no wonder I love turtles so much!

I’ve recently learned that May 23rd is “World Turtle Day!” That explains why I have an obsession with chocolate turtles. No matter which chocolate maker, chocolatier or confectioner I visit, if they make chocolate turtles, I’ve got to try them! May 23rd just happens to be my birthday, so that explains my very strong connection to turtles. But it’s also interesting to learn that in many cultures, the turtle is a symbol of longevity, endurance, and persistence to survive. In the spiritual realm, the turtle is a power animal that helps you find your way through difficult times with strength and endurance. An excellent symbol to help us focus on the positive in the turbulent and uncertain times in which we live. 

I love this underwater photo of a Hawksbill Turtle taken by my friend and fellow travel writer Debbra Dunning Brouillette (AKA “Tropical Travel Girl”) while on a dive at Cane Bay in St. Croix, USVI. Debbra was on a press trip there in May 2014, and enjoyed a number of dives in the crystal clear water. Hawksbill turtles get their name from their unique beak-like mouth, which resembles that of a hawk. They are considered to be critically endangered. I encourage you to visit Debbra’s beautiful site specializing in SCUBA diving in tropical places, where you’ll see her page on the U.S. Virgin Islands at: https://www.tropicaltravelgirl.com/st-thomas-st-john-us-virgin-islands/.

world turtle day celebrates both turtles and tortoises

Do you know the differences between turtles and tortoises? Both are reptiles belonging to the Testudine group, but tortoises live only on land, while turtles live part of their time in the water, and part of their time on the land. To help themselves navigate smoothly through water, turtle shells are smoother and more streamlined than tortoise shells, which tend to be more rough and are dome-shaped. The average age of a tortoise is 150 years, although some have been known to live as long as 300 years! Turtles live an average of just 40 years, and can get up as high as 90-100 years on very rare occasions.

snapping-turtle

This beautiful acrylic on canvas painting entitled “Resident Snapping Turtle” is the creation of Interlake WAVE artist Helma Rogge Rehders who painted the snapping turtle that lives in Boundary Creek behind her home.

No matter where you live, plastic can endanger the life of turtles, tortoises and most other wildlife. So you may want to help clean up a local beach or creek in the spirit of helping aquatic life such as turtles. Or if you don’t live near the water, help clean up a local park or trail to keep it free from plastic garbage or recyclables. Every positive action we take helps the planet and in turn, turtles and other vulnerable wildlife at the mercy of humans who toss refuse out without thinking of the extended damage it may cause to other inhabitants of our planet. 

turtles need our help

Out of the approximately 300 species of turtles and tortoises on the planet, 129 of them are considered to be vulnerable, endangered, or critically endangered due to pollution, loss of habitat, the illegal pet trade, or poaching. We can all do something to help! You can also make a donation to any of the non-profit groups who are trying to help. This link lists associations around the world that are trying to help endangered species of sea turtles survive and thrive.   

chocolate-turtles

I couldn’t write a post about turtles without sharing some of my favourite chocolate turtles. Zak’s Chocolate in Scottsdale, Arizona, makes the life-like delicious chocolate turtles pictured above. And longtime readers of this blog will know that I adore the chocolate turtles made by Winnipeg chocolatier Decadence Chocolates. Please check out both links for a look at some of the best chocolate turtles on the planet and the creative people making them. 😋

Do you have any special relationship with turtles of any kind? Or a special memory of one? My most memorable occasion of a live turtle crossing my path was in the city of Athens, Greece. You wouldn’t expect to see a turtle crossing the road in a busy city like Athens, but surprisingly, locals must be used to it, as cars very politely slowed down or pulled over to let the turtle safely–and very slowly–make its way across the street. This was back in 1996, so unfortunately, I don’t have a digital photo of that to share with you.

I encourage you to think of the turtles today and especially every May 23rd. Whether you make a donation to a cause that is actively helping turtles around the world or in your region, you indulge in turtle art, or chocolate turtles, these creatures have lived on this planet for 200-300 million years and have earned our love and respect. 🐢 

Doreen Pendgracs

Known throughout the Web as the "Wizard of Words", I've been a freelance writer since 1993. I'm currently researching and writing volume II of "Chocolatour: A Quest for the World's Best Chocolate". Volume I was published in September, 2013.

32 Responses

  1. Very cool turtle! I have never seen a large turtle in real life, but I sure would like to some day!

  2. I’ve just learned that there is a Turtle Hospital in Marathon, in the Florida Keys. And as you’ll see in the comments made by others in this thread, there are many other locations that help and celebrate turtles and tortoises around the world. Let us know if you’ve been to nay of them.
    Doreen Pendgracs recently posted…cinco de mayo–a celebration of mexican cultureMy Profile

  3. I loved this post because I too love turtles – both kinds! 😉 But what I really loved was the way you described the illustrations because it was a double win on learning something. Great idea and one I should try using more often!

