BY Lisa Lindblad
November 3, 2016
I have come to this lovely country that runs along the back of Italy’s boot and down its heel, a coastal plain of russet earth planted with ancient olives that reaches west into a hilly hinterland of vineyards and fruit trees and on to the Mediterranean. It is a land shaped, in large part, by its geography. For millenia Puglia has been a gateway to Greece and the Orient as well as a gateway for those foreigners to enter her territory. Invaders came to trade and to pillage, launching their incursions from the coastal ports of Bari, Egnazia and Brindisi, and then moving northwards on ancient roads like the Via Appia and Traiana.
Conditioned by this vulnerability, the Pugliese defended themselves, and thus we have a coastline dotted every 15 miles or so with towers, port cities guarded by castle forts, sea and land caves used for hiding of self and goods, and masseria, those iconic walled farmhouses with towers and encircling walls where olive oil, the region’s liquid gold, was pressed and stored in underground caves.
It is all here to be enjoyed: The hilltop towns with narrow lanes, ceramic shops, cathedrals, piazzas, outdoor cafes and wonderful, unsung restaurants like Casa San Giacomo in Ostuni; The coastal plain with mile upon mile of millenarian olive trees, some planted by the ancient Greeks and others, spaced 18 meters apart, by the Romans, all of which astound with their longevity, their history, their inner story; lovely long walks along ancient pilgrimage pathways and bike rides down country lanes lined with dry limestone walls; the Adriatic with its coastline of caves, cliffs, pocket sized beaches and seaside fish restaurants; Cities with history, elegant palaces, Baroque facades and embellishments, pavements of satin smooth marbled stone.
She tangled with ghost nets and lost her flipper. The pain we cause to other creatures, through thoughtlessness and arrogance, is tragic.
When we travel, we expand our minds and open our hearts, breaking the unconscious rhythm of our daily lives. And when we become aware of the world around us, we are compelled to stop our foolish ways.When I was last in the Maldives, I visited Coco Palm, one of the islands in Baa Atoll. There is a resort here but, up a sandy path thick with tropical vegetation, is a one-room structure that sits next to seven large tanks shaded by tent-like tarps. The Olive Ridley Project and Coco Collection opened the Marine Turtle Rescue Centre in February 2017. It was all made possible by an official partnership formed between Coco Collection and ORP in 2015, as well as very generous donations from guests at Coco Bodu Hithi and Coco Palm Dhuni Kolhu Resorts and other partners. The first fully-equipped marine turtle rescue centre in Maldives has laboratory and surgical facilities as well as a full-time resident turtle veterinarian, Dr Claire Lomas. The rescue centre can accommodate up to eight turtle patients at the time in seven tanks. Mohamed Didi, Chief Engineer at the Coco Collection, developed a fully-automated water-flow regulation system, which allows pre-programmed procedures for the tanks. When I visited the center and photographed Coco Chanel, above, who is missing one of her flippers but doing extremely well, another turtle arrived by the boat from the Four Seasons Landaa resort. She will be added to the turtle patients who are in various stages of recuperation, some doing better than others. Not only do the turtles lose their flippers - oftentimes more than one - but in dragging these tangled ghost net masses along with them, they tear their lungs which, ultimately, prevents them from being able to dive. Bouyancy becomes the killer. Dr. Claire, who had arrived only a few months prior to my visit, was hand carrying medicines from England in her luggage. She is not only the sole turtle vet, she tells me she is the only vet in the Maldives. She operates alone, a brave and capable woman.