It was a very curious scene indeed! We came upon it during our vacation down south in the South Carolina Lowcountry, on Hilton Head Island, along the eastern shore of the US. It is an area of great natural beauty, of woods and waterways, and of human habitation that tends to blend in with the surroundings. The thick vegetation, and especially the old oak trees with the Spanish moss hanging off the branches, gives the place a unique look and atmosphere (especially in the fog). Birds of different kinds, including egrets, herons and cormorants, abound. The squirrels are constantly creating a racket and startle you as you walk through the neighborhood. It is a good place for a vacation.
Soon after our arrival we learned that alligators were quite common in this area.Having come from parts of the country where alligators are not a common sight, the opportunity to see a real live gator in its natural surroundings was something special to be hoped for and anticipated. During the early days of our stay we did see a few of them with their heads and noses sticking out the water, but it was only towards the end of the trip that we got a good view of them out of the water. (There are a couple of related pictures in my earlier blog about our vacation.) But the big surprise was on the day before we departed the island, when we came upon this large alligator sunning itself on the shore on the other side of a canal. Perhaps you did not notice it or pay attention to it when you chanced upon the relevant picture in my blog about our vacation, but there was a big turtle sitting next to the head of the alligator.
You have to picture the scene, where these two very dissimilar creatures are next to each other, and nothing is moving except for perhaps the head of the turtle that is turned to look at the disturbance that we are causing from the far shoreline. The gator can perhaps see what is going on without moving its head.Here is this huge gator that in my imagination (and to my limited knowledge) looks like an old male. Here is this big turtle (which may be a yellow bellied slider) sitting next to it. Nobody is moving. It is quiet. It is a very peaceful scene.The human imagination wants to believe that these two creatures are two old and wise friends who are simply hanging out with each other. But alligators can also eat turtles. They are capable of cracking the turtle shells.
The experts tell us that these creatures are not capable of thinking the way human beings do. I am sure people who study these particular creatures more closely have a logical explanation for the scene that was playing out before our eyes. Indeed, for all we know, such a scene may not be uncommon to the locals. But for those of us who are less informed, we will have to use our imagination. The turtle and the gator must simply be good old friends. It is really a moment of magic that defies our natural instinct based on what we have been taught all our lives. Indeed, for some us, the opportunity to simply see an alligator in its natural surroundings is in itself a magical moment!