  4. I love the images accompanying this post. I didn’t know you had such a connection with turtles. Of course now you have the new connection with the chocolate ones! Jim used to like the chocolate turtles but is not so fond of them now. The ones you’ve photographed look much better than the regular commercial variety. I always found those too sweet but I expect we’d both like these other ones.
    We saw lovely large sea turtles on a trip to Grand Cayman in 1986. There are large snapping turtles that live in a marsh in Kingston and there are signs to watch for them. Most drivers are aware of them and do slow down or stop if they see one. On one of those stops I had a friend with me who was brave enough to pick one up from the road and help it safely across. She’d had experience with them, which I did not. Locally, we have a few varieties of Painted Turtles and there is an art installation along the trail that is beside the Napanee River where the turtles are often seen. The Pallet is part of a larger art installation with local artists depicting part of life in Napanee. There are now 28 of these, soon to be 30, many along the river; others in the downtown core. A Walking Tour is being created to encourage residents and visitors to go out to see them. I did a story about them 4 years ago, when there were only six or seven pallets done, and photographed the Painted Turtle with its artist, a local high school teacher. Here’s a link to the story: https://www.thewhig.com/2017/08/24/pallet-able-art-pieces

    • Hi Christine. Thx so much for sharing the link to The Pallet-Able Art project along the Napanee River. I love river art! And it’s really cool that the Painted Turtles are being honoured in this project. Re chocolate turtles, yes, you’ll find that anything coming from an artisanal chocolate maker is way less sweet than the commercial chocolate that is made from bulk cocoa with less chocolate flavour and waaaay more sugar.

  5. I have boldly painted ceramic turtles among my plants in my garden. And I loved the ceremony of sending turtle babies into the ocean. Thanks for telling us that May 23rd should be celebrated every year.

  6. noel morata says:

    I love turtles also and they are so popular and abundant here on the islands and almost every beach area like it was a normal occurrence. But it is a concerted effort to protect them and advise visitors of their protected condition.

    • Hi, Noel. Yes, I thought of you when I was writing this post as I know how important turtle conservation is to the Hawaiian Islands. I was impressed by the Turtle Rehab Program they have at the Fairmont Orchid on the Big Island.

  7. That’s so surprising to hear about the turtles in Athens! I too am a big fan of turtles ( including the chocolate kind ) and was amazed to see a sea turtle swim past me while I was floating in the water in Nevis. Happy Birthday too!
    Michele Peterson recently posted…The 3 Best Hotels Near Mexico City Airport (MEX)My Profile

    • Thx for your comment and good wishes, Michele. I’ve not yet been to Nevis, but you’ve given me another good reason to go. Where you can see sea turtles in blue Caribbeans waters sounds really good to me!

  8. Phoenix says:

    Happy Birthday, Doreen! I too love turtles of all kinds, including the chocolate ones. They are among my favorite. My first meeting with a turtle was when I was in about grade 3. A class mate brought one to school. She was one of those students who had everything exotic, and so was logically the most likely to show up with a great big turtle. I was fascinated by it. I still am.
    Phoenix recently posted…Jane EyreMy Profile

    • Hi Esther. Thx for your comment and good wishes. Was it a snapping turtle that the student brought to class? They are generally big (as in Helma’s painting.) But the kind of turtles most kids had for pets were quite tiny. I’m not sure how big this got as I never had any friends who kept turtles as pets!

  9. Bev Phillips says:

    Happy birthday, Doreen! Thanks for the crash course on tortoises and turtles — I learned something today. Beautiful illustrations, too. As for chocolate turtles, they always remind me of my mom. They were her favourites, a required gift for her birthday and Christmas, and occasionally any other time as a treat. You’ve spread some joy today on your birthday!

    • Thx so much, Bev. And you’ve brought me joy by stopping in to share your thoughts. Yes, for sure, chocolate Turtles, Black Magic, and Jeanne’s cakes were the most popular holiday and special day treats in Manitoba. Nice to see we’ve now got a better version of a good thing at our disposal (I trust you’ve had the delicious turtles from Decadence Chocolates?

  10. Pat says:

    Happy Birthday Doreen. Great article and pictures. I also love turtles and remember how exciting it was when someone would have a box of them to share with family or friends. Always wanted to see them. Wait I think that was you!
    The turtles from Zak’s are gorgeous. They look delish!

    • Thanks, Pat. Yes, I think that Nestle’s chocolate Turtles were a very popular treat in many households when were growing up. Gratefully, the turtles handcrafted by artisanal chocolate makers are far superior to that and much better for you as they contain a lot less sugar. Yes, the turtles by Zak’s are quite a work of delicious edible art.

