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HEATHER LIND: Oribi Mom – Shells, shells, and shells

"We didn't take any shells away from our travels in these magical places; that would be against the rules."

There’s something about shells that has always fascinated me. Since I can remember, I’ve felt a calm descend as I walk slowly through the sand and glance here and there to find the prettiest, most interesting shells the beach has to offer for the day.

Sometimes, you have to look for a tiny point sticking out among grains of sand before sticking your toe in and flipping it out to reveal what’s underneath. Sometimes, it’s just a piece. Other times, it’s an unexpected masterpiece that you can’t stop looking at in your hand.

When we were on the north coast in the school holidays, seeing old dried turtle eggs on the dunes was very exciting. It reminded me about the time we arrived at a beach in Kenya for a few days with family. It was raining, and as we jumped out of the car after a flight and a taxi ride from Nairobi, people were running to the beach to watch tiny hatchling green turtles emerging. Only God could have timed that for us.

Those little turtles were awe-inspiring. Working with all their might to get out from their deep nest under the sand and poking out their heads into the rainy afternoon. They were absolutely covered in sand and moving their flippers constantly to try and move forward. Slow, awkward moments made their path a long one, but they kept going until they reached the shoreline. They’re so fast once they’re in the water; unbelievably fast after watching them struggle on the beach!

Two years before that, we’d spent a month in Malaysia Borneo. My number-one favourite memory was diving in to snorkel in the Coral Triangle, the same area as the world-famous dive site, Sipadan. The turquoise sea is stunning when you’re on the little speed boat, but once you dip the mask down into the salty water, it’s indescribable. Incredible. Paradise.

Colours as you’ve never seen them and moving things everywhere you look. The mantis shrimps shimmered next to blue spotted rays and parrot fish and thousands of other creatures going about their day.
But, seeing the turtles was just magical. Huge green turtles you could ride on if you could catch them – you can’t, they’re too fast! – munching on sea grass and zipping by in the current. Hawksbill turtles, too if we were lucky, big and small.

Thankfully, the military shells around Sipadan weren’t in action while we were in the area, though we did hear shots and explosions every now and then. Apparently, it was just a normal thing and we were told to ignore the sounds and rather focus on remembering to put on sun-cream.

We didn’t take any shells away from our travels in these magical places; that would be against the rules. But we did take a big cowrie home from our favourite north coast beach because it was one that my then-boyfriend snorkelled to find deep in the reef so that he could use it as a ring holder.

But that story involving secret sibling setups and too-long walks that almost ruined the proposal is for another day. And we still have the shell.

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