, was starting to make me feel like I was about to be the first to be voted off. 

After I had recuperated, I restrategised. It was very quiet down the one end of the beach and there were lots of rocks on that side. I walked down that side and into the water. I waded in the water and …nothing. Just iguanas, lots of frikkin iguanas on the rocks. Oh, and fish. I swam out to the grassier rocky section and still nothing. Eventually I decided I would just swim back along the beach towards where my friends were. I accepted that without a snorkel mask it was very unlikely that I would find a turtle and I should just make the most of the time I had with my friends.

I got almost all the way back when I heard a girl behind me, in a place where I had just been, shouted to someone casually that there was a turtle below her. She then kept swimming. I swam back to the area near where she was and somehow managed to find this guy:

US Virgin Island

You can’t really see scale in this picture but he’s really big. - Like mutant big! Like teenage mutant ninja turtle big shell-wise but with a little turtle-sized body.  The fish with codependency issues sticking to his back was also quite big, and also the reason I named him “Frank the enabler turtle”. 

While I was staring at him, I saw someone else pop his head up for air - See, he’s not too scared to breathe!

Winning at not dying!

 Step five: Say “Cheese!”

(And by “say cheese” I mean: “Just try to keep your eyes open in that salty water.")

I had been dragging my waterproof camera along with me the whole time and now my chance had arrived. I tried to swim down a bit and angle myself diagonally so I could get the turtle in the picture but it was tricky. In the end, I knew I had taken an underwater selfie and I knew I had taken a pic of a turtle, but between the salt water and the sun in my eyes, I had no idea whether or not I had succeeded in taking a turtle selfie. By that stage, I was just so happy to see a turtle that I didn't care. 

When I set off on a quest for a turtle selfie this is what I had in mind:




This, however, is what I got:

underwater pic with turtle

Nailed it!

Between the bags under my eyes which could carry some of my extra luggage, my lovely semi-waterproof lipstick settling in the cracks of my lips and that awesome bubble escaping my right nostril like an air booger, I know what you’re thinking: “Why is that girl single and how is this not her profile picture?”

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Somewhat less unflattering #grelfie (group-selfie) with flamingo

(All photos not my own have been used with permission)

In other news:

The video
I said in my last blog that the Cruise Staff were involved in a video shoot and that I would tell you about it in my next blog. We were. I’m sure sooner or later it’ll end up on Youtube but it’s not right now, so there’s not really a story here. They didn’t really feature me anyway so, just like that Oscar nominated movie that I was cut from, it can’t be that good, right? At least I got to wear a fun costume for the day. We all represented different departments. I was cast as someone from Guest Services. Between 2009 and 2010 when I worked in Guest Services that costume was not as fun.

Cruise Staff uniform-swap party

My Macarena revival is picking up momentum
They’ve now moved the welcome aboard party from our indoor nightclub to our outdoor nightclub which is a whole lot bigger and now better attended. We still do every line dance in the book and I still lead the Macarena. Last week it was particularly well attended and, at the risk of blowing my own horn, I’m pretty sure I’ve now broken the world record for the most people dancing the Macarena at one time post 1993. 

Keyring light thingies are back!
Yes! We just got a new order in. If that’s not reason enough to book a cruise I don’t know what is. (If you have no idea what the hell I’m talking about read this.)

16 cruises down, 10 to go 
Musicians employed onboard: 33 
Male musicians employed onboard: 30
Latin male musicians employed onboard: 10
Relationship status: Somehow still single

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    1. This was awesome. I also swam with a turtle in Mauritius. He tried to take a selfie with me but I was too quick for him. Noob.


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