  11. What a tasty and very creative post! I love chocolate turtles but admittedly, have a passion for cat’s paws:-)
    Irene S. Levine recently posted…Peony Garden at Rockefeller State Park Preserve: Not-To-Be-MissedMy Profile

    • Hi Irene and thx for you comment. I’ve not previously heard of “cat’s paws!” Is there a specific brand you can recommend? I wonder if they’re similar to the “bear claws” we have here in Manitoba? They’re delicious and highly creative!

  12. Flora S. says:

    Happy Birthday Doreen! I enjoyed your article. While I’m not much of a chocolate lover, I do enjoy Turtles. When my husband & I were on a cruise a few years back, we went to on a tour to the Grand Cayman Islands where we visited a turtle farm. The guide gave an interesting and educational presentation. I was offered the opportunity to touch a turtle but gracefully declined.

    • Hi Flora and thx for your comment and the birthday wishes. When we were in Grand Cayman on a cruise excursion, we went to the sandbar and fed the sting rays by hand in the water. That an an amazing experience! If I ever get back there, I’ll try the turtle farm excursion as that sounds really interesting and fun, too!

  13. Happy Birthday Doreen, When I was younger I looked for genstone jewelry but these days talismans and amulets are more likely to be around my neck. I own several necklaces and earrings depicting turtles made by indigenous people for whom turtles figure strongly in their creation stories. One of the highlights of my travels was in Costa Rica where we carried newly hatched turtles and placed them in the surf. Having that tiny life crawling across my palm, protected from shoreline scavengers was so remarkable.

    • Hi Veronica. Thx so much for your comment and the birthday wishes. Yes, I learned about the indigenous connection to turtles when I was researching this piece. Very fascinating. What part of Costa Rica was your turtle experience? I hope to get back there sometime in the near future and would love to experience what you did.

  14. Linda Paul says:

    Fascinating post, Doreen. And happy birthday!!! I love the image of the hawk turtle. Each segment of the turtle’s shell looks like a piece of artwork; they make me think of a painting or photo of a clump of grass.

    When you first mentioned chocolate turtles I thought you were referring to those delicious clumps of caramel and nuts dipped in chocolate. But Zak’s chocolates are pure works of art. Totally different than what I envisioned.

    I think the turtle is the perfect totem for you. You were born to endure, persist, and survive.
    Linda Paul recently posted…Burma-Shave IdahoMy Profile

    • Linda, you always blow me away with your heartfelt comments. Thx so much for connecting me to the turtle totem. I love that connection! And re chocolate turtles, each chocolatier makes them differently. Click on the link in my post for Decadence chocolates and you’ll see their artistic turtle creations–which I absolutely love. Zak’s is the first place I’ve encountered that actually makes the chocolate turtles in the shape of real turtles. They were delectable as well.

  15. Jay Remer says:

    Happy Birthday, Doreen! I love turtles, too. Ganong’s produces wonderful caramel, nut, and chocolate turtles which are delicious. On another turtle topic, I recently heard the story of Turtle Island – a native tale. I remember visiting the turtle sanctuary on the island of Bequia years ago. Such amazing little creatures!

    • Hi, Jay! Great to hear from you and thx for there birthday wishes. I’m not sure if I’ve had the Ganong Turtles. I’ve had a good deal of their chocolates, but have always found them too sweet for my taste buds. Thx for the mention of Bequia. I’ve never heard of it and shall look it up!

  16. I am a huge turtle lover, and have been blessed to have seen lots of them while scuba diving over the years. Thanks for using my photo of an endangered hawksbill turtle as your featured pic! I never get tired of seeing them and photographing them. I also got to watch a leatherback turtle lay her eggs on Matura Beach in Trinidad several years ago – another highlight of the experiences I’ve had with sea turtles. And then there are the tortoises! I was amazed to be able to walk among the giant Galapagos tortoises on a trip there and look into their ancient eyes!
    Debbra Dunning Brouillette recently posted…Poisson Cru photo wins Honorable Mention award in IFWTWA photo contestMy Profile

    • Hi Debbie. Yes, as a SCUBA diver, I’m sure you must have had some amazing underwater experiences. I still recall my most incredible underwater experience. We were snorkelling in the Molokini Crater in Maui, and had the extreme pleasure of seeing a humpback whale, a manta ray or stingray (not sure which it was as it’s so long ago) and a sea turtle all freely swimming around in the beautiful clear waters of the crater. What a blessed experience that was!

  17. SusanGill says:

    Love this article Doreen as you know turtles are very special to me . I visit Loggerhead turtle rescue at Juno Beach Florida. They have a great program and you can adopt a rescue and some you can even track after they are released.

    • Very cool, Susan. Yes, I know how much you love turtles, and I admire your turtle art. Very interesting about Juno Beach, FLA. Florida has some amazing wildlife rescue and conservation places. We’ve been to the one at Sanibel/Captiva, the one at Clearwater, and the Seaside Seabird Sanctuary at Indian Shores. But I’m not familiar with the Loggerhead Turtle Rescue at Juno Beach. I shall look it up!

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