As if their destination wedding week wasn’t epic enough, Christen and Leigh were also asked by the wonderful staff at the Mauna Lani Bay resort if they wanted to take part in this year’s Sea Turtle Independence Day on the Fourth of July. The Mauna Lani hand-raises baby sea turtles in some of their on-ground ponds to mature adulthood and then releases them when they are big enough to fend for themselves in the less hospitable sea. Every Independence Day, they release the newly minted turtles into the sea with the help of guests and their children. Of course, Christen and Leigh were all like, “HECK YES, SIGN US UP.” (I was too, I mean, who are we kidding… I love me some sea turtles!)
Sea turtles abound at the Mauna Lani… maybe the beach has some really tasty algae growing there. The first night I stumbled upon what I thought was a dead sea turtle on the beach and I was really upset. The staff reassured me it was just sleeping, which I thought was a cover-up, hush-hush way to get rid of the dead sea turtle without upsetting the guest. It turns out, sea turtles just sleep like the dead (something they usually do during daylight hours) and my “dead” friend moved on after a nice, long nap. Almost every day there was a sea turtle sleeping in the same spot on the beach. In the evenings, more animated turtles would swim offshore and nibble the sea plants there, which I discovered when two of them bumped into my legs as I was wading. Why hello there!
So I was totally psyched to photograph these two letting a sweet sea turtle free into the wild blue. The turtle Christen and Leigh set free was named Pilialoha, which means “a loving or tender relationship.” Aww!
The local news channel also reported on the event, with a short video where you watch the newlyweds release Pilialoha!
Want more photos? Check out Christen and Leigh’s destination wedding at the Mauna Lani Bay, complete with karaoke craziness!