Turtles 1, Beachgoers 0

Each day during that summer vacation on Florida’s Gasparilla Island, we parents would round up the kids for a game of whiffle ball. We made bases from clumps of seaweed and played near the dunes, in the soft sand, so the ball wouldn’t roll forever if an outfielder missed it.

The game-ender one day came when my older son, then 10, shouted: “Dad, there’s a turtle coming out of second base!” Not just one turtle, as it turned out, but a steady procession of them, grappling to find purchase on solid ground and beelining it for the water. Despite the diligence of the local sea-turtle patrol, they’d missed marking off one of the holes where female loggerheads had dropped their pingpong-ball-size eggs during nighttime excursions. And we had staged our game around a turtle nest on hatching day. For the next hour or so we watched as dozens of baby turtles started to crawl toward the Gulf of Mexico and swim off on their first of many grand adventures.

Twenty years have passed. My wife and I return with our two sons to that same stretch of beach each summer. And so do the nesting loggerheads. We watch for them at night and hope that among them is one of ours.

In search of a campsite in Fiji, I spotted a man clutching a machete. With a conspiratorial glance — or so I thought — he asked if I needed anything. Realizing I hadn’t consulted the chief before entering the village, I said no. Eroni Tabua, eldest son of Navakawau’s chief, then insisted I join him for lunch. Slightly paranoid, I followed him. Beneath a canopy, Eroni shook trees and plants, catching fruit with one hand and offering me coconut and papaya, which he hacked in midair, with the other. A fruit plate for lunch: $6. Having a sea-level sage machete-whack your fruit plate on a beach while discussing taro farming: priceless. — Bruce Northam